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.

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.

Final 1 2 3 4 Score Louisville 0 0 7 0 7 (25) Pittsburgh « 10 7 3 21 41 Preview | Log | Matchup | Wrap | Box

Game Watching For Shawn Bowen

Come on down to the BBC in St. Matthews to watch the University of Louisville square off against Pittsburgh in football from Noon till 3:30 today and help raise funds to help defray Shawn Bowen’s medical expenses. Shawn is the 5-year-old son of Justin “Jerb” Bowen, the video wizard who provides so many highlights of U of L sports.

The event will go all day, with the BBC donating part of the proceeds to the cause. All day also includes a game watching event for the Basketball Cards in their exhibition against Northern Kentucky University tonight, starting at 8 p.m.

More details at Hell In The Hall, and you can bid online for silent auction items at Inside The Ville.

Hostile Fans, Angry Coach and a Wannstedt

Rarely in its history has the University of Louisville football team dominated another team like its has Pittsburgh. The Cards have won seven straight games over the Panthers since 1983, owning a 7-4 advantage in the series, including three Big East Conference wins.

Card fans can take little comfort, however. Pittsburgh was impressive in a four overtime 36-33 win over Notre Dame last week. The Panthers are well aware of recent history between the schools, eager to take advantage of a team unable to handle lowly Syracuse.

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— A young U of L team may have been riding too high after a surprising win over South Florida, thinking they had arrived and could just show up and win. It happens to teams all the time. But for hostile fans trying to find a reason to excuse the coaching staff for previous disappointments, it was the equivalent of a backstabbing.

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— Coach Steve Kragthorpe hardly ever ventures off the optimistic path, but he has been seething this week:

“Nobody’s happy around here. I’m not happy. I’m as upset as I’ve ever been. I’m sick to my stomach that we lost that football game.”

“In terms of where we’re at as a program, I’m disappointed, I’m upset, I’m pissed off that we lost. But I’m not going to let it affect my preparation for Pittsburgh.”

One angry football coach. That makes it unanimous. Now everybody is mad.

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— Tom Heiser, who does the Courier-Journal blog, is not that optimistic but somehow manages to anticipate a Louisville win:

The prospects for the final four games are about as muddy as the Heinz Field turf. Let’s be honest: if the program has now become Syracuse’s silver lining, no game (home or away) can be considered favorable for victory. The momentum of a three-game winning streak, a 5-2 record and the upset of South Florida have vanished … I think U of L has a good chance to rebound and pull out a win — in essence, pretend last week never happened.”

It takes a dedicated fan to feel that way. Nice to know there is at least one with CJ connections.

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— Mike Rutherford at Card Chronicle points out “Looking for a reason to believe that has nothing to do with your team? Pitt, now ranked 25th, is 0-3 in home games when nationally ranked under Dave Wannstedt.”

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— By the way, the Fire Dave Wannstedt domain is for sale after his team managed to defeat Notre Dame 36-33 in four overtimes last week. Could a Panther fan be having second thoughts? Don’t count on it if the Panthers lose another game to U of L.

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— Roll Tide Bama apparently believes Wannstedt is the key to the game:

As bad as Louisville has been, you have to think that anytime something good happens for Dave Wannstedt, something bad can’t be far behind. Something like an upset loss to Louisville, perhaps? Louisville 21 Pittsburgh 14.

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— Win or lose, you’ll be surrounded by a lot of U of L fans Saturday at a fund raising event for Shawn Bowen at the BBC in St. Matthews. Shawn is the five-year-old son of Justin Bowen, better known as “Jerb” for his video capabilities.

All proceeds from this event, as well as a golf scramble tomorrow, will go help offset the family’s medical expenses. There will be numerous items availble in a silent auction and probably a few surprises. Hats off to Frankpos for organizing the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. See you there.

Bob Weber Had Some Good Moments As U of L Football Coach

While eating breakfast at a remote hotel in New Mexico about 10 years ago, I did a double take at the man who had just walked into the restaurant. My eyes weren’t deceiving me: it was indeed Bob Weber, the former University of Louisville football coach. He and his dad were also vacationing.

Weber was happy to hook up again with people from Louisville, wanting to catch up on how things were going at UofL. Still able to turn the head of every woman in the room, he was the same laid back guy we remembered from 1980 to 1984. While there weren’t many highlights during those years, there were some significant victories and he was pleased to be reminded.

There was, for example, the surprising 17-9 win at Kansas in his first season, a huge win at the time. While not a major football power, Kansas was a big name school, which rarely found its way to the UofL schedule. One of my favorites was an unbelievable 13-10 win over ninth-ranked and undefeated Southern Mississippi the day after Thanksgiving in 1981. There was also a come-from-behind 30-28 win over a good Oklahoma State team at Fairgrounds Stadium in 1982. His teams were 3-1 against Memphis State, which, at the time, was a few light years ahead of U of L in football.

Weber showed no hint of bitterness about being fired by the school after five years with a 20-35 won-lost record. He had minimum support and resources from James Grier Miller’s administration and the program was on the edge of extinction in the pre-Schnellenberger era. He remembered only the good times at Louisville.

The son of a Russian immigrant and raised on a small farm in Colorado,  Bob Weber died of pancreatic cancer at 75 last weekend at his home in Tucson, Arizona. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1200 N. Campbell Avenue, in Tucson.