Vegas oddsmakers not giving Louisville football enough credit

Can’t say it often enough: Saturdays are fun again for Cardinal fans.

Pretty clear after the University of Louisville football team’s 62-59 win over Wake Forest on Saturday that UofL is much further along than anyone expected at this point in Coach Scott Satterfield’s first season.

Satterfield and his staff have done an unbelievable job of refocusing this team from top to bottom, teaching and motivating the players, instilling in them a collective desire to win. Then they go out there and compete, winning four of their first six games, outscoring the top two offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference two weeks in a row.

Coach Scott Satterfield

“Coming in, we thought we had some good receivers and running backs, which I thought was going to be a plus for us,” said Satterfield at his Monday press conference. “I’m pleased with the way our offensive line has come around, which has been a plus. We have to get better defensively.”

The staff and players obviously have much more work to do on defense but nobody doubts that they are committed. Based on improvements in other area’s of the team’s development, don’t  be surprised to see similar improvement on that side of the ball.

Now comes the supreme test for this team, lining up against nationally second-ranked Clemson next Saturday at Cardinal Stadium for a noon kickoff. Clemson has won 21 games in a row, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers have the visiting Tigers a 21-point favorite.

The oddsmakers unable to get past Clemson’s 77-16 demolishing of Louisville last season under totally different circumstances. UofL was unable to stop anybody last season. Not expecting UofL to put up much of a fight for some reason.

If Louisville has accomplished anything during the first six games, it is that this team is not going to roll over for anybody.  The times, they are a-changing.

Louisville football survives game of unbridled offense

University of Louisville running back Javian Hawkins has a productive day with 177 yards rushing, 13 yards passing and a touchdown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one expected the road back to respectability for University of Louisville football to be easy. Too much ground to make up after being so far down.

Case  in point that cliffhanger of a 41-39 win for UofL over Boston College in front of a crowd of 46,007 at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. An outcome still much in doubt after Blanton Creque makes good on a 41-yard field goal and a two-point lead for UofL at the 1:02 mark.

An eventful week for Malik Cunningham who would choose to be called Micale, pass for 288 yards, run for 43 yards and account for two touchdowns (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

That play setting the stage for what would have been a heartbreaking finish. UofL badly needing a win after nine straight ACC losses since 2019. Another conference loss and UofL will be saddled with the ACC record. A collective sigh of relief  after the Cardinals give up eight shots but somehow containing the Eagles within their own 46-yard line.

A. J. Dillon, the human tank who ran for 272 yards against UofL two seasons ago, would be stopped for no gain the one time he carries the ball in that final minute. Not quite the same force he was in 2017 but still good for 118 yards on Saturday.

Blanton Creque is hoisted on teammates’ shoulders after kicking winning field goal (UofL football photo).

“None of these wins are going to be easy,” said UofL Coach Scott Satterfield. “A lot of them will probably come down to something like this. I told our guys in the locker room that we’re defined by how we finish. And you have to finish games like this, and they were able to do that. All the way to two seconds to finish the game and get the win.”

One of those games usually decided by mistakes. UofL miraculously recovering a fumble two plays before the winning field goal.  Giving Boston College a second chance during the final minute on an illegal substitution. Hanging on by the skin of their collective teeth.

The UofL defense giving up 563 yards but the offense was putting up 664 yards.  Javian Hawkins with 190 of those yards, including 177 yards rushing and one touchdown.  Only a freshman, coming attractions should be plentiful.

That same UofL defense making stops when it absolutely had to, including that surprising take-away on the 2-yard line on Boston College’s by Monty Montgomery and the first interception of the season by Anthony Johnson.

Not a pretty game, one which UofL was lucky to win — an inescapable conclusion looking back at this one. Football is a game of breaks, good and bad, with the outcomes often unpredictable. No question, though, that Louisville sorely wanted a win this day.

Big, bad A. J. Dillon savors Boston College return to Cardinal Stadium

Don’t look now but A. J. Dillon is coming back to Cardinal Stadium. The scene of one his most dominating games ever. Yes, against the University of Louisville.

Not all that imposing, the six-foot, 245-pound Boston College running back. But looks can be deceiving, as the bedraggled UofL defense discovered the hard way in 2017.  Dillon was unstoppable in a 45-42 win over UofL, carrying the ball 39 times for a total of 272 yards.

Surprising that the experts on football gambling sites like Bovada have the Cardinals picked as a 4.5-favorite over the visiting Eagles in Saturday’s game at 12:30.

