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.

Step Up Time For Embattled Cards And Fans

Pretty nice outside as of this writing but as we all know, the bad stuff will be upon us for the 8 p.m. kickoff for the University of Louisville vs. Cincinnati game. A constant downpour will bring back memories of 2004 when Eric Shelton dashed 80-plus yards to score on the first play from scrimmage en route to a 70-7 route for the Cards.

No doubt most fans are hopeful that the law of what goes around comes around doesn’t come around too quickly. To the opposite extreme are noisy malcontents who would unashamedly use a drubbing as further reason to send Steve Kragthorpe packing.

Tom Heiser, on his Courier-Journal blog, goes to great lengths to explain what must happen to keep another embarrassment from occurring. The one thing he fails to mention is the home field venue, which is always important for a young team — and was underscored by the dismal performances at Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

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On their radio show this morning, hosts John L. Smith and Drew Diener were encouraging the fans to think positive. A recurring theme among callers was the dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive backfield quartet of Johnny Patrick, Bobby Buchanan, Latarrius Thomas, and Woodney Turenne has played especially well at home. Not very good anywhere else. What’s certain about this game is that they will have one opportunity after another to redeem themselves in what should be a more friendly environment.

*    *   *

If Hunter Cantwell is to have the slightest chance at a sniff in the NFL, he has to demonstrate more than a strong arm in this encounter. He has to come ready to play smart and unconfused on the first down, not taking most of the first half to get comfortable. Cantwell no longer lacks experience. He has shown momentary signs of what he could become but has fumbled more and tossed more interceptions than any UofL quarterback in longtime memory. That doesn’t come naturally for a gifted athlete. Sometimes you just have to be yourself. Whoever that is will become abundantly clear in this game.

*    *   *

A final word to fans considering staying home in silent protest over the coaching issue: Don’t. Whoever told you this was going to be easy was lying to you. Football, like life, is full of inevitable obstacles.  Overcoming them part of the journey. Get knocked down, get back up. Giving up is worse than losing.

Jurich Standing Firm On Football

Even the most adamant critic of University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich would have to admit that the man stands behind his words in the face of growing criticism that would have lesser people running for cover.

Jurich confirmed in an interview with Big East blogger Brian Bennett Wednesday that the football program is in a rebuilding mode, seemingly putting to rest any speculation that he will relieve football coach Steve Kragthorpe of his duties anytime soon:

“My expectations were not high this year because I knew the reality,” Jurich said on Wednesday. “One thing I didn’t want to do to the fans was lie to them.

“When I said we’d spend the next two years rebuilding, there was a lot of flack that came with it. Nobody wants to hear that. [But] it’s a long haul and I knew that and I buckled up for it.

“It’s hard for some people to hear that when one year you’re going to the Orange Bowl and now you’re not. Our fans are so new at this, they thought we’d be going to the Orange Bowl every week, but it’s not like that.”

The last sentence is sure to severely irritate those who were already beside themselves in demanding that Jurich fire Kragthorpe for what they consider rank incompetence. They see a team going backwards, not rebuilding. Their ranks include many who supported the team for years, including at least one couple who had never missed a home game in 42 years and traveled to many road games.

Jurich anticipated the ire that comes with rebuilding, saying before the season that he just wanted to get through the next two seasons. He is not surprised or shocked by the reactions. And no one can say Jurich didn’t warn them.

This observer believes the worst fear is that UofL football will descend into a bottomless pit from which it would difficult to ever recover. It is a concern based on few signs of progress over the past two seasons.

However, Tom Jurich believes the rebuilding process will be successful. Jurich has been around the block a few times, and he’s staking his reputation on it. But he faces an equal challenge in maintaining the loyalty of fans who disregard what he’s telling them.

