LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Not known for lavishing praise, Louisville coach Charlie Strong found himself acting out of character.
He was happy to do it after his No. 25 Cardinals thoroughly beat in-state rival Kentucky 32-14 in their opener. Offense sparked much of his elation, as the Cardinals outgained the Wildcats 466-373 and scored on five of their first seven possessions.
Strong needed to see that from his offense after the unit struggled at times last season. What he got was complete domination.
"It was just amazing to see how we just clicked on offense," Strong said of a team that scored touchdowns on its first three drives. "(Quarterback Teddy) Bridgewater had an unbelievable day. We also had two running backs to rush for over 100 yards. I told our team I have to give credit to our offensive line because they did a great job of blocking up front. They don't get enough credit."
Juniors Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry rushed for 105 and 108 yards respectively, which might be why Strong waited until just before kickoff to pick Wright as the starter in a three-way battle including Dominique Brown. Wright was the workhorse, rushing 22 times and scoring three touchdowns.
Bridgewater enhanced his promising resume, completing 10 of his first 11 passes and 19 of 21 overall, setting a school percentage record while throwing for 232 yards. What surprised Strong most was scoring on drives of 99, 85 and 93 yards without blinking.
"I do not know if I expected the offense to perform as well as they did," Strong said. "A lot of the time you just don't know how well guys will play together and get in sync. They were able to get in sync, stay in sync and move the ball up and down the field."
Bridgewater's boost wasn't surprising, considering the sophomore was last year's Big East Rookie of the Year. What was startling was that he did it with little room for error.
A third-down completion to Damian Copeland took Louisville 23 yards to its 25, and Andrell Smith followed with a 17-yarder. Just like that, the Cardinals and their ground game had breathing room.
"That's what we pride ourselves on, that's why we work hard," Bridgewater said. "We practice game-like situations, so (Sunday) was just like practice."
Do the Cardinals practice 99-yard drives?
No matter who was running, they each ended up outgaining Kentucky (93 rushing yards) all by themselves.