One would never guess the University of Louisville is favored by two touchdowns going into Sunday’s game against arch rival Kentucky from Charlie Strong’s demeanor during his team’s pre-game press conference at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“We haven’t beat UK here since 2006,” he said. “We’re going to stay being the hunter and play like we’re always the underdog.”
Strong noted that Kentucky’s strength, like UofL’s, is on defense. “Kentucky is so good on defense,” he said. “Collins Ukwu, Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble are three big, tough and experienced linemen. They will try to control the game by stopping the run, just as we will. We have a lot of respect for them.
“It’s a rivalry and there’s going to be a great atmosphere because everybody is so excited. I tell the players the polls don’t mean that much and a lot of teams in the pre-season polls aren’t around at the end. It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”
The UofL coach said the pre-game hype is just that. “We haven’t proven anything yet,” he said. “Some people already want to put us on a pedestal. We just want to go about doing our business like we have since we got here. I just want our players to go play hard, play fast and play with confidence and an attitude of dominance every play, every snap. If you play hard, everything else will take care of itself.”
- On kickoffs from the 35 this season: “Anything that eliminates injuries, I am all for. It’s a good thing. “
- On the departure of receiver Bryce McNeal: “Some transfers work out, some don’t. He’s no longer a part of our football team. It was his choice to leave.”
- On Will Stein as backup quarterback: “I tell Will Stein to push Teddy Bridgewater every day. That will make Teddy a better player and it will make Will a better player.”
- On limited senior leadership: “We only have nine seniors so underclassmen are going to have to step up. Sometimes we as coaches step back and see who’s going to do that. We like what we’re seeing from Brandon Dunn.”
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Senior offensive tackle Alex Kupper said the offensive line has gelled over the last two or three weeks in practice. “We’re excited Mario Benevides will be starting this year. He was a missing piece when we started last season.”
Kupper agreed with his coach that UK’s defensive line is going to be a challenge, but that he and his teammates are looking forward to that challenge. “We have a lot of great running backs, with different running styles. At any time, any of them can break out.” he said.