Fear for Lamar Jackson’s running game catching up with him

The real fun of watching Lamar Jackson play football comes when he takes off running, finding that crease in the offensive line, leaving defenders reaching for open air.  He brings a new dimension to the concept of a running game.

So fast, so elusive, a joy to watch.

There are numerous NFL football observers, however, expressing concern that Jackson may be running the ball too often.  In 16 games last season, he ran the ball a record 147 times for 695 yards and five rushing touchdowns. The pundits that provide the NFL betting tips would not be shocked if he runs the ball at an even higher clip this season. Basically, he’s one of the best runners in the NFL.

In contrast, Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran the ball only 43 times during the 2018 season. Following a recent exhibition game,  Rodgers expressed concern about Jackson’s proclivity for running the ball, stating, ““I love watching you play, man. That was spectacular. Have a great season. Slide a little bit.”

That’s what he does best, that’s why the fans buy tickets, why TV ratings for the Baltimore Ravens are soaring, and it’s what the opposition dreads.

Lamar Jackson ran for 50 touchdowns and passed for 69 more at the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Jackson completely rewrote the record books at the University of Louisville. In three seasons, he ran for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. Not a shrinking violet as a passer either, compiling 3,660 yards and 69 more touchdowns. Did it with notoriously weak offensive line units during his last two seasons, disguising numerous team deficiencies at UofL.

Count Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is among the nervous , “Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game,” he says. “That’s not what this offense is about.” Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn’t disagree, but, “It’s not like he’s trying to run, but sometimes … What are you going to do? You can’t hold him back forever. He looked good on the play. He looked good on a lot of plays.”

Jackson is aware of the concerns, knowing that injuries are an integral part of the game. The more involved a player is, the greater the possibility. But he’s going to enjoy the game, taking advantage of his God-given abilities, wanting to make the Ravens a title contender.

“I can’t talk about it,” Jackson said recently. “Each and every day we’re looking better and better in what we’re doing, whether … running the ball with our backs, or the pass game, it’s all looking incredible right now.”

All the talk about all the running game may be typical NFL bluster. Jackson’s running abilities make him dangerous, giving Baltimore an unpredictable offense. His ability to make the most of a collapsing play makes Jackson one of the most challenging to contain and among the entertaining runners ever.

Vince Tyra: Louisville football ready to win again

Thomas Jackson, a senior wide receiver, and Luke Massad, a senior long snapper, enjoyed the kickoff luncheon at a table with University of Louisville fans.

“It’s another day, it’s another season, and in the spirt of looking forward and not looking back at last year, this has been a traditional winning football program and it will remain a winning program.”

Vince Tyra enters the 2019 season with high expectations for the UofL football team under Scott Satterfield.

With that promise, Athletic Director Vince Tyra greeted a crowd of between 1,400 and 1,500 fans during the University of Louisville’s annual Kickoff Luncheon on Monday at the Downtown Marriott Inn. A crowd wanting to put last season in the past, eager to write some new chapters in UofL football.

“Winning in the classroom, winning in the community, and winning on the field are key attributes of this program and this athletic department,” he continued. “We have hungry players who are ready to go. They’re talented,  they’re ready to be competitive today. Right now. They are anxious to show you the real them. The players believe they are ready, and so do I.”

Not sure who Tyra was seeking to persuade the most, the coaches, the players, the fans or himself. But he certainly wanted everyone to know he is setting the bar high for Louisville football, even during a rebuilding year. A year after everybody gave up on each other in one of the most disappointing football seasons ever.

“The key to leadership is the transfer of beliefs and values to those you are leading, essential to the culture we have created in the athletic department and which Coach Scott Satterfield has created in our football program,” Tyra continued.

“The transferring of beliefs is contagious. We are seeing our players infect each other on a daily basis with a positive approach — otherwise known as attitude and effort. It has been a tremendous eight months getting to know Coach Satterfield, his family and a terrific staff he has assembled. I bought into his leadership and program attributes last December and I am going to be committed to working my butt off to make him successful.”

Tyra believes something special is happening with Louisville football, noting that season ticket sales are up by more than 2,000 seats and rising. “The fans play a key role,” he concluded. “We need to you create that home field advantage. The players won’t let us down, they are going to lift us up, and we’ll see you at Cardinal Stadium on Sept. 2.”

Losing is not an option for Vince Tyra.

 

Notre Dame right opponent to welcome new era for Louisville football

Notre Dame is coming.

Not news to anyone but some of us had a hard time believing that would ever happen, the Irish showing up at Cardinal Stadium. Notre Dame is coming, one keeps repeating to himself.

Were it not for last season’s dismal season, the opening game against the Irish would have been the most anticipated game in University of Louisville football history. One has every reason to believe it will be a sellout and, in all likelihood, will set a new single game attendance record.

