Performance On The Field Will Be Telling

Believing anything football coaches say is difficult at best, especially after the Petrino years. Steve Kragthorpe says he wants to finish his career at U of L, but that came after he had obviously been talking to officials at SMU.

Kragthorpe was clearly less than forthcoming when he described the SMU talk as “total fiction.” Some informed sources in Dallas knew otherwise, already chalking it down as a fait accompli.

Reports (rumors) this week have ranged from a big announcement Friday about the imminent departure of the entire staff to a dismissing of all the old Petrino assistants. This would include Jeff Brohm and Greg Nord, two of the most loyal assistants ever to serve at U of L.

One wishing to give Kragthorpe the benefit of the doubt would have to believe him when he looks you in the eye and says he’s staying. The skeptic, however, has heard this before and wonders if it just another coach biding his time. I wouldn’t be surprised either way, given the lack of candor and overall lack of communication from the football offices.

The biggest clue will come from the performance on the field. There’s every reason to want to win this game, the departing seniors and the revenge factor above all. If the effort is a poor one, things have turned irretrievably sour, and the coach may no longer have a say in the matter.

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Any fans or analysts who have turned their total focus to basketball are letting the rest of us down. There’s some unfinished business here, folks. There’s too much at stake on the football front to ignore the sport that lifted U of L from the ranks of the mid-majors in the national media’s eye.

Black Out Night vs. Rutgers

The good news is there’s a football game coming up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The bad news is that it will likely be the last game for the University of Louisville. The Cards’ most likely bowl invitation, if they were to defeat Rutgers, appeared to be the Papa John’s Bowl in Birmingham.

Scratch that. Cincinnati (9-3) has accepted an invitation to play Southern Mississippi (7-5) in the Dec. 22 bowl game. Attendance must not have been much a factor for the bowl sponsors. Neither team travels very well.

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The chatter surrounding the Rutgers program seems to be focused on their appearance in the International Bowl, rather than on the Louisville game — quite a switch from last year when the lights in the Empire State Building signaled support for Rutgers in one of the biggest games of the college football season.

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In case you missed it, the Rutgers game is a “Black Out” game, with fans being asked to wear all black. Someone must have known something when it was scheduled before the season started. For many fans, black seems an appropriate color to bury this season’s anxieties. Whatever happened to red, anyway?

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The spotlight will not shine as bright as it once did on U of L’s Brian Brohm and Rutgers’ Ray Rice, but expect both to put up big numbers. Brohm has thrown for 29 touchdown and 3,787 yards, Rice has run for 17 touchdowns and 1,612 yards. Neither will receive many Heisman Trophy votes. However, they will be among the top five draft choices.

Mitch McConnell: Fan of the Week

One person you can count on being at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium any time the U of L football team lines up is U. S. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Fan of the Week. The four-term Republican leader is a diehard Card fan and rarely misses a game, at home or away.

“One of my favorite activities is watching U of L football,” he told us. “I have been a Cardinal fan since I was in school at the University of Louisville. I can’t remember the last time I missed a home game. In fact, last year I went to every home and away game except one, the game in Pittsburgh; only having to miss it because my daughters were in to visit me for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.”

Sen. McConnell, who attend
ed away games this season at UConn, North Carolina State and South Florida, is looking beyond the team’s current misfortunes. “While this season has been a disappointing one, I look forward to the spring when the Cardinals return to the gridiron and once again begin their quest for the BCS Championship,” he said. “I will enjoy watching the young talent improve as U of L football continues to grow as a force to be reckoned with in college football.”

The former County Judge said he also loves tailgating and taking part in the camaraderie that comes with being a member of the U of L family. “I have enjoyed watching the athletic program grow over the years, going from the Metro Conference to Conference USA to the Big East and rising through the ranks to winning the school’s first Bowl Championship Series game.”

Any other thoughts?

“Go Cards!” he said, emphatically.

Photo: Senator McConnell gets together with U of L football player Daniel Cameron (also a McConnell Scholar) and Daniel’s parents: Von and Sandra Cameron.

Score Needs To Be Settled

Finding it difficult to get fired up for the Thursday night game against Rutgers? Doubt any Louisville player involved in last year’s 28-25 loss has the same problem.

Certainly not Brian Brohm; it had to be the most disappointing loss of his college career. Thirty minutes away from what could have been a perfect season, from moving up to at least the No. 2 spot in the country, from possibly playing in the national championship game. Has he thought about it?

“It’s painful to go back and watch the way things just kind of fell apart,” he said Monday. “A lot of it was the switch in momentum, tough team on the road, guys lost confidence. Things just kind of steamrolled and we couldn’t get things back together. We remember all that; we just want to get back at them.”

Despite what has happened this season, this video will either break your heart or steel it for the upcoming game:

Monday Morning Memos

To U of L Football Assistants: Prepare for the Rutgers game as if your coaching career depended on one more win. The win must be convincing, too.

To Anthony Allen
: Shave the locks; you were better without them. Then pass the clippers to Scott Kuhn. George Stripling is the designated long hair; one per team.

To Trent Guy
: Two arms firmly around the ball.

To JaJuan Spillman
: Keep going to class if you’re still in school.

To Fair Weather Fans
: Get hand warmers and butt warmers for Thursday.

To Basketball Jumpers
: Admit it, football is still more fun.

To Conspiracy Fans
: Tom Jurich is not the enemy.