Author Archive: Charlie Springer
Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.
Stop the world for a day. Give thanks for the blessings.
The antics of University of Kentucky players prior to the annual football game against the University of Louisville last season had to be the worst display of poor sportsmanship I’ve ever seen. It remains to be seen whether UK coach Mark Stoops has learned anything from that episode.
Fans were in a state of disbelief as too many UK players to count waved their middle fingers and upside-down L’s toward the stands during pre-game warmups at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Predictably, some of them stomped on the UofL logo at midfield.
Then several of them brazenly wandered to the Louisville side of the 50-yard line, getting into the faces of UofL players, pushing and shoving, as if seeking to ignite an all-out rumble. So many UK players on UofL’s side of the field, more intent on conflict than any concern about the upcoming game.
Anyone who witnessed that had to be concerned about what would happen on UK’s home field this year. The situation is strikingly similar to last year, with Kentucky again needing a win to become bowl eligible. The Wildcats are backed into a corner, they’re desperate, and they are in their own den. If they could do what they did at an away game, who knows how far they will take it Lexington? On their home field?
In his pre-game remarks Monday, Stoops seemed to accept responsibility for the extracurricular activities. He said the emotions may have hurt his team and there will be no repeat of the histrionics. “We don’t need to do that, we need to worry about playing football,” he said.
Hopefully, that’s true. But that should have been obvious to the UK coaching staff last season, instead of encouraging their players to be aggressive. Embarrassing themselves while insulting both UofL and UK fans. Why would he have lowered himself to that level in the first place?
Stoops is going to have to prove he can control himself and his players this Saturday. Some of these UK players, including starting quarterback Drew Barker, were among those involved in a brawl at Richmond bar in which an Eastern Kentucky University football player was seriously injured. No significant legal action wasf taken as a result of that incident, nor were any UK players dismissed from the team.
Among the UK players to keep an eye is C.J. Johnson, a senior defensive tackle, who wears No. 67. Johnson told reporters, “A lot of players from Kentucky hate them, hate them (Louisville) a lot.” Strong emotions and words for someone raised in South Carolina. If Johnson’s attitude is typical of his teammates, Stoops may have difficulty controlling his troops.
UofL players restrained themselves pretty well before last year’s game, considering UK’s silliness came as a total surprise. College teams just don’t come into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and act like that. Any effort by UofL fans to respect the visiting team that day was wasted, the UK coaching staff and players tarnishing their school’s image in a major way.
Louisville players will not be caught off guard this weekend. The hope is that they will continue to maintain their focus on football. The worst thing would be to actively respond to the gutter-sniping. Give them what they want, but do it to them on the football field.
Going into the second half this observer was only hoping the University of Louisville football team would somehow manage to hold Pittsburgh to under 50 points. Good thing Bobby Petrino is not a pessimist, doesn’t think like that.
Trailing 42-24 after that gruesome first half, Petrino’s troops weren’t about to throw in the towel. The Cardinals would throw Lamar Jackson back in the mix, make some defensive adjustments, slow down the Pittsburgh ground game, and trim the deficit to eight points with over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
A miracle comeback in the making? No way. Just happy to be hanging close.
No realistic UofL fan had any serious thoughts about winning. Pittsburgh was just better in every phase of the game. Impressive effort during that second half, however, digging out of that deep hole. Just asking much too much to overcome.
The Cardinals would hold the Panthers to only three second-half points in the 45-34 loss. They did it while totaling a net gain of minus-one yards for the game. A few yards here and there would have made the potential for a successful rally more credible.
The quarterback situation is again up in the air. Kyle Bolin competed 10 of 20 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns while Lamar Jackson was good for nine of 17 attempts for 142 yards and a touchdown. Both have managed to look mediocre against better teams this season. Kentucky will not be one of the better teams on the schedule but Petrino had better make the right choice.
Holding Pittsburgh to under 50 points was not a big deal. Petrino will have his team’s full attention next week, needing a win to end the regular season on a positive note in Lexington.
The University of Louisville football program could take a major step back to respectability with a win over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Pittsburgh looks good on paper, entering the game with a 7-3 won-loss record, those losses coming to good teams — Notre Dame, Iowa and North Carolina. However, the Panthers also struggled against Syracuse and Virginia, two common opponents UofL defeated.
Louisville, with Kyle Bolin calling the signals, is becoming more adept with the Bobby Petrino offense. The offensive line has also shown some signs of maturing, freeing up running lanes for Brandon Radcliff and more passing options for Bolin. If solving the Pittsburgh defense requires more creative approaches, there are backups Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon.
The Panthers have one of the top receivers in the country in Tyler Boyd, who has caught 69 passes for 700 yards and five touchdowns. They also have a solid quarterback in Nate Peterman, who has thrown for 1,776 yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back Qadree Ollison has rushed for 859 yards and nine scores.
A bruising game is guaranteed, one of those intense conflicts in which the the game may not be decided until the final play.
While assured of bowl eligibility, UofL needs a victory against Pittsburgh to assure a winning season. That was not even a concern coming into the season. It is now and the Cardinals need to take care of business.
Believe it or not, many University of Louisville football fans are still tailgating in the parking lot at the Kentucky Exposition Center, and the parties keep getting bigger and better. One of them is vying for national honors in the Gordo’s Cheese Dip Ultimate Tailgating Competition.
That would be David Magee, who along with dozens of his closest friends, gather for every home game in Section H at the old fairgrounds. He’s competing for a grand prize that includes free tickets to the bowl game of his choice and three nights lodging, a prize valued at $2,500.
Magee’s tailgate has been going strong since 2009. He takes his tailgating on the road sometimes as well, attracting approximately 300 people for the opening game against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Atlanta.
The contest ends on Sunday, and he’s trailing an Arkansas fan by 400 votes. Go here to see David’s video and vote for him. Now please.