Work In Progress: Making Perception Reality

My, how winning one game can change expectations. The surprising win over South Florida has more than one critic of coach Steve Kragthorpe changing their opinion about U of L’s prospects in the Big East. Some have even dared raise the prospects of a conference title.

Granted, wins over respectable Memphis and Middle Tennessee teams may have paved the way for the changes in perceptions. But even during losses to UConn and Kentucky, Kragthorpe’s team displayed a grit unseen during 2007 until the last half of the final game against Rutgers. It is obvious to any serious observer that the players are buying into the system. You can sense it in the way they talk about the coaching staff.

No, there’s not the explosiveness there once was. But to expect a team to forever be an offensive juggernaut is not realistic. It’s taking a while for fans to adjust to the nail biters but winning can be equally rewarding, whether it’s by an extra point or by a lopsided score.

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Defensive coordinator Ron English is a miracle worker, having transformed an anemic and disrespected defense into the aggressive and unrelenting unit that now makes it possible to beat teams like South Florida. Defensive tackle Adrian Grady was named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week following his six-tackle, two-sack performance. Linebacker Jon Dempsey added nine total tackles, including six solo stops, while defensive tackle Earl Heyman had seven tackles and two sacks.

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U of L’s game at Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 8 will have a noon kickoff at Heinz Field. The game will be televised by the Big East Network through ESPN Regional and will be available locally on WHAS-TV.

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Tickets are still available for the University of Louisville’s exhibition basketball doubleheader that same Saturday against Northern Kentucky University at Highland Heights. The women’s competition will tip off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 8 p.m. Tickets are $38 for lower level seats, $30 for upper level. Call the UofL Ticket Office at 852-5863.

Monday Morning Minutia

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb1 Rick Pitino is being true to his word when he talks about team quickness, expecting to get the ball across center court in less than four seconds. A couple of passes and it’s there. He told the scrimmage crowd that players who can’t keep pace may just have to transfer. In a kidding way, but you knew he meant it.

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ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb1 You’ve heard the expression there’s not a bad seat in Freedom Hall? Well, the well-healed fans on the lower level may never admit it, but some of them are getting jibed. Specifically, if you are sitting in the second or third row on either side of the court, you are constantly straining to see around the person in front of you. Not much fun, especially when they are wearing baseball caps like during last night’s scrimmage. I’ll take the upper level any day over that.

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb1Card Game is still trying to figure out whether Sonja was at the UofL-South Florida football game and, if she was, whether she was watching Breeder’s Cup races on a Dick Tracy wristwatch. We may never know for sure but I can’t imagine her being at a game disguised as an empty seat. At any rate, she provides a recap of the Breeders Cup results here.

Louisville Football Back In Polls

Amazing, welcome back to the land of the living.

The University of Louisville football team received 15 votes in this week’s Associated Press poll, coming out of nowhere to be ranked 33rd in the country. The Cards are ranked 34th in the Coaches Poll.

The ratings are based largely on UofL’s win over 14th-ranked South Florida team 24-20 on Saturday. Some South Florida fans are badmouthing their team, bemoaning the fact that USF lost to a team that had been beaten by Kentucky 27-2 in the season opener.

Sounds like typical football fans after a loss. If they had done their research, they would have known that Louisville had only nine players in that UK loss who had ever started a college football game. Hate to be the one to break it to you Bulls’ fans (and Kragthorpe haters), but things change.

These players have a lot more game experience under their belts and it’s not the same team. Nor is the Kentucky team the same team, getting their buttocks handed to them 63-5 by Florida. The Lexington outfit received zero votes this week.

Stereotypes are for the blindly ignorant who fail to recognize or acknowledge that football teams are always a work in progress, getting better or worse. The Cards are getting better.

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Louisville Clips South Florida, 24-20

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 Good times return for real to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium against a top 20 team, the Cards refusing to wilt under pressure. This Steve Kragthorpe regime took a decidedly right turn toward the future. Critics have puzzled looks, shaking their heads.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 Excellent protection from the offensive line, even though Hunter Cantwell was sacked three times. He completed 12 of 21 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Also, no Cantwell fumbles for two straight games, only one interception that was not his fault. Showing signs of getting comfortable back there.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 Now fans know how badly Scott Long was missed, showing fellow wide receivers how to get it done, five receptions, 134 yards, two touchdowns.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 Need more receivers. Just mimic Scott, guys, shouldn’t be that difficult if you’re out there six days a week catching footballs.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1Trent Guy missing. No mention of him in injury reports this week. Needs to get back on the field, the sooner the better.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 If there is an award category for coach who engineered the most improved defense award, Ron English will win hands down. The analysts are done with the wise cracks about the UofL defense.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 The Bulls had been averaging 195 rushing yards per game, but the Cardinals held them to 8. Linebacker Jon Dempsey, the Cardinals’ leading tackler, had nine tackles and a sack. Defensive linemen Earl Heyman and Adrian Grady sacked Grothe twice each.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1Thanks for the trick play, Memphis. Had the same effect on USF as it had on the Cards. Wouldn’t want to have to lean on trick plays but it was fun finally being the perpetrator.

ulcardinalheadlogo2thumb1 Crowd of 40,300-plus into every play, returning early from half time, making deafening noise at appropriate times, sticking around to the end. That’s the way it ought to be, a major factor today.

Green Lot

A group of guys calling themselves the Fan Band is rapidly becoming a hit in the Green Lot, playing for the gratuitous satisfaction of tailgaters and gratuities for themselves. They are (from left) Dan Lune, Mike Smith, Jon Vibbert, Chad Russell, Benji Simmons and John Hoagland. Did quite well with the music and the tips.

Breaking in a new canopy and loads of Cardinal memorabilia were Tony and Angela Auter. Tony is a former UK fan who has seen the light. Angela is a University of Louisville product.