Rick Pitino Is Calling

Watch for a message from Rick Pitino on your answering machine. He’s making automated calls to all football and basketball season ticket holders. The message is simple: He wants the Louisville section packed during the John Wooden Classic in Indianapolis.

The Cardinals will face Purdue in the roundball classic on Dec. 15 at Conseco Fieldhouse. Tickets are available in five levels for the doubleheader: $65 for lower corners and end zone seats, $50 for mid-club level seats in the corners and end zone, $20 for upper level balcony side court seats and $10 for upper level seats in the corners and end zone. Tipoff for the game is at 3:30 p.m.

No, Rick doesn’t expect a return call. Buy tickets in person at Papa John’s stadium or call 852-5151.

Wherefore Art Thou Going Offense?

People who closely follow other college football teams have to wonder whether Louisville fans are nuts when they talk about a lack of offense in a game where the Cardinals put 31 points on the scoreboard — or when they praise a defense that gave up 38 points in the most recent outing.

This kind of season will do that to people. Fans want U of L to do well so much that they will contradict themselves, seeing good in bad and bad in good. Who knows what’s up or down after when you’re forced to constantly second guess everything?

Fans aren’t the only ones confused. On his blog, Eric Crawford, of The Courier-Journal, expresses bewilderment about U of L’s offense against WVU:

“Did it do anything tonight that you didn’t expect? Did it do anything that it hasn’t done all season? Was there any indication that anything special had been prepared to counter the WVU defense, or just to surprise it, during a 12-day runup to this game?

“I don’t have to wait for an answer. To all of those, the proper response is, ‘No.’

“The problem I have with this offense isn’t in the plays it runs. It’s in how it is conceived. Nothing seems to build toward anything else.”

Join the club, Eric. Just as U of L fans thought they were becoming pretty savvy about the game, they are introduced to a brand of football totally foreign to everything they’ve ever seen.

West Virginia Vignettes

You just know that many cynics and doubters among the local fan base were watching in disbelief, having convinced themselves that U of L had absolutely no chance against West Virginia. Yet the outcome was very much up in the air with less than two minutes on the clock. Maybe, just maybe, this coaching staff isn’t as bad as some people seem to believe.

Some impressions from the game:

— The defense has steadily improved as the season has progressed. One got the feeling they were finally getting the hang of it. With the exception of the Pat White escape at 1:36, they seemed to be actually having fun out there for a change.

— Chris Fowler, of the ESPN broadcast team, made an excellent point about the previous head coach over-recruiting on the offensive side. Some key players on the defensive side were offensive stars in high school and had never had to make tackles or disrupt passes. They are learning on the job.

— Rod Council does his job well, as was obvious on the pass deflection that was called pass interference and led to West Virginia’s second touchdown.

— Lamar Myles and Deon Palmer, now that is ferocity! Turned the Mountaineer offense into a bad juggling act at times.

— George Stripling showed some glimpses of why fans thought he would be special before last season. If he sees daylight, he is difficult to stop. However, he dropped several screen passes that could have keyed an upset. Also, he’s never going to run through or over anybody.

— Where was Bilal Powell? Were we just imagining how talented a runner he is or was that just wishful thinking on our part?

— Maybe Brock Bolen didn’t see more action because he was misreading blitzes and missing key blocks, putting Brohm in jeopardy. Let’s hope it was just a bad day. U of L needs his brawn in the backfield.

It’s too easy to nitpick the coaching decisions, particularly on offense where the play calling is much too predictable. One has to give the coaching staff credit for putting U of L in a position to win a game in which all the experts thought they were so outmatched.

Was the U of L defense that much improved tonight or were they merely pumped up with adrenaline playing a top 10 team? The answer to this question could help determine whether the Cards chalk up any more wins this season.

What To Expect vs. West Virginia

Few rivalries in collegiate sports have reached such a high level of intensity in such a short period of time as Louisville versus West Virginia. You know what they say about rivalries, toss the records out the window. It’s that kind of rivalry.

The Cards also have something else going for them this time around: Nobody expects them to win. Have fun, play loose, anything can happen. Stranger things have already happened this football season.

Too many U of L fans, however, seem to have an unhealthy sense of dread about this matchup or as blogster Tom Heiser phrased it, “much like the anticipation of an approaching hurricane just hours away at sea.” Calm down folks, this storm, too, shall pass. There may even be a pot of gold out there somewhere. Why else would there be a gold rush?

Some things to watch for:

— Mountaineers will run a trick play or two. The magic acts have been so effective against the Cards this season, it would be foolish not to go for the rabbit. How about backup quarterback Jarrett Brown coming in as running back and throwing a TD pass to Pat White? Nah, too easy.

— Bilal Powell to be seriously involved in the U of L offense. If the ground game is going to be effective, the Cards must utilize the quickness and escapability of Powell to offset the predictability of Brock Bolen and Anthony Allen.

— Harry Douglas will be back, for real this time. He’s just too good to allow himself to become just another wide receiver in U of L record books.

— Brian Brohm wants to win this game, badly. Running, passing, whatever it takes. You don’t become a legend without achieving the seemingly impossible.

Bad Trip To Morgantown in 2005

Memories of the first Big East football game between Louisville and West Virginia two years ago:

— Minutes before getting into the car to drive to West Virginia, learning that the Holiday Inn in Clarksburg had been flooded. Knowing that it was a bad omen

–Catching a bus ride to the stadium with a group of U of L fans from a hotel in Fairmont. They hadn’t slept the night before because another bus had broken down.

— The disastrous onside kick off in the third quarter that went to West Virginia. Sinking feeling, knowing that momentum had unalterably turned.

— The sound of fire trucks, one after another and another, after the three-overtime loss.

— Arriving back at the the bus with beer-soaked shoes, courtesy of a couple of Mountaineer fans.

— Shock at learning the bus would go back to Louisville on a route that didn’t include our hotel 40 miles away. We were on our own.