Nightmares still linger of Dillon and his offensive line pushing the UofL defense backwards, crushing them time after time. Then a freshman, Dillon would score four touchdowns that day, from one, three, 11 and 75 yards. Stealing the spotlight in a game when UofL’s Lamar Jackson was scoring three touchdowns and rushing for another.

Louisville would catch a break last season with Dillon being sidelined with an ankle injury when they played in Boston. The Cardinals would still get crushed 38-20.

A couple of key defensive stats favor UofL.  Boston College allows 304 passing yards per game. On the flip side, Louisville yields up just 160.  The Cardinals also only allow 4.55 yards per play at home while the Eagles are giving up 6.33 yards per play.

Anyone overlooking the Golden Eagles, however, Vegas experts or not, has short memories and could be in for a rude awakening. A. J.Dillon is licking his chops for another shot at Louisville in Cardinal Stadium.

No lack of competition at Louisville quarterback

Two former University of Louisville quarterbacks – Lamar Jackson and Teddy Bridgewater – were featured in back to back games in NFL action on Sunday. Both looking impressive, with Teddy winning and Lamar losing.

Timely reminders about some really good quarterbacks at UofL down through the years, especially when it comes to the passing game. That’s an aspect of the game in which the Cardinals are seriously challenged this season.

Jawon Pass, who has missed the past two games, was struggling before his injury. He had completed only 24 of 46 passing attempts for 52.1% passing efficiency. His successor, Malik Cunningham, is a little more accurate, connecting on 25 of 41 attempts for 60.9%.

Fortunately, there’s open date on the schedule this week, giving Pass some additional time to recover before that Boston College game on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, Cunningham had to be carted off the field on the final play against Florida State. Plenty of questions about who will be calling signals in the next game.

Fortunately for UofL, which is heavily dependent on the running game, both are blessed with exceptional speed. They are among the leading rushers on the team, with Pass and Cunningham averaging 5.2 and 3.2 yards, respectively.

If UofL is overly dependent on the running game, however, Cunningham is probably the better choice. A quarterback with exceptional speed, combined with elusiveness, a more difficult runner to contain. He moves at a speed similar to that of athletes who have been boosted with gear from Valkyrie online. He’s only going to keep getting better.

Many observers were surprised with Pass’s confidence in the opener against Notre Dame, keeping UofL in the game until well into the third quarter. In the game against EKU, he completed 12 of 19 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns. His injury came at an unfortunately time in his development.

The only thing certain is that will be lots of second guessing about the quarterback situation over the next couple of weeks.

Any resemblance between this UofL team and last is coincidental

Malik Cunningham wasn’t about to quit after falling behind 21-0, scoring 24 straight points to give his a team a temporary lead.

For a while the University of Louisville football team was getting pushed around,  getting run over. Kinda like its predecessor from a year ago, falling behind early, giving up a big lead. But enough of that.

Any resemblance between this team and that one is purely an illusion. You know, like night and day. There was no quit in the Cardinals on Saturday. Could have, should have, and seemed to be on the verge of winning early in the fourth quarter.

Nine minutes, 39 seconds in the game, UofL up 24-21 over Florida State, an ACC win within its grasp. Unbelievable, after UofL falling 21 points  behind the Seminoles in the first 15 minutes.

Still in the game with just over two minutes to go even though FSU had taken a four-point lead after intercepting a Malik Cunningham pass. The Cardinals had stopped the Seminoles on the one-yard line.

Ninety-nine yards to go for the first conference win since 2017. Behind by four points, within reach. Hope emerging after despair. The beginning of hope?

Wasn’t going to happen. Florida State would luck out, get a second chance after a third missed field goal by Ri Aguayo. Whoops, well forget that. UofL roughing the kicker, still another costly penalty at precisely the wrong time. FSU running back Cam Akers would not be denied again. Scoring his third touchdown of the day, sealing a 35-24 Louisville loss.

Cunningham keeps getting better, but he was unable to overcome four costly penalties, including a block in the back that negated a Rodjay Burns touchdown on a punt return. Two false starts ended promising UofL drives. The roughing-the-kicker was the finishing blow.

Cunningham finished 16 of 27 for 286 yards, with the two touchdowns and interception. Dez Fitzpatrick led UofL receivers with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Javian Hawkins andHassan Hall combined for 109 yards.

*   *  *

Cunningham had to be carried off the field on a cart after getting injured on the final play of the game. UofL stats guru Kelly Dickey reported that Cunningham’s father said it was a sprain, indicating his son would be ready for Boston College in two weeks.