Waiting not an option for Vince Tyra to stop Louisville football bleeding

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Time to act. Quickly. Like right now.

Anyone watching the University of Louisville football team this season knew that something had gone terribly wrong. The Cardinals were giving up 56, 77, and 54 points in lopsided losses over the past three games. Ugly and getting uglier every week, with no prospect that anything was ever going to change.

The question of whether a coaching  change was needed was not if but when. Athletic Director Vince Tyra pulled the pin Sunday morning, feeling the need to immediately relieve Petrino of his duties. Petrino had suffered from the incompetence of his staff and the confidence of his players. He had worn out the welcome mat and exhausted the patience of the UofL administration and Cardinal fans. 

Bobby Petrino was rumored on his way to LSU when Koby Springer held this sign up at the 2004 Liberty Bowl in Memphis (ESPN photo).

He had to go, along with three of his family members on the staff, specifically two sons-in-law — linebackers coach Ryan Beard, defensive line coach L.D Scott — and his son quarterback coach Nick Petrino. Also gone is Andy Wagner, director of football operations, who was blocking UofL media left and right on Petrino’s Twitter feed..

The Cardinals (2-8, 0-7) rank last or near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast
Conference in about every statistical category. Associate Head Coach and safeties coach Lorenzo Ward, was named interim coach.

Petrino was in his second stint as Louisville’s head coach. He was (77-35)
overall and 36-26 during his second stint. He was 21-18 against the Atlantic
Coast Conference. But just 10-16 since a blowout loss to Houston in 2016.
Tyra met with the players Sunday morning, making one thing clear.

Lorenzo Ward overseeing the next two games, attempting to salvage anything positive from the 2018 season.

He wants to  change the atmosphere around Louisville football. Now. Not next season, not when a new coach comes in. Now.

Tyra wants coaches who deserve to be here. And players who want to be here. While things look bleak, he says these players can change that perception and go out winners, especially the seniors. He called on the senior class to take charge and help the young players gain momentum entering next season.

Tyra is also focusing on the 12 players that have petitioned to transfer after the season. He said he would work hard in trying to keep those players.and the deportees who are still in school, arguing it’s not out of question that they could return.

A lot of questions are to be answered before Louisville football can get back on track. Few believed that that was ever going to happen under Bobby Petrino. That was even more obvious to Vince Tyra, and it couldn’t happen soon enough for the fan base.

Good times are long gone, time for Bobby Petrino to go

Athletic Director Tom Jurich couldn’t blamed if he appeared to be having second thoughts about hiring Bobby Petrino as Louisville football coach during a January 2014 press conference (Charlie Springer photo).

A couple of weeks ago one was for giving Bobby Petrino the benefit of the doubt, believing he had earned a mulligan for one bad year because of all he had accomplished during his first eight seasons of guiding University of Louisville football.

After watching UofL flounder helplessly against Wake Forest and Clemson, however, has one been forced to reconsider. A very difficult proposition for the Observer who was thrilled to have Petrino back when he succeeded Charlie Strong in 2014. 

One of my favorite memories of UofL football was attending the Louisville-Wake Forest game in the 2007 BCSOrange Bowl in Miami, along with 35,000 to 40,000 fellow Louisville fans.  UofL was riding an all-time wave of popularity, with a Kentucky fan sitting beside me in a New Year’s Day bowl game before a national TV audience. The Cardinals were riding high, finishing with a 12-1 record and Bobby was considered an offensive genius.

The next day the same UK fan handed me a Florida newspaper with an article indicating that Petrino had accepted a job with the Atlanta Falcons. And just like that, Petrino was gone. He was done with Louisville, finally managing to get what he considered to be a superior job with all the accompanying recognition.

The excitement wouldn’t last long for Petrino, with him not making it through an entire season. He would wind up at Fayetteville, standing behind a microphone shouting, “Woo, Pig, Sooie” at an Arkansas press conference. A couple of years later he was gone, having disgraced himself with an extramarital affair and fired for lying to the school’s athletic director. After a year’s absence, he would wind up  at Western Kentucky University.

After Charlie Strong left for Texas at the end of 2013, Petrino was contacting Tom Jurich and Jim Ramsey, pleading for a second chance at Louisville. The outcome was predictable with Petrino getting the job. There were some concerned board members at the press conference, the concerns were outweighed by the outlook for Petrino’s offense and the prospects for a return of high-powered UofL football.

Five years later, UofL is struggling through its worst season in 20 years, with a 2-7 won-lost record, winless in six conference games, and coming off of a humiliating 77-16 loss to Clemson. There is no evidence of any improvement in any phase of the team’s game at any point this season. The opposite has been true, with the team getting progressively worse, incompetent and inept. 

The defense has to be the worst ever, with opposing teams running over, around and through UofL defenders with little or no resistance. The offense bears no resemblance to previous Petrino teams, getting outscored by an average of 19 points per game. Even worse, the players don’t appear to have any idea of what they’re supposed to be doing on either side of the ball. And it doesn’t seem to bother some of them very much.

