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Louisville back in the win column

September 26, 2015 0 Comments

A win is a win is a win, especially satisfying when it’s the first one.

The University of Louisville football team badly needed a victory after three close losses. Something to celebrate, needing reassurance, a boost in confidence, and the Cardinals got all that in a 45-3 blowout of Samford University.

A crowd of 50,021 fans showing up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, turning out in good numbers for a game against a non-marquee opponent. Rewarded with three UofL touchdowns in the first quarter, most of the partisans hanging around until midway in the fourth quarter.

Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson needed this one, wanting to prove some things, catching up with the tempo of the college game, again displaying some of that dazzling speed. Setting an all-time UofL quarterback rushing record with 184 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 212 yards and another touchdown.

James Quick needed this one, needing to get back in the action following his ankle injury three games ago, wanting to make a favorable impression, shaking off the uncertainty, pulling in three catches for 69 yards, teaming up with Jackson on a pass play for his 36-yard touchdown.

Reggie Bonnafon needed to play a role, the team utilizing his speed at other positions than quarterback, wanting to contribute, rushing for 41 yards while completing three of six passing attempts for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Coach Bobby Petrino needed this one, never having started a season losing his first three games, needing some positive to build on after losing four straight games (including the bowl game last season). Needing some things to go his way, needing a blowout to get things on the right track.

Jurich legacy goes on at Louisville

September 25, 2015 1 Comment

Tom Jurich has put to rest any speculation that he would entertain any overtures to succeed Steve Patterson as athletic director at the University of Texas.  He told a local radio show Thursday he doesn’t want to leave the University of Louisville.

While Jurich’s decision comes as no surprise, this latest confirmation of his affection provides reassurance to fans and supporters that the UofL athletic department will continue to benefit from his dynamic and creative leadership into the future.

Tom and Terrilynn Jurich not going anywhere.

Tom and Terrilynn Jurich not going anywhere.

One remembers wondering when Jurich was hired in the summer of 1997 just what kind of impact a new athletic director could have at UofL. I believed at the time that the position was largely administrative, hiring and firing personnel, developing schedules, maintaining facilities, in effect managing the status quo.

UofL was in Conference USA at the time. Denny Crum’s basketball program was in decline, as was Freedom Hall. Ron Cooper’s football program was spiraling, the last season at Fairgrounds Stadium. Lelo Prado’s baseball program was struggling to hit the .500 level in wins and losses, also competing at Fairgrounds Stadium. Women’s basketball was competing in a 1,200 seat gymnasium on Belknap Campus, undergoing coaching changes every few years. No one was giving a second thought to soccer, volleyball, swimming or softball.

Things quickly began to change because Tom Jurich brought with him the vision and energy of developing a first class athletic program in every respect. Now almost every sport plays in modern facilities, with their own dedicated fan followings and they are competitive on a national basis. They receive strong support from the university, the facilities are constantly being improved or upgraded and the teams land highly rated recruits. The question always lingers, which UofL team will be the next to win a national championship?

Why would Tom Jurich want to leave all that? He’s not content to be a caretaker at another major university. He wants to continue building the University of Louisville, always raising that vision of his to new and unprecedented levels.

Petrino searching for way out of Never Land

September 22, 2015 3 Comments

If being humble and hungry is a prerequisite to winning, the University of Louisville football team is there.

Strange feeling, one UofL football fans haven’t experienced for quite a while, winless after the first three games of the 2015 season. Actually it’s worse, Louisville has lost four games in row now, including that humiliating 37-14 loss to Georgia in the Belk Bowl last season. That was supposed to be a better UofL team than the current version.

Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino

Reminds one of the bad old days in the Seventies when Louisville was expected to lose, the opposition racking up the points. Days that was supposed to be way behind us. Fans who endured those years have never taken winning for granted.

The timing couldn’t be worse, just three weeks after Tom Jurich kicked off a $50 million fund drive for a 10,000-seat expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, hoping to build on the program’s success over the past decade. The losses are no doubt a concern for the development staff, in all likelihood prompting a little hesitancy on fundraising calls.

Much of the optimism for UofL football going into season was largely based on Bobby Petrino being the Louisville coach. How else to explain it with the loss of nine players to the National Football League, practically all of the wide receivers, the continuing uncertainty at quarterback, and all the untested offensive linemen.

