Louisville owns Music City & Mississippi State

By Ed Peak

Coach Scott Satterfield and his coaching staff made football fun again this season, capping it off with another bowl win over an SEC team (Adam Creech photo, UofL Athletics).

“ACC, ACC, ACC.”

The chant from the partisan University of Louisville football fans started low and continued to grow until it echoed throughout Nissan Stadium late in the fourth quarter. The Mississippi State faithful had already headed to Broadway to drown their sorrows.

Such a sweet victory for everyone associated with UofL, a football team needed to totally reinvent  itself after a 2-8 record from hell last season. Crawling back from humiliation and emptiness to an amazing 8-5 record and a bowl win. A team that lost 22 transfers in addition to its senior class.

The final score, making many UofL fans proudly take second, third and fourth looks at the scoreboard, was Louisville 38, Mississippi State 28. The first bowl victory for the Cards since Lamar Jackson and company defeated Texas A&M in 2015 at the same venue.

UofL seems to like Nashville. For the second time this season and third time in four years the Cardinals came away with a victory. None of those last minute heroics needed in this one. Louisville won in convincing fashion, with quarterback Micale Cunningham and the Cardinal offense nearly unstoppable.

The Bulldogs, favored by 4.5 points in the Music City Bowl, starting strong, building a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. From that point on, however, it was all Cardinals, scoring 31 straight points, including four touchdowns in the second half.

More than a little traumatic shortly after the kickoff, with UofL’s Dez Fitzpatrick fumbling the ball on the Mississippi State four-yard line after an eight-play, 96-yard march from its own three. Visions of the Kentucky loss looming in the minds of Cardinal fans. Only temporary, their fear would eventually be transformed into unbridled joy and pride.

A memorable day for fifth-year senior Dante Peete would score his first and only touchdown on a pass from Cunningham to give Louisville a 17-14 lead at 5:01 in the third quarter.

Then came the play that changed the game. Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens fumbled around his own 35. Senior Khane Pass playing in his final game scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 with 2:51 in the third quarter.

Cunningham was the game’s Most Valuable Player, completing 16 of 23 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns while running 16 times for 81 yards. Tutu Atwell finished with nine catches for 147 yards, making several highlight reel catches. Javian Hawkins carried 23 times for 105 yard and a touchdown. And how about that 33-yard touchdown pass from Tutu Atwell to Marshon Ford in the second quarter?

ACC Coach of the Year Scott Satterfield, who is 4-0 in post season play, was ecstatic. “These guys brought it every day, I’m so proud of them,” said Satterfield from the celebration stand. “All of these guys and you Card Nation. We’re going to burn up Nashville tonight, I’ll tell you that.”

Dwayne Sutton not taking Kentucky lightly

By Ed Peak

Dwayne Sutton makes no bones about it. He and his family have been University of Louisville basketball fans forever. That’s why Saturday’s game against rival Kentucky is big to him.

Dwayne Sutton doesn’t remember any University of Kentucky fans in his family (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Sutton, a senior forward and Louisville native played his high school ball at Dupont Manual, just down the street from UofL. “This game was huge,” said Sutton who averages nine points and eight rebounds as a starter for the third ranked Cards.

“My parents were UofL fans (growing up). There were not many UK fans in my family. I always wanted UofL to win. As a UofL player, that means a hundred times more ”

Sutton is 0-2 against the Wildcats and hopes this season the Cardinals (11-1) can turn the tables on their in state rivals. “I watched the game every time, every year,” said Sutton.

One of Sutton’s favorite memories is Edgar Sosa’s game winning shot from 25 feet in 2009, giving UofL a 79-76 win at Freedom Hall.  “It came almost from half court,” said Sutton. He believes Louisville will have to be aggressive even though they are playing at Rupp Arena, a place in which it is difficult for any team to win, let alone a rival.

“When you play on the road you have to play smart,” said Suttton. “We have to play without fouling. I think we can do that tomorrow.”

Sutton said that if Louisville is to win they have to follow several rules. “We have  to be aggressive, disciplined. We have to go out there and use our experience to our advantage.”

*    *    *

Chris Mack is taking nothing for granted, knowing Rupp Arena will be a hostile atmosphere (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Kentucky (8-3) comes into the game on a two-game losing streak. It has a quality win over Michigan State and loses to Evansville, Utah and fifth ranked Ohio State.

“They are the most athletic team we’ve played,” said Louisville coach Chris Mack. “They can make plays on and off the ball. They are extremely impressive. They strike in transition. They turn you over. They obviously have a history of blocking shots. They are extremely quick and how they punk teams on the glass is impressive.”

Kentucky has had a tough time with its perimeter shooting. The Wildcats are shooting 27 percent from three point range. That doesn’t matter to Mack.

“We’re going to try and contest shots, whether your a 50 percent three point shooter or a 25 percent shooter. Defensively we want to keep the ball in front   us. That’s a big, big challenge against Kentucky.”

It’s always a challenge when Louisville plays Kentucky, and vice versa … for players, coaches and fans at both ends of the spectrum. 

More than just a game.

Music City Bowl perfect for Louisville football team

By Ed Peak

Way too many college football bowl games for some people. A team has to be really bad not to make the post season. Football fanatics love every one of the bowls.

