LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville coach Charlie Strong believes a short week of preparation will help his No. 8 Cardinals maintain their focus with another winnable game looming.
The Cardinals host Eastern Kentucky Saturday after their season-opening 49-7 rout Sunday of Ohio.
Strong also knows that eight FCS schools pulled off upsets last weekend, so his players can't look past a Colonels squad coming off its own dominant win against Robert Morris.
EKU has knocked off the Cardinals before, beating Louisville 45-21 in 1985 for its last triumph against a top-tier program.
While that Louisville loss was a generation ago and the Cardinals lead the series 17-8-1 with back-to-back victories, Strong is stressing the importance of taking every opponent seriously and notes that the Cardinals have room for improvement despite rolling over Ohio.
"A lot of times, when players look at tape and with the type of team that we have now, you feel like you're pretty good," Strong said Tuesday at his weekly news conference, adding that the problem is letting down.
"What we can't have is a letdown. It doesn't matter (about) the opponent, it's still about us getting our minds right and going out and performing, going to be our best and trying to play our best."
For the most part Louisville's drubbing of Ohio was as good as it gets for a season debut, especially against a bowl team that upset Penn State last September.
The Cardinals outgained Ohio 615-273 and held the ball for more than 37 minutes. Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started off strong, completing his first nine passes and connecting with eight targets to tie a career best with five touchdowns and 355 yards on 23-of-28 passing. He often had plenty of time to find receivers, who frequently had space from defenders.
"We had a great game on the offensive side as a whole, but we need to keep that up," Cardinals wideout Damian Copeland said after catching six passes for 98 yards and two TDs.
Defensively, Louisville held Ohio to just 81 rushing yards and didn't yield a score until the end of the third quarter. But that Bobcats touchdown followed a defensive pass interference penalty, one of 11 for 90 yards committed by the Cardinals.
Strong found other blemishes upon review.
Though safety Hakeem Smith had an interception, it was Louisville's only takeaway and the secondary dropped at least two others. Ohio also had long completions of 36, 37 and 47 yards.
Five Cardinal receivers had catches ranging from 25 to 40 yards with three touchdowns, but Strong felt that group could have gained more ground after catches. The offense could have gotten up to the line of scrimmage faster.
"It's just attention to detail and tempo," Strong said. "We were down to like, 11, 10 seconds left before we ever got the ball snapped and we like to get up on the ball quicker so that Teddy can get a read on the secondary and the front and get the play checked."
Strong believes those problems can be corrected this week, especially since the Cardinals seem focused on a strong follow-up to the opener. Facing a Colonels squad having more than a week to prepare after its own big opening win could help their motivation.
EKU routed Robert Morris 38-6 behind junior quarterback Jared McClain, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for two. The Colonels outgained the Colonials 401-232 and allowed just 55 yards rushing.
The schools are meeting for the first time since Louisville's 23-13 win in 2010, Strong's first as coach. He remembers it being a close game, a reminder of how solid EKU is and that classifications mean little — especially with fewer days to prepare.
"Preparations are going to be key, coming off a short week," said Strong, who gave his players Monday off. "But we're going to attack this game just like we attack any other game. ... What's key is how we improve from game 1 to game 2."