All that confidence quite a compliment to Petrino who has done more with less. His only response to all the optimism was that he really liked this group of players, citing factors like leadership, coachability and commitment. If the coach had major concerns before the season started, he hid them well.

Despite what Petrino may say or do during games, he has never been one to publicly criticize players. There are some glaring weaknesses that will have to be corrected or concealed if UofL is to be a contender in ACC play.

Not a good place to be at this point in the season. Every program has its ups and downs, and Louisville is no different. Right now this team badly needs a dose of confidence, a win over anybody, even Stamford, may be what it takes to get get it going again.

Long days in many ways for Louisville football

September 18, 2015 1 Comment
Brandon Radcliff finds some running room, setting up UofL's first touchdown in the third quarter.

Brandon Radcliff finds some running room, setting up UofL’s first touchdown in the third quarter with a six-yard carry to the 3-yard-line. Jeremy Smith would score two plays later. Offense still very much a work in progress.

The University of Louisville football team could be looking at the worst possible scenario after losing its first three games, the first 0-3 start since 1984. No surprise really with all the personnel changes since last season.

Too soon for any dooms day scenarios, however, considering how competitive UofL has been in every game, three or four plays away from completely opposite results. Two straight games that could have gone into overtime had some field goals been converted.

Amazing really, considering the young guys on the offensive line, the porous defense against the run, the lack of any consistent offense, and the quarterback dilemma. And, of course, the unpredictability of the quarterbacks and the field goal kicking.

So close. Yet so far away from turning things around. We must already conclude that this will not be a special season. Already at a place where some fans are doubting whether this team knows how to win. That’s absurd, of course, because this coaching staff and the majority of the players are accustomed to winning.

What’s missing this season was the patsy to get things off to an easier start. Some think UofL will finally get one patsy next week when Samford shows up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That may not be the case with Samford have romped over Central Arkansas 45-16 and Florida A&M 58-21 in its first two games. What the Bulldogs will provide is another pretty strong test for UofL’s defense.

*   *   *

Personally the disappointment of UofL fighting back cut the deficit to three points only to have John Wallace miss another field goal attempt was topped only by returning to the parking lot. Surrounded by a lot of disappointed, some angry, fans from the crowd of 55,396, the third largest crowd in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history.

Adding to the disappointment was the inability of the two-year-old vehicle to start, the ignition system apparently programmed into thinking the observer was trying to steal his own car. Numerous attempts by fellow tailgaters and the towing service unable to trick the car into starting.

Rather than wait for AAA to arrive two or three hours in the wee hours of the morning, the observer choosing the leave the car overnight. Thanks to Mark and Michelle Mitchell for going out their way to take the observer and his wife home. No sleep coming Thursday night, no possible way, with the disappointment of the game and the frustration with the car.

AAA arrives Friday morning after an hour-and-a-half wait, Chris Lininger, the expert on batteries and car starters, patiently, between numerous calls to the car dealership, trying one last thing, and amazingly coming up with a solution. If that last one hadn’t worked, the wrecker was next with a tow to the dealership and a humongous auto repair bill.

Finally, collapsing in bed Friday afternoon. Things could have been much worse, stronger for all the challenges.

Montrezl Harrell is a Houston Rocket

September 18, 2015 0 Comments

There’s no photo yet of Montrezl Harrell on the team’s website, but the former University of Louisville power forward is officially on the roster of the Houston Rockets today.

Thus begins his career in the National Basketball Association.

Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell

Despite being drafted in the second round, Harrell’s future with the Rockets had been in limbo for a few weeks because Houston was near the ceiling on the team’s salary cap. According to the House of Houston, “the Rockets would have to convince him to sign for the minimum salary of about $507,500 which is definitely something the team can afford.”

The Rockets didn’t get off that easily, however. Harrell was signed for a three-year deal worth $3.1 million, ESPN reported Friday. He also signed a contract with Nike.

During Las Vegas summer league action, Harrell averaged 16.5 points and eight rebounds in four contests, including a showing of 24 points and 12 rebounds (10 offensive) against the Philadelphia 76ers in the final game.

He will be remembered by UofL fans for his enthusiasm following all of those monstrous dunks, completing a record 221 slams during his three seasons at Louisville. The most memorable of all of them coming against Michigan in that 2013 national championship game, soaring from the free throw line, throttling a national TV audience.

Harrell was represented in the negotiations by Rich Paul, the same agent who represents Lebron James.

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