Wherefore art thou, Bobby Petrino

Where is he, the football coach who demanded perfection, the bully who ruled by intimidation, the browbeater no one wanted in their face? The one some misinformed analysts still describe as an offensive genius? The arrogant rowdy whose teams ran roughshod over lesser opponents?

Where is the tactician who would draw up the first 10 plays of the game, quickly getting his team in the opposing end zone? The one knew how good he was in the profession, always looking around for another job, wanting move up in the profession? 

Nowhere to be found on the University of Louisville sideline this season, at least not after the first four games. Bobby Petrino, the one who used to have all the answers, seemingly replaced by a shadow of himself.

Players needing some good things to happen, but lacking the confidence to get there.

The current version of Petrino reduced to almost apologizing after a demoralizing 27-3 loss to Virginia on Saturday. The coach in the same fog as he was following struggles against Indiana State and Western Kentucky, all but apologizing, repeating familiar assertions about needing to get better.

Questionable whether Petrino is confident that can happen, sounding like he wasn’t sure where to begin. Not when he doesn’t know who his quarterback will be next week. Pulling starting quarterback Malik Cunningham after an unproductive first half in which UofL was unable to amount any offensive threats. His replacement Jawon Pass unable to capitalize on three opportunities inside the five-yard line, at other times short-arming numerous passes to receivers in wide open spaces.

Uncertain about his running backs as well, his starter Dae Williams picking up only six yards, the replacement Jeremy Smith only 10 yards, and Trey Smith somehow managing 27 of them. None of them in long enough to get a good feel for the game. 

In the first four games this season, Louisville has scored only 10 points in the first half. Players needing some good things to happen, but lacking in the necessary confidence or leadership to get there.

Petrino just wanting to get back on the practice field, wanting to put another lackluster performance behind him. Wanting to get out of the line of fire, wanting the doubters to go away, wanting something to right for a change.

Forced to try some new approaches maybe. No longer having the luxury of a scrambling Lamar Jackson to overcome questionable play calling and offensive inefficiencies. One of the top paid football coaches in the nation, knowing things are heading south, needing to turn things around.

Get on the bandwagon, support UofL through Amazon Smile

May want to get on board. 

For a couple of years now, I have been participating in the Amazon Smile program, in which a portion of the proceeds go a consumer’s favorite charity. My choice, of course, was the University of Louisville Foundation. 

I hadn’t paid much attention to the details, just pleased to see more money going to UofL. You know, wanting to help the alma mater in any way possible, especially during the turmoil of the past couple of years.

An Open Records Request to the University of Louisville was somewhat disappointing, indicating that UofL had only received $73.96 from the program over the last three academic years. Resulting from $14,792 in sales to UofL supporters.

The percentage of Amazon’s gift is .05% of each sale. For example, .05% is only half a penny, a nickel for ever $100 in purchase, or fifty cents from a purchase of $1,000. Even so UofL should be getting much more from the program.

Go to your Amazon account and make the UofL Foundation your charity. When you’re ready to buy, just sign into smile.amazon.com, make your purchase, and Amazon will come through with a donation. What could be easier?

Tis season of second guessing for Louisville football

Dae Williams scores the second of two touchdowns, this one putting Louisville the lead over Western Kentucky. Top Photo: Malik Cunningham was UofL’s leading ground gainer with 135 yards on 21 carries. (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Going to be a long week for the University of Louisville football program, the coaches, the players and the fans who closely follow the team. Lots of second guessing, hind sight expertise, and unbridled bashing of the coaching staff.

The most questionable issue was Coach Bobby Petrino’s decision early in the second quarter to go for it on fourth-and-three on his team’s 32-yard line. Quarterback Malik Cunningham would be tagged for no gain and Western Kentucky would score three plays later and go ahead 14-0.

Coach Bobby Petrino more than a little disappointed after eking out a three-point win over Western Kentucky. UofL was a 24-point favorite (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Petrino obviously frustrated with the lack of a running game at that point. Stubborn, not believing what he was seeing, gambling and losing, putting his team in a hole. Disbelief among many UofL fans in the crowd of 54,923, what was going on down there?

The coach was already being second-guessed for his decision to start Jawan Pass at quarterback and another lackluster performance. No pass completions in three attempts, one of them an interception. His team would have only one yard rushing before Pass was jerked after the first quarter.

Questions about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line, a line averaging 315 pounds, the unit with the most experience, expected to provide a major advantage this season. A sieve at times, the Cardinals struggling for yardage, managing only 292 offensive yards compared to 428 for WKU.

The defense, missing stalwart linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Dorian Etheridge, repeatedly unable to stop Western Kentucky, especially on numerous third down plays. Miraculously blocking a field goal attempt that would enable Louisville to eventually claim the 20-17 victory.

Alex Kupper, a WHAS radio color commentator and former UofL tackle, bemoaning a lack of sense of urgency, intensity or accountability, suggesting the season ahead could be a long one for Louisville football. Fortunately for him that he wasn’t in Petrino’s presence.

Then there are the questions about the youth and inexperienced coaches on the UofL staff, at least three of them related to the head coach. Plus a rising tide of criticism about the inability of some coaches to work with Petrino. And, finally, questions about Bobby 1.0 and Bobby 2.0, a lack of discipline, and disorganization. Concern that things are going south quick, even though the Cardinals have won two of their first three games.

