Remember When: Alabama-Louisville — the first game on the big screen TV

Squaring off against Alabama in the opening game of the 2018 college football season brings back rich memories of UofL’s last game against the Crimson Tide in 1991. A New Year’s Day nationally-televised appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.

Howard Schnellenberger had four weeks to prepare for Alabama.

Easily the biggest game in UofL football history at the time, Alabama was a prohibitive favorite,expected to easily roll over Louisville. The fact that UofL Coach Howard Schnellenberger had almost a month to prepare for Alabama was lost on the sports media, along with Louisville’s 9-1-1 record that season.

Three days before the game, I had forked over big bucks for a huge console TV, with a 48-inch screen, encased in a walnut cabinet. State of the art, it would be main attraction in the basement. I couldn’t wait for it to be delivered the night before the big game.

I told my wife the TV was going down to the basement if I had to start cutting holes in ceilings and walls.

The call came from Smith’s Furniture that they were on the way. I figured it would take a while for them to get there so I dashed out to a video store to rent a movie. I returned home, video cassette in hand, eager to get acquainted.

But to my shock, sitting smack dab in the center of the family room sat the big new TV.  Where the guys from Smith’s Furniture had left it, having convinced my wife it was too big to go downstairs to the basement. Wouldn’t be able to get around the corner into the basement. they told her. Lots of company coming by the next day for the Fiesta Bowl party.

Panic time. Calls to Smith’s Furniture were to no avail, they were already closed for the holiday. I told Barbara the TV was going to get to the basement if I had to start cutting holes in ceilings and walls.

Desperate, I called Joe, our next door neighbor, and he called another neighbor. Three anxious and perspiring individuals, refusing to accept failure, were slowly and cautiously able to get it down the steps and around the corner. Finally, there it was –a monument to persistence and fanaticism.

The next day came a football game-watching party that will never be equalled. Browning Nagle completing a 70-yard pass for a touchdown to Latrell Ware, Ralph Dawkins scoring on a five-yard run, a 37-yard pass to Anthony Cummings for another TD, and a UofL recovery of a fumble in the Alabama end zone. UofL was up 25-0 after the first quarter. The Cardinals would win the game, 34-7, shocking the world of college football.

The TV was in the basement for about eight years before getting handed  down to Steve. I wasn’t there when he arrived with friends so I’ll never know how he got it out of the house. “Leverage, dad,” he said. “Simple leverage.”

Louisville football going to expose some so-called experts

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals football team is better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference

Editor’s Note: Card Game is pleased to welcome veteran sportswriter Ed Peak, who has covered UofL sports in some fashion since 1973, first as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and the old United Press International, as well as Louisville ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

By Ed Peak

I love this time of year. College football is just around the corner and Major League Baseball is in the home stretch. I also love all those opinions about college football teams. Preseason polls, predictions by the so-called experts. We are less than three weeks away from the start of the season and everyone has an opinion about their team.

The preseason college football magazines have been on the newsstands since mid May. I agree with the pundits on a couple of things. The defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide should be ranked number one, Georgia No. 2 and Clemson third. Everybody else, I’m not so sure about.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals are better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Street & Smith has them fifth. Athlon Sports has them pegged sixth. Lindy’s Sports has them 38th overall.

There is every reason to think they could finish second or third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Clemson is the favorite and should be.The Cardinals have a difficult schedule this season opening with Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff. Difficult to win with a first time sophomore quarterback. The next two games are winnable at home, Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

The first road game is not easy, at Virginia. But I think the Cards take care of the Cavaliers. The next two home games are very pivotal, Florida State and Georgia Tech. By this time quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass should be established. I think Louisville wins both.

Another pivotal game follows at Boston College. Louisville should have beat the Eagles last season. That was one of the most hurtful losses a year ago. The Cards will be ready this time and win. Wake Forest comes to Cardinal Stadium the following week and Louisville just didn’t play well against the Demon Deacons a year ago. Louisville plays well and gets a W.

That gets us to Saturday, November 3rd at Clemson. Louisville rolls into Death Valley on a seven game winning streak (7-1). But the Tigers, with one of the best defensive front fours in college football, prevail.

The Cards win at Syracuse, beat North Carolina State and Kentucky at home finishing 10-2. Optimistic? Yes. Impossible. No. I think an appearance in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina is possible and a ranking in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll by the end of the season.
One thing that does bother me is I haven’t seen this Cardinals team in person. I like to see a team before making opinions. I did see the spring game. But I don’t know how much you can take from that.

With all the speed the Cards have I think they are improved. A new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder will make a difference. The defense is a year older and has talent in Dorian Etheridge, Jonathan Greenard, Khane Pass, G.G. Robinson and Russ Yeast. Others that could have an impact are C.J. Avery, Henry Famurewa, London Iakopo, Dee Smith and Cornelius Sturgill.

