What did Head Coach Charlie Strong learn about his team in the Louisville Cardinals (9-1) 20-13 win over Houston (7-3)?

He learned a lot.

He learned that his Offensive Line desperately has missed their departed Seniors from last season. Those Seniors that had a collective 40+ starts. It shows.  The Louisville Offensive line gave up 4 sacks, left Bridgewater running and undoubtedly had effect on his 19-29, 203 yard, no touchdown performance.

He learned that perhaps his Louisville Football team is not yet an elite team, yet still a good team.

He learned that he may very well have a few more notches in the ‘L’ column, if it wasn’t for maturation of his defense this season. Perhaps even one tonight.

I learned that I was wrong about the Louisville Football team. I thought they’d be crumpling their opponents with their powerful offense. I was wrong.

I learned that it’s the Louisville Defense – not Louisville Offense – that should be regarded as one of the best in the Country.

It wasn’t awful, the Cards found a way to win. But it wasn’t pretty either.

Charlie Strong after the game said, “We kinda got complacent, kinda got comfortable,” the Head Coach said following the win. “I learned we didn’t play well in the first half. But in the second half, I saw a team that came out with some toughness and some resiliency.”

Sure, that may be true.

Louisville made wonderful strides in the second half. They overcame a 3 point halftime deficit which was the first time they’ve trailed this season in the first half. They held the Houston Cougars to their lowest passing output since 2005.  But sadly – and much to to the chagrin of their fanbase – they were forced to rely on the defense to preserve the win.

It wasn’t the talented & explosive offensive that features two potential first round draft picks in Teddy Bridgewater and Devante Parker.

It wasn’t the offense that is 18th in the Country in Scoring. It was the defense that the Cards themselves didn’t think would be needed as heavily as it has.

“I didn’t really think we would [be relied upon so heavily],” Sophomore James Burgess who finished with 6 tackles noted. “But it’s a team game so we all gotta account for each other.”

The Louisville Defense made sure to account for their team tonight. Flashes of Central Florida  (and defeat) appeared when the Cougar offense got the ball with 2:50 and needed points. They didn’t get them and the Louisville Defense held firm. Louisville’s Offense once again was sputtering and once again used the Cardinal D as an get out of jail free card, against one of the Nation’s most fruitful offenses.

“It felt good,” DE Marcus Smith said following his 3 tackle performance. “We want to celebrate this tonight and then tomorrow get ready for next week, now that this game is over.”

Want to know what else Charlie Strong learned tonight?

It’s a good thing he has Dominique Brown.

With his star QB Teddy Bridgewater struggling or, perhaps not being allowed the time thrive; the Louisville Coaches turned to him.

“I told em, ‘we’re gonna ride you’ and that’s what you’d like to see happen,” Strong said following the win.

Ride him they did. The Cincinnati Junior was given 9 straight carries at one point and did nothing but delivered. He finished with career high 145 yards on the ground and a pair of TDs.

Louisville counted solely upon Dominique Brown to – offensively at least – win them a game. P.S. Charlie Strong, you are not the only one who learned something new tonight.

“I feel good but this is not an individual performance,” Brown explained following the game. “The o-line did a great job up front on lead blocks. Our tight end did a great job, our quarterback is doing a great job every night with getting us in the running game.”

What did Charlie Strong learn Saturday night?

Mostly rough lessons and one pleasant surprise.

But maybe he learned nothing. Maybe he knew it all along. Maybe he knew that Louisville was a good team and not what we all wanted them to be. Maybe we were wrong all along.

But, hey, a win is a still a win and that may be the sweetest enlightenment of all.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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