Report From Scene Of The Accident

By Sonja Sykes

The raw, cold and blustery tailgate weather we experienced several hours prior to the Pitt game was an eerie and foreshadowing indication of how the actual game went, we just didn’t know it at the time. Tailgating with the Panthers wasn’t that bad of an ordeal…they were much more interested, for the most part, in talking about how the Steelers were going to fare Sunday against the Colts in Heinz Field than discussing the Louisville-Pittsburgh game.

Inside the stadium, the mood quickly went from anticipation and hope from the Card fans to a series of groans, quizzical looks, and, finally, a mass departure of the red and black midway through the fourth quarter. At least the hot chocolate was fairly inexpensive. Ten dollars for eight chicken wings, though, is an outrage.

We were fortunate to be sitting near two UofL gridiron stars from the late fifties, and some of their comments and observations were informative, if not a bit poignant and melancholy. Fundamentals of the game never grow old or out of style, and it was insightful to these two former Cardinals point out the blown assignments and errors in judgment. Despite the formations and wrinkles in use nowadays, you still need to block, tackle and catch. Some of our players still are having trouble grasping that.

How a special teams unit can get so bad so quickly since Memphis and over the last three games is an utter mystery. The Cardinal crowd in Heinz Field gave Doug Beaumont a very loud mock cheer when he managed to corral his first punt in four attempts.

The Panthers have a very interesting and quite popular tradition of singing the Neil Diamond hit Sweet Caroline at the end of the 3rd quarter. They even put the lyrics on the scoreboard and scan the crowd with the cameras showing fans singing along in the stadium. Gotta admit, it was a catchy tune back then, and still quite enjoyable even today. It helped take a little of sting out of being down by 13 with 15 minutes to go. We had no idea that the dam was about to burst, of course. We probably should have broke out into Swing Low Sweet Chariot at the end of the game in the almost vacant Cardinal sections.

Where do we go from here? After watching the end of the WVU vs. Cincy game Saturday night on TV back at the hotel, it’s not a rosy looking picture. Both teams are very capable of coming into PJCS and sticking significant losses on the Cards. If you have any Aces or Jokers up your sleeve, Krags, you might want to pull them out now.

Gloom, Despair and Pittsburgh 41-7

An embarrassing afternoon of football for the University of Louisville, reminiscent of the bad old days when Card fans harbored no illusions about ever becoming a nationally respected football program. This one is felt most by the pre-bandwagon jumpers who saw a program rise from the junk heap of the old Fairgrounds Stadium to the top 10 at Papa John’s. Was that even real?

You really have to feel sorry for all the fans who made the trip for the game, the most optimistic and faithful of all Card fans. They didn’t deserve what they got, undeniable confirmation that Louisville football has reached bottom, all over agan.

— Coach Steve Kragthorpe’s expression after Hunter Cantwell’s Christmas-gift lateral to Pittsburgh was one of total despair. Sorry, nowhere to hide, Coach. Life has bitch-slapped you in the face, and your ears are ringing. That dull roar you hear is the sound of the told-you-so’s warming up, ready to lambaste you and anyone who says anything positive about UofL football.

— Special teams play went south of the Equator: Automatic 10-yard penalties for UofL on every kickoff reception for those blocks in the back.  Cliffhangers on every punt reception. Fair catch? How about just catching the ball. Who coaches those special teams anyway?

— As for Hunter Cantwell, he should be history. The stats indicate that he had only one pass intercepted but at least six others were in serious jeopardy. Hunter is one of those guys who would never lose an intramural game, making you wonder why he never did well in college. He showed why today. If there’s a bad decision to be made, he makes it. Even when he does throw a good pass, the would-be receiver drops it half the time. Wasn’t meant to be. Time to move over, Hunter, hand the ball (don’t lateral it, please) to Matt Sims.

Sorry to disrupt the flow here but have to end on a positive note about Ron English‘s unit, which had perhaps one of the most impressive displays by a UofL defense in years. Holding LeSean McCoy, a back averaging 126 yards per game, to only 39 yards rushing was an impressive feat. That was one good thing to build on for the future, whatever that holds.

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