Moments before University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong approached the podium for his weekly press conference, the new Associated Press Top 25 was released, with the Cardinals climbing to No. 8 in the latest rankings.
For the second consecutive week, defending national champion Alabama topped the poll, with Oregon, Ohio State, Clemson and Stanford rounding out the top five.
South Carolina and Texas A&M are just ahead of Louisville, while LSU and Florida State round out the top 10. The Cardinals continue as the only program in The American to be ranked. Cincinnati was among the schools also receiving votes.
The team, which had Monday off to rest following their 49-7 victory over Ohio on Sunday, will return to return to practice Tuesday afternoon in preparations for Saturday's game against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky.
While the Cardinals did many things right on Sunday afternoon, the focus will remain on getting better. The offense was flaged for a number of penalties, the defense missed some opportunities and the special teams had a few struggles.
"What's going to be key for us is how we improve from game one to game two," said Strong on Tuesday afternoon. "Looking at us on offense, we ended up with seven penalties - five false starts and two holding calls. Also, what we need to do on offense, is we need to have run after the catch. We didn't have any big runs after the catch. We need to make sure the attention to detail with tempo when we get up on the ball."
Senior safety Hakeem Smith collected the team's first interception of the season and defensive tackle Roy Philon recorded the first sack, but there were chances for additional big plays that were left on the field.
"Defensively, the big plays, we only had the one turnover," Strong continued. "We dropped two interceptions when had our hands on the ball. We need to do a better job playing the deep balls. We need to tackle better - I think we ended up with 10 missed tackles."
An area that was stressed as one that needs improvement during the offseason, the special teams unit played well, but still has strides to take.
"In the kicking game, our return men have to do a better job of setting up the return," he said. "We had an opportunity where we could have had two big runs on the return team. The cover team kicked two balls out of bounds and we just didn't do a good enough job of spacing our players on the field."
"Overall, it was solid the way we played. I just loved the way we played with good effort and how hard we played, but I know this, we will continue to improve."
Last season the Cardinals struggled to play a full game, something that the team had no trouble with on Sunday.
"I like the way we finished the game," said Strong. "We didn't go out in the second half when we had a big lead and we didn't go out there and just sit on the ball, but we continued to play."
Less leaning on freshmen
Three true freshman saw the field against the Bobcats on Saturday. Linebackers Keith Kelsey and James Hearns, along with wide receiver James Quick, all participated in the win. While their time was limited to mostly second half action and special teams play, it was valuable experience.
"Any time you get a chance to play your younger players you want that opportunity because you never know when an injury is going to come about," said Strong. "With them having game experience - you look at Will Gardner getting game experience - and that's what you want to see happen."
Strong leaned on his incoming freshmen more significantly during his previous three seasons
"It just depends on injuries," said Strong, adding that with the depth that has been built, "you don't have to count on those freshmen now. Two or three years ago we were counting on freshmen, a lot of them played."
Gardner gains praise
Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Garnder saw his first action as a Cardinal on Sunday and responded by throwing his first career touchdown - a 31 yard strike to Kai De La Cruz.
"I loved the way he played," Strong said. "The thing about Will, from the spring to the fall he's made the biggest improvement as anybody on offense."