Getting Personal: Pop Pulls Out Another One

The Observer steps aside briefly to allow the favorite son to pass along a few flashbacks of growing up in the family of a couple of University of Louisville diehards.

By Steve Springer

After sitting through one of the more hand-wringing encounters that I have witnessed as a University of Louisville fan, I knew that another of my great sports fantasies had come true. After a thrilling victory over No. 13 Notre Dame, I realized that the next UofL game I would attend would be against the No. 1 team in the land, the Pitt Panthers on the upcoming Saturday.

The chance to beat No. 1 does not come along very often. Combine this rare opportunity with the fact that one does not always get to attend such a spectacle with the engineer of one’s love. The win over top-ranked Pittsburgh will rank right up there with the best of many big moments as a Card fan. The Observer instilled a deep passion for Cardinal Nation in my soul and fueled it with ticket after ticket to big games.

Steve, Koby, Rick Pitino and the Observer
Steve, Koby, Rick Pitino and the Observer

I have attended Cardinal basketball and football games since before I could walk. The memories run together in a collage of college athletics. The clearest early memories that stand out are sitting so high in the Superdome to watch the Cards battle Patrick Ewing in the 1982 Final Four. The setting was so huge to my 6-year-old eyes that I preferred to watch the action on the big screen scoreboard instead of the tiny little players running around so far below. My first and only experience with the Big Easy and my beginning infatuation with shrimp and seafood tagged along for good measure.

Visions of hugging red-clad people I had never met when I was nine in Reunion Arena shortly after Jeff Hall intercepted a Duke pass at the end of the 1986 National Championship in Dallas stand out, as well.

A few days before my parents had upgraded their hero-status in my eyes as I secretly intercepted a phone call from the Observer’s wife and my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Osterman. Mom was campaigning for permission to allow me to accompany them to Dallas for championship weekend and I would have to miss a couple of days of school. Mrs. Osterman obliged; I guess the real life experience I was to receive would be worth way more than multiplication tables and spelling words.

Continued Continue reading “Getting Personal: Pop Pulls Out Another One”

Huge Week For Lady Cards

This is not your grandmother’s women’s basketball team.

Showdown week for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, currently ranked No. 7 nationally with a 18-1 overall mark and 5-0 in Big East Conference play. The Lady Cards are squarely in the sights of UConn, currently ranked No. 1 in the country with a 17-0 won-lost record.2angel

They will clash next Monday on UConn’s home floor. But first, the Lady Cards must survive a challenge from a strong Cincinnati team (13-4, 3-1 Big East) Tuesday at Freedom Hall, starting at 8 p.m.

No doubt, there are many basketball fans in town yet to see this team. Relent, see them play Tuesday. Send them off to UConn knowing Louisville appreciates their brand of basketball.  See Sonja’s report on some of Angel McCoughtry’s teammates here.

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The University of Louisville baseball team is the unanimous choice of Big East coaches as the team to beat in the 2009 season. Junior third baseman Chris Dominguez was honored as Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, while junior Justin Marks was unanimously selected as Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

The Cardinals finished last season with a 16-11 Big East record and the conference tournament title. UofL completed the ‘08 season with a 41-19 overall record and returned to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.

Practice begins two weeks from today, and the Cards open the season a month from tomorrow with a three-game series against the University of Florida in Gainesville. Schedule here.

Tapping Into Florida Football

Evidently the Florida recruiting pipeline hasn’t completely dried up, as some seem to have concluded. The University of Louisville has landed a commitment from defensive back Richard Lee, a player at powerful Lakeland Lake Gibson High School. That’s Richard “Champ” Lee, mind you, and he’s the fifth UofL recruit from Florida.

Lee is a cousin of Cardinal running back Bilal Powell, who probably encouraged him to choose Louisville over such schools as Purdue, West Virginia, South Florida, Ball State and Central Florida. He has a 4.5 speed for the 40.

Here’s what Florida Football says about Lee:

“This hard-hitting safety prospect is truly unique in the fact that he can play cornerback – if needed – and with his size and strength, it seems almost unfair to see him matched against receivers who are nowhere as physical and impressive as he is.

“Lee is one of those football players who use his knowledge, strength and athletic ability. He knows plenty about the game, has been taught and coached extremely well, and will certainly be one of those talents that in a few years from now, many will wonder how he ever got away from the bigger schools in Florida, who thirst of a big time playmaker with size and speed!”

Keep that Florida spigot turned on, and the outlook will improve, quickly.

How Many Murphys In Murfreesboro?

By Sonja Sykes

Your intrepid cub reporter shared a ride with four other Lady Cards supporters and attended the University of Louisvlle women’s basketball game against Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro Thursday night. Here’s a recap of the journey, and names have been changed to protect the innocent. Giggle, giggle. All events occur in real time, as Jack Bauer on “24” is so fond of saying.

3:15 p.m.

I meet up with the other four making the trip in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Naturally, I’m the last to arrive, but come fortified with food, beverage and gifts for all. Bonnie, Clyde, Laverne and Shirley send me to the back seat of the Mountaineer. I ask if I can use the dribble cup I find back here. OK! Off we go.

5:24 p.m.

Making our first pit stop just short of the Tennessee border. (It’s about time!) We’ve had great conversation and several glasses of wine so far and I’ve made sandwiches for the whole bunch. Clyde’s beginning to look like Elmer Fudd to me, and Laverne and I figured out that we dated the same guy at different times years ago in high school. Bob sure got around, for sure, since I was southwest Jefferson County and she was East End. More wine?

7:13 p.m.