Some would argue that it couldn’t come at a worst time, with UofL coming off the most embarrassing seasons in the program’s history. Louisville has has had worse won-lost records, losing every game in the 1931 and 1932 seasons with identical 0-8 records. UofL won only 17 of 70 games during that decade.

Fact is the game against Notre Dame could have come under worse conditions. Bobby Petrino would still be coaching UofL football had Athletic Director Vince Tyra not had the guts to eat the $14 million payoff.  Sent Petrino packing. He’s gone, hopefully never to be seen in Louisville again.

Last year’s humiliating 2-10 record followed a $70 million expansion of Cardinal Stadium, buoyed by numerous finishes in the top 20. Growing seating capacity from 55,000 to 60,000-plus. Louisville was a contender, having earned national respect, greatly boosting the athletic department’s overall reputation. No longer just a basketball school.

Two seasons after Louisville football had risen to No. 3 in the national polls and competing for the college football playoffs. Those aspirations crashing down to earth following a 36-10 loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the 2016 season. The Cardinals allowing 50 points in seven games during an awful 2018 season.

This season’s opener has been designated a Black Out game, with fans being encouraged to wear black. Not that any extra incentive was needed to get UofL fans there, not with Notre Dame being the opponent in the opening game of the season.

Ten months is a long time between seasons, especially between tailgating sessions for party-loving Louisville partisans. The long wait is over and there’s new blood with Coach Scott Satterfield and his enthusiastic staff. One has to believe last season’s team could not possibly have been as bad it looked at times.

It’s a new beginning for UofL football, fans recognizing there are going to be some significant challenges. Those of us who have been following the program for several decades, however, have been there before. Going to require a lot of patience and persistence, the kind that enabled UofL to become a national contender just a few years ago.

So forgive long-time Louisville fans if they are more than a little ecstatic that Notre Dame football is coming to town.

Bad taste still lingers from Bobby Petrino’s final season

The best news for Louisville football fans is that there will no third coming of Bobby Petrino.

One more slap at Bobby Petrino and one can move forward.

Fans can’t look forward to the University of Louisville’s 2019 football season without  negative thoughts about the former coach and the total ineptness that permeated the program last year.

Petrino at his lowest ebb, punishing the very people willing to give him a second chance.

One has to go back a couple of decades, to 1997, to match the sense of futility of UofL  fans in the program. Even so, Ron Cooper’s last team, which finished 1-10, was better than Petrino’s last unit with a 2-10 record . Cooper’s team was occasionally competitive, Petrino’s team was never in most games in the second half.

The guys who played for Cooper were outmanned and outclassed, playing out of their league. Petrino’s players had lost all respect, sensing he really didn’t care about them or the outcome of the games. Just hanging around for a $14 million buyout check.

A good number of fans are still around from earlier decades, with lots of memories about how the University of Louisville struggled for respectability. They were there long before the winning seasons, the packed stadiums, all the big bowl games, all the anticipatory pre-season expectations.

So for many of them, it’s like starting all over again. The only solace is that Petrino is gone. Well, that and the fact that there will not be a third coming  in Louisville. Banished to obscurity somewhere in a Florida mansion.

The good news is that UofL may have hired an up and coming new coach in Scott Satterfield. A coach who has the ability to work with people, who is able to hire and work with competent staff, who cares about the players, and is confident in his abilities to steer the program in the right direction.

These Louisville fans have been through the good and the bad, not only in football but in basketball. They’re willing to go through it all again, knowing all the pitfalls and the rewards of struggling program. Confident that UofL football will have begun its return to respectability.

Report: Cardinal Stadium cabooses safe for now

Halfway through another one of those long hot summers and, thus far, UofL has managed to avoid any of those mid-summer controversies that seemed to plague UofL over the last decade. One of those boring long hot summers, thank goodness.

Six weeks to go, however, keeping the fingers crossed.

College athletics being what they, disruption of the status quo is a constant threat, often lingering beneath the surface, capable of surfacing at any time. No word from the NCAA about the after effects of the FBI probe and how Louisville basketball will be impacted.

The University of Louisville baseball team kept the excitement going until late June, reaching the College World Series for the fifth time in 13 seasons. This time making to college baseball’s final four before losing to Vanderbilt, the eventual national champion.

Not much else for UofL fans to get excited about unless one closely follows  the recruitment on unpredictable teenage athletes. The most significant news has been the announcement from Athletic Director Vince Tyra that approximately 42,000 seats are being painted at Cardinal Stadium this summer.

Apparently the threat of Cardinal Stadium losing the cabooses that emerged in mid-March has gone away. The UofL Athletic Association was threatening not to renew the leases of the 14 cabooses, making only about $15,000 annually in that prime space.

The word from a source close to the situation told Card Game this week that “Maury (Buchart, who owns the cabooses) is keeping them, the U has kinda let it go. too many big donors complained, status quo for a while.”

So that’s good news, at least on the game day atmosphere front. Maybe not so great from the revenue raising side.

Stay tuned. Dog days of summer straight ahead.