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October 3, 2011Focus, focus, focus.
That, in a nutshell, is the message Charlie Strong will deliver to his University of Louisville football team this week as it prepares to face favored North Carolina (4-1) at noon Saturday in Chapel Hill.
The Cardinals (2-2) are trying to bounce back from a poor performance in Saturday's 17-13 upset loss to Marshall in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and will be playing their final tuneup before embarking on their Big East Conference schedule on Oct. 15 in Cincinnati.
Strong wasn't happy with anything that went on against the Thundering Herd and is looking for renewed dedication and effort against the Tar Heels of the ACC.
"I need guys who are locked in, focused and ready to go play," Strong said. "We talk about moving this program forward, but we took a step backward because of our performance. If we're going to be who we say we are and we're going to be who we want to be, then it has to be work every day and the accountability and responsibility has to be there. Everything has to work because we're not good enough to just roll the ball out on the field and go play anyone. We're not that football team right now."
During his regular Monday press conference, Strong was still seething over his team's showing against Marshall, which included 11 penalties, poor execution in the running game and a defene that allowed three third-down conversions on the Thundering Herd's opening touchdown drive.
But Strong said he wasn't planning on any major personnel changes, adding, "You can't shake up one positon over another position because no position played well."
Strong said starting quarterback Will Stein, who missed most of the Kentucky game and all of the Marshall contest with a shoulder injury, is close to being ready, but declined to predict whether the junior would be able to play at North Carolina. He said Stein is day to day.
True freshman Teddy Bridgewater made his first collegiate start against Marshall, and Strong said Bridgewater "played very well" despite throwing two critical interceptions in the final minutes, one of which led to Marshall's game-winning touchdown.
"Teddy threw the ball well," Strong said. "He had a lot of pressure, had to run out a time or two. The touchdown he scored where he tried to hurdle that defensive back, I told him, 'We only have one quarterback, don't get hurt.' Will Stein is getting better. He wasn't 100 percent Saturday, but if something had happened to Teddy we probably would have had to play him because we don't have anybody else. Each day if we can just get Will to keep coming, by Saturday we hope to have him 100 percent. We'll wait til game day to make that evaluation."