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September 10, 2011Kentucky is a better football team than Louisville -- at this point, anyway. We have that on good authority -- from Louisville coach Charlie Strong, who addressed Saturday night's upcoming rivalry game briefly in his press conference following the Cardinals' 24-17 loss to FIU Friday night.
"We have a lot of work to do," Strong said. "We go into a tough situation down there at Commonwealth (Stadium) playing UK, and right now UK is a better football team than us. You look at what they have and what we have. . .it's so important that we learn from this game and learn from the mistakes we made."
Based on what evidence Strong believes the Wildcats are better is something of a mystery, considering their two unimpressive performances against two bad teams -- Western Kentucky and Central Michigan. Maybe he's simply trying to motivate his team, or maybe he really believes it.
In any case, Strong's declaration didn't raise any hackles among his players, who basically shrugged off the comment when asked about it a few minutes later.
"I haven't watched them yet, but we're not afraid of anybody," Louisville quarterback Will Stein said. "We're going to go into anybody's place and play as hard as we can and we can't let tonight make our season. It's the second game, we've got 10 more games left.
"I'm confident in this bunch, I told them, "Don't let this define us, come out with a purpose and we're going to get better.' We're going to forget about this pretty quickly. We'll think about it tonight and review the film, but once that's over you've got to move on. I think we'll be alright next week."
Strong's remark also didn't register a whole lot with senior tight end Josh Chichester, whose 111 receiving yards against FIU (on six receptions) were a career high and the most for a Cardinal tight end since Gary Barnidge had 126 -- on four catches with two touchdowns -- on Sept. 6, 2007, against Middle Tennessee State.
"We've just got to come out next week and practice hard and do what we do best, and that's be Louisville and no one can take that away from us," Chichester said. "We've got to come back and prepare even harder. It's a big game and we know how much it means to the fans, and us in particular, because it's UK. We've got to stay focused and go out and do it."
Like Stein, UofL senior linebacker Dexter Heyman said he hadn't seen film yet of Kentucky's narrow win over Western the previous week, but indicated he could understand why Strong thinks the Cats are better at this early stage of the season.
"They definitely have a lot more experience coming back, especially on the defensive side of the ball with 10 returning starters," Heyman said. "To win, to beat Kentucky, our defense has to outplay their defense. We have to stop the big plays."
Louisville was unable to do that against FIU, giving up touchdown receptions of 74 and 83 yards to wideout T.Y. Hilton.
"It's a real big gme that has a lot of state implications, bragging rights and even for the coaches and in-state recruiting purposes," Heyman said in reference to the 7 p.m. game in Lexington in which the Cards will be trying to snap a four-game losing streak against the Cats. "We have to game plan well, and that comes back to preparation. We have to prepare like we want to beat UK."