BY MIKE RILEY
No. 8 Louisville didn’t look nearly as impressive as it did in its opener, but when it was over, the Cardinals stood at 2-0 on the season following a 44-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium.
After totaling 615 yards of offense, including 199 on the ground in their season-opening 49-7 victory over Ohio last Sunday, the Cardinals managed 475 yards against Eastern (1-1) with only 78 on the ground.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 23-of-32 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and no sacks, but according to both Bridgewater and Louisville coach Charlie Strong, this wasn’t the game-to-game improvement that the Cardinals were looking for.
“There were some mistakes in the first half, but it is a game that we can really correct,” Strong said. “We can go back to work tomorrow, make some corrections and get ready for Kentucky.
“Offensively, well, you always talk about raising the standards and you always know what you have. You know the potential you have on offense and all the weapons you have, and when you get the ball down into the red zone, you want touchdowns. You want touchdowns instead of field goals. We missed opportunities and we had guys that were open, but we weren’t able to throw to them. We just weren’t able to move the ball. We have to score when we get the ball and we want touchdowns.
Despite giving up just seven points and so few yards on the ground, Strong wasn’t thrilled with his team’s defensive effort, either.
“”Defensively, we created some turnovers,” he said, “but still, we gave up a big throw when we jumped off sides. You still have to play the ball, but we kind of stood there and let the guy catch it and the guy threw the ball over our heads and scored a touchdown. You just can’t give up those throws. We were able to create turnovers. A lot of lost yardage plays, but still we can play better.”
Bridgewater threw touchdown passes to Damian Copeland (8 yards) and DeVante Parker (19 yards). Senorise Perry scored on a 5-yard run and John Wallace added field goals of 35 and 39 yards as the Cardinals built a 27-0 halftime lead.
The third quarter saw Wallace kick his third field goal of the game, this one from 22 yards. Bridgewater added an 11-yard touchdown pass to Florida transfer Gerald Christian.
Eastern finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter as it drove 87 yards in 12 plays with Jared McLain throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Devin Borders. Bridgewater then threw his fourth TD of the game, a 42 yarder to Parker with 9:08 left.
“There is a lot of disappointment,” Bridgewater said. “I feel we did not play up to our level. We’re chasing perfection and today wasn’t near perfection. We need to fix the simple things. We have to be able to run the ball more.”
What happened to the running game today?
“I have no idea,” Bridgewater said. “We just could not get it going. I’m pretty sure we’re going to fix it. I thought I played average. I left a couple of [completions] on the field and could not make a pass to Eli Rogers. These are all fundamental things, and I am still getting better, so I’ll learn from that.”
“Well, I thought that the kids played hard,” Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood said. “There were a lot of things that we did well. They weren’t able to run it on us, which is a plus. I thought our rush defense was really good, and I thought our kids were flying around, but they just couldn’t create any turnovers, and that is the negative. If you want to have a chance to win a game like this, you have got to create turnovers. It wasn’t from the lack of trying though. Our kids were flying around, hitting good. They did a nice job of ball security and a nice job of managing the game.”
Parker caught five passes for 134 yards while Christian caught five for 74 yards. The big game by Parker was no surprise to Strong.
“Teddy told me before the game that [Parker] would have 200 yards receiving today and he ended up with 134,” Strong said. “I think he just knew what the coverage was and he felt like he could get him open. He missed him on a couple of throws. If it wasn’t for that he probably would’ve been close to it.”
The Colonels, which managed 206 yards of offense, were led by McClain who completed eight of his 13 passes for 85 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times. He was also his teams leading rusher with 27 yards on 11 carries.
Louisville will be looking for their third straight victory over the Kentucky Wildcats next Saturday in Lexington.