Petrino needs to be gone, as soon as possible. The ideal situation would be to fire him immediately and name an interim coach. The problem is there doesn’t seem to anyone on Petrino’s staff anywhere near capable of replacing him. 

The reported $14 million buyout is steep, especially for UofL these days, but it would be the best thing for the future of UofL football. The sooner Petrino is gone, the better. Only after he’s gone will Louisville football be able to move forward again.

Rumors and rumors of rumors

Rumors. Rumors of rumors. 

Crazy times for football coaches when their teams are off the track. Just ask Bobby Petrino whose University of Louisville squad has lost five of its first seven games. The word spreads quickly around town Monday  that the current UofL coach will be gone by the end of the week.

The rumor mill is fueled when Lachlan McLean, a sports talk jock on ESPN680, says some “more Bobby news” would be forthcoming and “could be good or bad based on which side you’re on.” From that point on, the speculators are off and running, with the suspected behavior becoming progressively worse.

As of Wednesday morning, no one is certain whether there is any substance to the rumors or not. There are never any details or specific accusations, just insinuations and innuendo. The rumors feed upon themselves, as if keeping them going will somehow result in some actual facts. 

After a certain p0int, when nothing has been verified, some people start to doubt the veracity of the information. The insiders go silent, the rumor mill goes into neutral, but people are convinced something has happened and are still expecting some shoes to drop. Fans in suspended animation as Petrino runs his troops through drills on the practice field.

The problem with this cycle is that people’s reputations are harmed during the process. A quick response from someone in authority would help to alleviate the situation. Waiting just gives the rumors time to spread and evolve. 

Time for someone at UofL to acknowledge the existence of the rumors, and address them.

Dark cloud over Cardinal Stadium keeps getting bigger

The symbolism was just too obvious to ignore. That dark cloud over Cardinal Stadium appearing just before kickoff. Growing larger and larger by the minute, eventually engulfing the entire complex. Something bad was coming.

 And it would not be good for the University of Louisville football program. A team looking to recover from a down-to-the-wire loss to Florida State, with a coach desperately needing something to build on. The vibes unmistakably ominous, but there is no turning back.

Coach Bobby Petrino, true to form, choosing to go on offense again at kickoff. A nice 22-yard pass play from Puma Pass to Mickey Crum on the opening play. The last sign of life for a while, though, the Cardinals wasting the next three downs, then throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Giving up the ball to Georgia Tech on the 50-yard line, the Yellow Jackets needing only five plays to get on the scoreboard. The route was on, and an uncontested Georgia Tech would roll to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.  Everyone in the crowd of 51,658 knew the game was over.  

By the time it was really over, Georgia Tech had outscored 66-31 in one of the worst losses for Louisville in Cardinal Stadium.  The Cardinals were never in it, and the outlook for the rest of the season is bleak. 

The UofL defense was totally unprepared for Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, leaking yards by the dozen play after play. The Yellow Jackets would rack up 542 yards while allowing the Cardinals only 113.  Georgia Tech had so much confidence in its ground game that it threw only two passes all night long, completing one for 12 yards.

If there was anything encouraging for UofL, it was Puma Pass completing 23 of 35 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. No interceptions in this game. Signs of progress, yes.  No indications of significant leadership abilities quite yet.

One almost has to feel sorry for Coach Bobby Petrino. His reputation as an offensive genius diminishing with every game in recent memory. He is going through a coach’s nightmare right now and there seems to be no way to break through the gloom. Somewhere along the way the offensive juggernaut that was Louisville football has gone off the track. Petrino has lost the golden ticket and it’s going to be very difficult to get it punched again.

A long-time fan, who will have attended almost every game this season, at home and on the road, said this year’s team reminds him of Ron Cooper’s final team in 1997, a team that finished 2-10 and got him fired. “That team had a lot of good players but it also had several coaches with no idea of what they were doing,” he said. “I can’t see this team winning another game.”

That enormous black cloud at kickoff was not a coincidence. 

Petrino chooses not to play safe, and the slide continues

A great day for a game, a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, temperatures in the low seventies, a kettle of shrimp boil on the burner, tailgaters all in, stuffing themselves, taking turns downing shots, celebrating football, friendships  and the beginning of the fall season.

Harry Douglas, former University of Louisville star and Atlanta Falcon great, showing up for the tailgate, having such a good time, deciding to hang out for quite a while. Clearly enjoying the adulation of UofL fans, entertaining them with his exuberance and outgoing personality.

What could go wrong?

Harry Douglas, former UofL and Atlanta Falcon great, and The Observer team up during tailgating prior to the Florida State game.

The Louisville football team on the verge of defeating Florida State for an unprecedented third straight time in three seasons. Having discovered an offense, with an actual ground game, quarterback Puma Pass his throwing eye, passing for more than 300 yards. UofL leading by 10 points going into the fourth quarter.

Late fourth quarter, marching the ball down the field, the clock winding down to 1:56, the Cardinals with a first down on the Seminoles’ 21 yard line. Easy does it, keep the ball inbounds, grind it out on the ground, run the clock out, protect that fragile three-point lead. Just run out the clock.

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