We’re in the parking lot near the Murphy Center, where MTSU plays on campus. Free parking! The KFEC Board would faint…Been picking up WHAS clear as a bell all the way down…listening to the football pregame, And that nut Terry Meiners. His Joe B. Hall parody today had us rolling. Clyde gets praise for his excellent driving and locating the campus, and Bonnie put us all thru a scare when she couldn’t find the tickets at first. We’re cool, we’re dressed in red and we’re ready for some hoops!

7:41 p.m.

Been watching pregame warm-ups. The Cards look loose and relaxed. Several have looked up in the stands and seen the small, but growing contingent of red here. Talked to a couple that moved here several years ago from Louisville. They’re taping the football game, wanted to see Angel play…first time ever for them at a Lady Cards game. They promise to check the website out…so Hi! to Jeff and Denise!  Do I get commission, Charlie?

8:12 p.m.

Game is on 4-2 MTSU early. Very loud in here. Cards with 5 fouls already in just 4 minutes of play.  Good defense, but too many reach-ins.

8:20 p.m.

It’s 7-7 with 11:58 to go. Still tight defense game, Louisville just can’t get the offense going. Angel with 4 points so far.

8:27 p.m.

14-13 MTSU. Emily Queen, from Rose Hill Prep School in killing us.  Has 11 points so far. Candyce looks tired out there for us. She and Angel going to the bench.

8:35 p.m.

Byrd three, followed by a Monique Reid steal for a lay up!  18-17 us with five minutes to go first half.

8:45 p.m.

We went on an 8-0 run to take the lead 31-24 at the half. Dez has three 3’s. We’re going to see if we can go to the car and get a football update.

8:55 p.m.

After a quick discussion with the security guard, he let us out to check the score. Ugh. 28-0 Rutgers? Rain? Doug Ormay talking about how Dave Kragthorpe is disgusted about the game.  I bet he’s not the only one in the family mad. Think I’ll finish the wine in here (tee hee).

9:05 p.m.

Back in the Murphy Center as Candyce Bingham feeds Keisha Hines for a nice lay up. 36-26 Cards with 17:30 to go. Security guard actually felt sorry for us.

9:18 p.m.

With 13 minutes to go, we’re up comfortably 47-30 and on a 9-0 run. I wonder if the Cards have scored yet (in football)? MTSU has only made one shot from the floor so far this half. Defense rules! Angel’s got 16 and Keisha’s playing well.

9:30 p.m.

A Rutgers fan just informed us were down 49-0 at the half! That thud you just heard was me falling out of the bleachers.  We’re up 60-39 here. Wonder if we could loan the guys our 21-point lead?

9:50 p.m.

It’s over! A convincing 23-point win 67-44. Angel had 24 points, Keisha 11. Cards were very excellent in defense tonight, especially in the second half. Great crowd here and they love their Raiders, but they’ve been complimentary to us as we’re walking out. Not all folks in blue are mean…Now, the ride home and to the radio for some exciting UofL football?

1:15 p.m.

I’m home. I’m surprised people aren’t rioting in the streets after the football debacle. At least I’ll be able to go to work tomorrow and brag I saw a 23- point win. Clyde just shook his head the whole way back as we listened to the football game. At least it kept him awake.

Lack of Creativity Succumbs 28-20

If there is doubt about what Bobby Petrino left in terms of talent and problems, there is little doubt that he left a good nucleus of football fanatics. That contribution alone outweighs much of the negativity surrounding his legacy. Somewhere between 35,000 and 38,000 UofL fans on hand, looking for something positive during the rebuilding phase. Nice showing considering the circumstances.

— Card fans saw a living, breathing bandwagon in the visitors’ section where there were actually 2,000 – 3,000 Bearcat fans. More than have traveled to Louisville combined in all the years this observer has been following UofL football, and that’s a lot of years. More Bearcat fans at Papa John’s last night than have been at Nippert Stadium for many UofL-UC games in the past.

— Ron English is the UofL coach who inspires confidence in fans that he knows what he is doing. Can’t say too often how much the defense has improved since last season and since the beginning of this season. Most impressive.

— For almost four quarters, a University of Louisville football team teased its fans with the prospect of a win over a top 25 team. Probably would have accomplished it with with less predictable play calling. Calling a draw play for Brock Bolen on third down and 23 early in the fourth quarter is not going to get it done. How many times has Bolen been stopped with with only a yard to go?

— Cincinnati knew exactly what the UofL offense was going to do on their last fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, lining up two deep right over the center for the inevitable quarterback sneak. No surprise, no gain. Insulting to the Bearcat defense. Insulting to Card fans. Embarrassing for Eric Woods and Hunter Cantwell.

— When the typical fan knows exactly what plays the coaches are going to run in crucial situations, you know a well-coached opponent is going to take advantage. The lack of any consistency in the running and passing games has allowed defenses to focus on a below average quarterback, pinch the ends, and force Cantwell into desperation hell.

— Special teams are not special. When Trent Guy lines up for a kickoff return, you have reason to be excited. But he’s not lining up. Got injured again somewhere on a mysterious play in which nobody saw him get injured. The Brock Bolen phenomenon, mysteriously disappearing in the Pittsburgh game. Wouldn’t be near as frustrating if you saw the actual injury. Where’s Brock. Oh, he’s injured again. Where’s Trent? He must have an injury. Where’s Victor? Never mind.

— UofL fans have been blessed with good passing teams over the last couple of decades. Always a bright spot even when the Cards were considered fodder for good or mediocre opposition. That tradition has been relegated to the scrap heap this season. The odds of restoring any semblance of that aspect of the game are not good.

— With their post-game comments, the UofL coaches and players have indicated that they are experts on why they are not winning football games. Real credibility, however, comes in showing that you actually know what it takes to win.