Expectations clash with reality for Louisville football fans

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.

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Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

4 thoughts on “Expectations clash with reality for Louisville football fans”

  1. The question I have about Louisville’s offense is where was James Quick?? 5 receptions and 60 yards receiving for the entire year?? Those stats are even impressive if that were just 1 game!! It’s a travesty that he wasn’t involved more – for him. Should have been redshirted if he wasn’t going to be used.

    1. Charlie wanted to make James Quick work this season but James wasn’t quite ready, dropping balls in his hands and chest on a regular basis and at critical times. Hard to know beforehand whether a kid needs to be redshirted. It was a gamble that didn’t work out.

  2. Obviously winning 11 games should be celebrated but in reality 30 to 40 teams this year would have won 11 games against the schedule that Louisville faced. If an 11 win season can ever be described as somewhat disappointing or hollow, this season would be it. A little bit of fools gold. There was just never a time that Louisville looked outstanding offensively. Watson can hide his head in the sand if he wants, but if the offense does not improve against much better competition next year, he will be looking for another job.

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