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October 21, 2013

O'Leary to Strong: 'Look in the mirror'

Louisville coach Charlie Strong reiterated several times on Monday that he believed the "best" team did not win last Friday's game, which was a 38-35 victory by UCF.

The Cardinals did hold a 28-7 advantage early in the second half after they scored on a fumbled UCF punt attempt, but the Knights dominated the rest of the way, taking the lead for good on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute.

Three days after the loss, Strong was still seething.

"It's hard to move on," Strong said at his weekly press conference. "Not to take anything away from Central Florida, I know they were a good football team, it's one that we gave away, when you look at it. Me, personally, I thought we were the better team and we let one get away from us."

Later, he repeated the statement in response to a question whether he still believes Louisville is the best team in the nation.

"We have to give Central Florida credit, but I still say the best football team lost that game," Strong said.

Louisville did enter the game with an undefeated record, a top-ten ranking and impressive statistics on both sides of the ball, but those numbers were likely padded against a soft schedule that included the likes of Ohio, FIU, Eastern Kentucky and Temple. Meanwhile, UCF had won at Penn State and their only loss was a three-point setback to South Carolina.

The final offensive stats were largely even as UCF had 446 total yards to Louisville's 445. Both teams had 22 first downs and nearly equal possession time.

UCF and Louisville each had two turnovers that proved costly. Blake Bortles' opening drive interception likely cost UCF points and the third quarter fumbled punt attempt resulted in a quick Louisville return for a touchdown. The Cardinals fumbled twice, the first of which negated a potential scoring drive (much like UCF's first turnover) when the ball rolled and hit the pylon, resulting in a change of possession and touchback. A third quarter fumble deep in their own territory did lead to a quick UCF score, narrowing Louisville's lead at that point to 28-21.

Louisville may have allowed themselves to get comfortable after racing out to a big lead, but the Knights clearly showed they were "better" as the second half progressed as the Cardinals had no answer for UCF's offense which pushed around a Louisville defensive front that had forced eight sacks the week before. The defense also came up with big plays against Louisville's vaulted offense, including a third-down sack by Terrance Plummer. UCF's 38-35 win was even more remarkable considering they were playing on the road in a hostile environment.

During his afternoon press conference, UCF coach George O'Leary was asked if he was aware of Strong's comments.

"Charlie did that?," O'Leary asked. Really."

He then continued:

"They're a very talented team. Obviously when you say the best team didn't win, you've got to look in the mirror as far as players and coaches. I'll leave it like that. I think it was a great win. All I look at is wins and losses. I don't get involved in, 'He said, you said, we said.' I think any time you lose a game I always look in the mirror and what I could have done more to help the win or change the game. I don't get involved in, 'We were better than them.' We won that night. They have a really talented team. They really do. Move on. I don't get concerned about people talking after a game."



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