Petrino has been here before, three years ago Louisville having lost the first three games before winning seven of the last eight and a bowl appearance. “No question about it, we’re not a very good football team right now,” he said afterwards. “We’ve got to get a lot better.” He’s not one for wishful thinking so his team can expect some challenging practice sessions this week.

The future always always seems to be the most bleak after a loss, but in this case UofL is coming off two consecutive wins. Some ominous signs sending the Monday morning quarterbacks into disarray early in the season.

Basketball just can’t wait for college football season

The unveiling of a new University of Louisville basketball schedule inevitably brings mixed feelings for this observer. The schedule release always occurs early in September, diverting attention away from the college football season only three weeks into the schedule.

When Rick Pitino was here, the schedule always seemed to be announced just a couple of days before the opening football game. Seemingly intentional timing, like someone wanting to remind local fans of the most worshipped sport in Louisville, football be damned.

 Probably has something to do with the fact that the city and the state have never enjoyed sustained success in football, the sports fanatics having little choice but basketball for any notoriety. And why state schools, including UofL, despite some notable achievements in football, are still considered “basketball schools.”

Not necessarily a bad thing, despite the taint swirling around college basketball these days, FBI investigations and such. But lack of overall success in football can detract from a school’s overall national reputation. UofL football was close to breaking through the perceived barrier a couple of years ago before its offensive line collapsed, knocking the program out of contention for the college football playoffs. 

It has always taken this observer three or four weeks into the schedule to get over football and get excited about basketball.  The transition could take even longer this year with the opening exhibition game against Bellarmine coming three days before Halloween.  The earlier part of the schedule also will include no names like Nicholls State, Southern, Central Arkansas, Kent State and Robert Morris.

For some reason, someone at the NCAA believes the college basketball season should start earlier and earlier every year. The Cardinals will already be playing teams like Tennessee, Michigan State, and Kansas or Marquette by the end of November. The NCAA as an organization does not own college football like it does basketball, and apparently wants to milk the sport for every possible dollar.

Among the good things on the UofL basketball schedule is the fact that the Cardinals aren’t playing Kentucky on New Year’s Eve this year, with that game set for Saturday, Dec. 29th. Also nice that slackers like Pittsburgh and Boston College are each on the schedule twice this year. Louisville will also play two games against North Carolina.

The bad news is UofL also plays Virginia twice again this season, with games at home and on the road. Never good to see the Cavaliers as the final game of the regular season, especially at Charlottesville. By then, however, college basketball will have captured our full attention, having gradually worked it way back to becoming the center of the sports universe. 

2018-19 University of Louisville basketball schedule

UofL fans fight the weather, drowning out the football game

Cindy Rice Shelton photos

The weather was never going to cooperate with University of Louisville football program for the home opener of the 2018 season. The local forecasters finally getting one right, with the last breath of Hurricane Gordon dumping its massive leftovers on Cardinal Stadium.

Martin Kaelin broke out the snorkleing gear to help cope with the sappy weather conditions (Charlie Springer photo).

The day getting off to a decent start, with the rain waiting until UofL fans were finding their parking spots.  But the clouds would begin to leak as fans were setting up their tailgating canopies, soaking the fans and their food, determined to make life miserable for the Cardinal faithful. The rain would continue well into the night and long after the football game had finally ended.

The inclement weather interruptions long ago having ceased to be fun or novel for Louisville fans. This day among the most irritable ever, interrupting the football game four different times, sending fans to the concourses and the players back to the dressing room.

No cooperation, admiration or respect from Mother Nature for what should have been a glorious unveiling of the North end zone expansion.

No cooperation, admiration or respect from Mother Nature for what should have been a glorious unveiling of the North end zone expansion. The game would start at 7 p.m. and end five hours and 35 minutes later. 

As for the football, what could one expect from a game that had been interrupted so often, with delays lasting from 30 to 45-minute increments. Halftime finally arriving a couple of hours later, the team mired in a 7-7 tie. Some welcome signs of life for the UofL offense with the entrance of backup quarterback Malik Cunningham late in their third quarter. 

Cunningham would quickly unveil some amazing speed with a 19-yard run on his first play from scrimmage. The first real sign of a running game this season. Making it look relatively easy, with his team chewing up 85 yards in 11 plays and Cunningham making the go-ahead touchdown.

Mekhi Beckton providing another welcome highlight a few minutes later as the 350-pound offensive tackle lept over and through the offensive line for a one-yard touchdown. Wide receiver Jaylen Smith would make the final score 31-7 on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham.

By then, however, most of the people in the crowd of 44,420 had given up on seeing any highlights, weary of the seemingly unnecessary interruptions, wanting to get dry, wanting to get out of there. Their introduction to the 2018 football season the equivalent of serving as a volunteer in the dunking booth. 

An extra treat was in store for drivers as they exited onto Floyd Street, where all the the ditches beside the road were overflowing and water pooling at least 10 inches deep in spots. Once drivers had committed to Floyd Street, they were own their own, desperately hoping they could make it to the distant intersection. Not much help from the cops or the blinding blue lights, the occupants of the police cars seemingly only concerned about staying dry.

UofL fans saw more of the concourses and each other than the football game during the five-and-a-half hour marathon (Charlie Springer photo).