WR COPELAND SHINES IN FIRST START
Junior Damien Copeland had been hampered by injuries much of his career at Louisville. But on Sunday, Copeland earned his first start.
And he took full advantage.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pond Copeland had four catches for 51 yards, including a huge 23-yard reception on third down on the first drive of the game.
“It means a lot to me,” Copeland said of the game. “I’ve been grinding and executing and just being able to take it over to the game field, it feels great.
“But I don’t want to stop there for my team. We have to get better.”
The third down pass was the Cardinal Authority Play of the Game for the Cardinals, coming on third-and-nine from the 2-yard-line.
“That got the crowd going and was a good start for us,” Copeland said. “Teddy threw a nice ball there. It was nice.”
Copeland had been limited prior to that game, playing just one game last season before suffering a knee injury. He caught eight passes for 113 yards – 14.1 yards a catch – in seven games during the 2010 season.
OFFENSE WAS CLICKING AGAINST WILDCATS
The U of L offense was clicking against the Wildcats, racking up 466 yards on 72 offensive plays. The Cardinals averaged 6.5 yards a play.
And those numbers came with U of L gaining just 38 yards on 19 plays during the final four possessions after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was pulled.
“I like the balance,” U of L coach Charlie Strong said about the offense. “We had good balance in the offense and I like that. The line blocked great and I always say if you run the ball then you are more physical than the other teams.
“If you can’t run the ball you can’t win the game.”
The Cardinals amassed 219 yards on the ground with Bridgewater getting sacked jus three times in the contest. Senorise Perry (108) and Jeremy Wright (105) both ran for more than 100 yards.
Strong said a goal of the offense was to eliminate penalties and turnovers this season. The Cardinals’ offense had just two penalties and no turnovers.
“It was a great effort on offense,” Strong said. “Even down field blocking was great. I was surprised how in sync we were in the first game.
“A lot of times in first games there are penalties but we didn’t get many.”
CARTER GETS PENALTY, WILL STAY EXCITED
Running back and special teams coach Kenny Carter was at fault for one of the six penalties by the Cardinals. He picked up a celebration penalty for running onto the field and jumping into the arms of Jarel McGriff-Culver.
McGriff-Culver had just stopped UK punter Landon Foster on a fake. The penalty drew 15 yards but the Cardinals still had the ball.
“Oh, I was on the field,” Carter smiled. “But I thought the play was over. I was excited the kid made a great play. I won’t be getting any more penalties but I will be jumping around some more, for sure. That’s how we are as a staff.”
Carter said he joked with Strong that his penalty just meant, “15 more yards that we get to put on out stats.”
DEFENSE KNEW WHAT OFFENSE COULD DO
There was one group that certainly wasn’t shocked to see the U of L offense ring up 400-plus yards and scored with ease in the opener – the U of L defense.
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said prior to the game that he was excited to see what the offense could do against an opponent, while linebacker Preston Brown echoed those sentiments after the game.
“We have been seeing it all camp,” Brown said. “They’ve been doing that against us. Just seeing them go up and down (the field), it was a great thing to see.
“They would have put up 50 had they stayed in.”
The team had two scrimmages during fall camp with the offense winning out on the first one and having a good showing in the second.
“It just carried over from camp,” Brown said.
STEIN FINISHED OFF UK AGAIN
Senior Will Stein was injured after starting the game against the University of Kentucky last season in Lexington. But he did return late in that game to take the last snap and kneel down for the victory.
The former Trinity High School star finished off UK again last week.
“It was such a good feeling,” Stein said. “We got the win and get to keep the Governor’s Cup, so it feels really good. It’s just a great feeling.”
There was a lot made of when Strong had Stein enter the game – the final possession of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter. But Strong said Stein “deserved to play” in the game and the Cardinals were up 32-7 when he made the call and it was 32-14 when Stein made his first appearance.
“I knew if we had a big enough lead would get in,” Stein said. “We don’t want anything necessarily to happen to Teddy (Bridgewater), so I knew if we had a big enough lead that I would get in the game.
“It felt good to actually finish this game healthy.”