The grumbling over a lack of offensive production from a segment of University of Louisville football fans is a reflection of just how far the football program has advanced in four years under Charlie Strong’s leadership.
Shawn Watson, the offensive coordinator of a team with an 11-1 won-lost record, has been the target of ongoing criticism because some fans expected UofL to be an offensive juggernaut with one of the least respected schedules in college football.
Watson hears the criticism, dismissing it as societal issue in which some people are never satisfied. He may be right but there are other factors at work here.
The impressive 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, elevating fan expectations tenfold coming into this season.
Just one loss in 12 games, second straight season with double-digit wins, the first time ever. Strong’s teams are 22-3 over the past two seasons. The Kragthorpe years are a distant memory, already wiped out of the collective memories of some fans.
However, numerous games this year were hard to watch, with a team directed by Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback who passed on a Heisman campaign, struggling to score against mediocre opponents, really tedious at times, sucking the air out of the atmosphere at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
A combination of things at work, including the impressive 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, elevating fan expectations tenfold coming into this season. Fans wanting to boost the program to another level as Louisville enters the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Fans fondly recalling the Bobby Petrino years when UofL was consistently among the best offensive teams in the country, an exciting brand of football that attracted upwards of 30,000-plus fans to the Orange Bowl in 2007. That was what people were hoping to see again, a team that pummeled one opponent after another.
What they saw was a team losing to Central Florida after blowing a 21-point lead in the third quarter, dousing hopes for a second straight BCS bowl appearance and unimpressive wins over teams like UConn and Memphis. Not an inspiring stretch drive.
However, as Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan pointed out in a column, Louisville’s pass offense ranked 18th nationally in 2013 compared to 24th in 2012. Over the last two seasons, UofL averaged a relatively robust 31.7 points per game. Good reminder, putting things in perspective.
The dissatisfaction, we suspect, stems from an aloofness, fans with short memories, not giving this season’s opponents much credit. The schedule will be much better next season in the ACC, easily the best in UofL football history. Anyone who was a little deflated, including this observer, would be ecstatic if UofL were to match those numbers in 2014. It all to do with expectations, which may have been way over the top.
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The names of 15 UofL football players were called during commencement ceremonies at the KFC Yum! Center Thursday.
They were Chris Acosta, Teddy Bridgewater, Preston Brown, B.J. Butler, Gerald Christian, Robert Clark, Jarrett Davis, Brandon Dunn, George Durant, Michaelee Harris, Stephon Robinson, Deon Rogers, Hunter Stout , Chris Walker, and Alex Witcpalek
Coach Charlie Strong has seen 93 of his 98 players earn their degrees since taking over the program in December of 2009. Five of the graduates, including Bridgewater, are juniors in eligibility on the football team.. The Five players on the roster who earned their degrees in May.