Had it not been an influx in bowl games several years ago Louisville (7-5) would not be practicing for the Music City Bowl, December 30th, against Mississippi State (6-6).

Some of  my sportswriter associates and radio talking heads make fun of the non-championship games. Yes. There are too many bowl games. But UofL’s invitation is perfect in this situation.

Remember Charlie Strong’s first season in 2010. Louisville earned a 30-27 come-from-behind win over Southern Mississippi in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. That game seemed to set the tone for future Cardinal teams. This season is no different. A win over the Bulldogs might would be a milestone win for Satterfield. ” We need to have fun and enjoy the experience,” he said. “We need to take this and build on it.”

Satterfield, the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year, had 15 extra practices to help this team work on its weaknesses and sharpen its skills. If the Cardinals win they finish 8-5, it would certainly help recruiting and be a huge reward for the players that stayed through the horrible Bobby Petrino II coaching regime.

He has already surpassed Petrino in most of the ways that count, creating reason for optimism, generating confidence where there was none, creating an close-knit family atmosphere with players playing for each other and their coaches.  More wins this past season than anyone had a right to expect. No matter how the Cards fare this weekend, they will be much farther along that they were a year ago. 

Satterfield earned ACC Coach of the Year honors, not even close. He and his staff made football fun again. The Music City Bowl is special in so many ways for University of Louisville football fans, sticking with their team through some of most challenging times in the program’s history. 

Mekhi Becton will be missed at Music City Bowl

By Ed Peak

Some University of Louisville football fans won’t like my take. I’ll let you decide.

On Monday, junior offensive tackle and all Atlantic Coast Conference First-Team selection, Mekhi Becton has decided to forgo his final season and enter the National Football League draft.

“First of all, I want to thank the man above for giving me the physical opportunity to play this great game, without him I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I have in my career,” said Becton in a prepared release,
thanking his parents, coaches, fans and teammates “for an amazing year and helping me become one of the top linemen in the ACC.”

Mekhi Becton leaving one game too soon for many Cardinal fans.

This is the part some won’t like. Why not one more game? The bowl game. It’s meaningless in the overall scheme of things but I think players owe it to their teammates, coaches, fans and the school to finish their careers if they are healthy.

When UofL needed a first down, the runners went behind Becton. He protected the quarterback’s blind side. Watching Becton block was fun. I made it a point personally to watch him and saw him push defenders as much five yards down field. On several occasions.

The 6-foot-8, 370-pound Beckton will go down as one of the top offensive lineman ever at Louisville. He was selected as the ACC’s Blocking Trophy recipient, the first Cardinal ever. He had started 33 games and had 60 knockdown blocks to help the Cardinals finish 7-5 and 5-3 this season.
He helped the Cardinals rushing attack average 214.2 yards a game, third in the ACC and 32.7 points per game.

I respect Becton because I believe he is a quality person who worked hard and gave the university everything he had. Quarterback Lamar Jackson played his final game in the bowl two years ago. Jaire Alexander did not.

If millions of dollars are at stake, however, why not just take out insurance policies as some players have done. That probably wouldn’t be the best interests of the player agents, not benefiting their bank accounts.

Forgoing the team’s final game leaves a bad taste and lack of empathy for a team’s most faithful fans. That’s too bad because his teammates could use him in the Music City Bowl.

No. 1 Louisville (for now) rips Eastern Kentucky

A little playing time for highly touted David Johnson, the freshman guard from Trinity. Seventeen minutes, in fact, only two fewer minutes than starter Darius Perry. Johnson had five points, six rebounds, two assists and a foul (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Winning makes everything better, as Malik Williams, Jordan Nwora and Darius Perry demonstrate after leaving the game with a 30-point lead (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Let it be known that Eastern Kentucky is a believer in this University of Louisville basketball team. The Cardinals blitzed the Colonels 99-67 in front of 16,000-plus at the KFC Yum Center on Saturday.

 
“I understand why they are No. 1,” said EKU coach A.W. Hamilton.
“They are really, really good. After losing the other night, they were hungry today. I think they will contend for a national title.”
 
Not surprising Hamilton and his team were impressed. Louisville shot 63 percent from the field, out rebounded the Colonels 35-24 and had 22 assists. Jordan Nwora led UofL (10-1) with 26 points while Steven Enoch added 23 points and seven rebounds.
 
“Nwora, he’s an NBA player,” said Louisville native and EKU guard Jacquess Hobbs. “Nwora is really, really good,” said Hamilton.
 
Nwora made 10 of 14 field goals, all three of his free throws, had seven rebounds and three assists. Much different than his four of 16 effort against Texas Tech.
 
Eastern (3-7) trailed 21-16 but the Cardinals broke away for a 50-32 halftime lead. This game was never in doubt. The loss was the fourth straight.
 
“They’ve got veteran guys who understand their roles,” said Hamilton. “They have a little more talent than we have.”
 
One alarming thing for Louisville was 16 turnovers. Teams seem to want to press the Cardinals and they’ve had some problems. Next up is Miami, Ohio (4-5) here Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. We’ll see if the press still bothers this team.