Welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference. For real.
A new era begins Monday night for University of Louisville athletics, the first conference game ever in the ACC for any University of Louisville team in any sport. Appropriate that it would be in football because it was the sport that drove conference realignment, unprecedented changes in the college landscape making it possible for UofL to be on the main stage.
Lots of celebrating and self-congratulating over the past summer and the last year or so, punctuated by the demolition of massive silos, an impressive expansion of student housing, academic facilities and an ever-changing campus landscape. Louisville belongs, a member of the big boy club, welcomed with open arms by the respected members of the prestigious ACC.
Now it’s time to get down to business.
While UofL’s first game against Miami is accompanied by the enthusiasm of the return of Coach Bobby Petrino and his aggressive offensive philosophy, there is lots of uncertainty to go around. A complete turnover in the coaching staff brings with it a learning curve, new plays, new ways of doing things, new offensive and defensive alignments, new officiating crews — items that often require periods of adjustment.
Then, of course, there’s the absence of DeVante Parker, the team’s leading receiver, and questions surrounding the availability of Michael Dyer, who was expected to back at full force until he suffered an severe bruised thigh. Some untested newcomers on the offensive and defensive lines.
Lot of questions from fans, serious challenges for the coaches, the kind of stuff Petrino relishes, why he thrives on being a football coach. Petrino has indicated that he liked what he inherited and has alleviated some of the shortcomings. If he’s optimistic, who’s to question him?
At 8 p.m. on Labor Day, the captains of the Cardinals and the Hurricanes will meet with the officials on the 50-yard line for the coin toss. The only thing for sure is that Louisville will get the ball first. If UofL wins the coin toss, it will choose to receive. If Miami wins, it will defer until the second half, not wanting to test its freshman quarterback too early, going on defense. Bobby Petrino always wants the ball first.
The aggressive approach has always worked well for Petrino in football, just as it turned out spendidly for Tom Jurich in the larger chess game of conference realignment. The challenges are huge, dwarfing some of those from the past with UofL overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles time after time to get to where it is today.
Welcome to the ACC where anything is possible.
On Friday night, the men’s and women’s teams played a doubleheader before 7,047 fans on the opening day of Lynn Stadium, the dream stadium for college soccer teams. The women’s team defeating Mississippi 1-0 in the first game and the men’s team upending No. 2 Maryland 1-0 in the nightcap.
Attendance was the second highest ever for a soccer game in the state, exceeded only by the UofL-UCLA regional championship populated by 7,821 fans in December 2010.
An historic day, worth preserving with a video of the opening ceremonies for people who missed out on another UofL milestone, joined in progress. At about the 6:20 mark, Tom Jurich can be heard, telling the observer to get the silos in the video:
Bobby Petrino likes to score quickly and often, and he overlooks no detail, no matter how small – and it begins in the University of Louisville football film room dissecting the compilations of Dave Spina, director of video operations.
Spina, who has been with the program since 1998, is responsible for the filming and editing of all football-related video including practice and game footage. He also is charged with obtaining video of opposing teams. If anyone spends more time at the Schnellenger Complex than Petrino, it is Dave Spina. But that’s another story.
Coaches and players watch lots and lots of video. Watching practice or game film is like viewing reruns. After viewing the movie for the fifth time, you know the actors’ lines and where they should stand. After the 10th time, you are picking up every little mistake. You see the actors switching their watch from their left wrist to their right wrist. An actor will be wearing a yellow shirt in one scene, a red one in another. Hair is parted differently, hats change colors.
Teams will send certain personnel on the field trying to defend a certain type of play. It may be a short run for a first down. Medium length passes to gain five yards, or a longer pass for seven yards or more. Petrino has already made the adjustments before the game starts.
Louisville runs multiple offensive settings. Every now and then, instead of watching the quarterback or the running backs, watch the other players of the opposing team. See where the defenders are lined up, changing from play to play, hoping to outguess an offensive genius. Be careful, however, lest you get hooked on analyzing defensive strategies.
Every defense has its inherent weakness. Can the coaching staff and players find or see the weakness? Sometimes the weakness is for one play. The offensive team can take advantage of this weakness, if they find it.
Watch to see if a defensive back is cheating up, back, or to one side. See if a defensive lineman slants his body or feet so he can get a slight advantage over his offensive opponent. Watch the linebackers line up against good receivers as opposed to the average ones. Big difference in many cases.
Enjoy the season. What will be the outcome? Good question, but then I am a perpetual optimist. Every season I believe UofL is going to go undefeated and win the championship. See you at the game.
The music release is “It’s Card Time” and according to B Simm, Louisville football is going roll through the Atlantic Coast Conference like it did the Big East and it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. Go to Itunes and add it to your UofL tailgating library for 99 cents.
We keep hearing how it takes months to finalize the schedule but it always comes out the last week of August. This season’s release all but obscured in the excitement leading up to Monday’s football opener against Miami.
This town can’t wait for the football season to begin, some fans complaining that 2 p.m. is too late in the day to open the Green Lot for tailgating for an 8 p.m. kickoff.
A clear sign of just how far football has come in Louisville over the past decade. UofL has won two BCS bowls and finished in the top 10 twice, sixth in the Associated Press poll in 2004 and 2006. The Cards were 19th in the 2005 poll and 13th after the 2013 campaign.
Not too many years ago, the new basketball schedule would have been a serious distraction. Thankfully, those days are history.
Regardless, the basketball schedule is probably the toughest in UofL’s rich history, featuring home games against Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State and Kentucky and a challenging father-son matchup against NIT champion Minnesota at a U.S. Air Force facility in Puerto Rico. Eighteen games with Atlantic Coast Conference foes, including a February 18th showdown at Syracuse.
Football first, however.
A five-minute thunderstorm half way through the ribbon-cutting ceremonies couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd that turned out Thursday for the official opening of the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus.
The entire setting had an historic feel to it with all dazzling graphics throughout the stadium, the demolition of the silos in the background, and with a 50-car freight train passing by on the north end of the field.
Ken Lolla, coach of the UofL men’s soccer team, thanked Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics for his visionary thinking, proclaiming that college soccer would be forever changed by the completion of this particular stadium.
“Student athletes are going to come play in here and have an experience like they’ve never had,” said Lolla. “There will be coaches who will come in here and go back to their athletic directors and athletic departments and say, ‘We need to do something more. We need to do something better.’
“Because of that inspiration and the vision we have created, the big winner is going to be college soccer. This date is historic. College soccer will never be same.”
Benefactor Mark Lynn, who, along with this wife Cindy, donated $5 million to help build the $18 million plus stadium, said he was just honored to be a small piece of the process. “I love this university and am excited to be a part of such a dynamic program,” he said.
Coach Ken Lolla gets the crown jewel of college soccer stadiums. The silos will be gone next week.