The offense will have to rally around Pass, the key returning player after backing up Lamar Jackson. The Cards have good receivers in Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith, who says he will be ready for the opener after an emergency appendectomy. Seth Dawkins will figure in the mix as well.The running backs should be solid with Dae Williams, Colin Wilson and Tobias Little.

The offensive line should be improved with experienced veteran starters returning in seniors Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas. Sophomore Mekhi Becton (6-3, 360) gives the Cards some bulk while Robbie Bell and Cole Bentley have started games.

Louisville should have one of the strongest kicking games in college football with juniors Branton Creque as a field goal and PAT specialist and punter Mason King. Creque, a Lou Groza Award candidate, has made 97 of 99 extra point kicks and 33 of 39 field goals in two seasons. King averaged 43.9 yards per punt last season and had 10 points of 50 yards or more and placed 10 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.

Walz takes home the gold for USA women’s basketball

FIBA Site Screen Shot

Jeff Walz continues his winning ways, leading the USA to gold in Mexico City.

Made it look easy they did, Jeff Walz and his United States basketball team in winning the International Basketball Federation’s world championship for women under 18 in Mexico City.

Walz, the University of Louisville women’s basketball coach, guided the USA team to the gold medal with an 84-60 win over Canada on Tuesday.  His teams are undefeated with a 9-0 record, including three wins in a Tokyo tournament last year.

UofL is recruiting two players on the team for the 2019 class. Aijah Blackwell, a six-foot guard from Whitfield School in Berkeley, Missouri, had eight points and four rebounds in the championship game. Maori Davenport, a 6-foot-4 forward from Henderson, Alabama, had seven points and six rebounds.  

The USA team averaged 93.2 per game, winning by an average of 47.5 points per outing, out-rebounding the opposition by 29.5 rebounds, while allowing 15 fewer points on average than any other team.

Game by game:

USA 87, Argentina 42
USA 115, Chile 39
USA 103, Puerto Rico 59
USA 87, El Salvador 27
USA 83, Columbia 47
USA 84, Canada 60 (Championship)

A well-rounded offensive attack, with nine players averaging between seven and 10 points per game. “I thought the players did an outstanding job of looking for each other, instead of looking to make things happen for themselves,” Walz said. “They were trying to get their teammates involved.”

Take a bow, coach. You earned it.

A musical ode to the Pizza Man and fall from grace

Now a song has been written about poor ol’ John Schnatter, the pizza man. Rapidly becoming a cartoon caricature of the kind of person everyone loves to hate. Happy ending not possible.

John Schnatter and his wife, Annette, had courtside seats for the University of Louisville-Florida State basketball game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The rapid decline of Schnatter from a fabulously successful businessman to an angry and frustrated untouchable is chronicled by Don R. Mueller, PhD, a former physics professor and New York blogger recently profiled in The New York Times.

The blows just keep coming for the disgraced pizza icon. He has a way of offending someone every time he opens his mouth. A casualty of the cultural wars, unable to negotiate the slippery slopes of the politically correct landscape, antagonizing the people who made him filthy rich.

Don Mueller, a New York physicist, chronicled Papa John’s decline in song on YouTube

Always looking for a fight it seems. No longer welcome at Cardinal Stadium or the University of Louisville  campus. The last Papa John’s signs were trucked away from the stadium last week. He’s not even wanted at the corporate headquarters of the company on Papa John’s Boulevard in Louisville.

The Pizza Man discovering the hard way that money can buy only so much love. He has only himself to blame.

Jaire Alexander gives Green Bay needed boost at cornerback

Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton

Fans of opposing National Football League teams can’t be blamed if they  circle the date for games against the Green Bay Packers on their calendars. Same for casual football fans looking for decent games on Sunday afternoons. The Packers are always going to be strong and in the thick of the Super Bowl chase.

University of Louisville fans will have one more special reason to follow the Packers’ fortunes this season. Namely Jaire Alexander, competing for a starting position at cornerback in the rookie year of his professional career.  The Packers traded selections with the Seattle Seahawks to make  Alexander 18th overall pick, the second cornerback  off the board.

Jaire Alexander

When he was well, Alexander was one of the elite-level cornerbacks of this class. Injured in Louisville’s opening game last season, missing six games with a knee injury. UofL was a different team when he returned, winning four of its last five regular season games, including a second straight victory over Florida State.

The Packers haven’t had the best history with first-round cornerbacks, but there’s an aura around Alexander and an influx of optimism. It’s still early but reports from the Packer camp indicate that Alexander is seriously quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ passing accuracy in pre-season workouts.

Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in week six and played in only seven games last season, appears to have fully recovered. Pretty potent combination with Rodgers quarterbacking the offense and Alexander running free in the defensive backfield. According to Betway, the Packers are 13/2 favorites to win the NFC, and will give defending Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles all they can handle.

Expect Jaire Alexander to play a major role in Green Bay’s return to prominence.