Experience has taught long-time University of Louisville diehards that it’s best to keep those expectations in check. This one still hasn’t recovered from the disappointing end of the 2016 football season.
Three humiliating defeats, including a loss to the University of Kentucky and two games (Houston and LSU) in which the Cardinals were never competitive. The loss to UK occurring after UofL’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson coughed up the ball on Wildcats’ 10-yard line.
The worst possible way to end a season. Demoralizing, plunging from sight after being considered a serious college playoff contender most of the season. A large dose of humble pie for those who dared to envision the ultimate for UofL football.
But that was last year. Here we go again, with UofL kicking off fall camp on Monday in preparation for a new season. Time to put the past behind, look to the future, trusting that Bobby Petrino figured out what happened to his team. Not allow it to happen again. The coach having shuffled his coaching staff during the off season, bringing in some new faces and fresh approaches.
If 2016 taught us anything, it was that having college football’s most elusive quarterback is no guarantee of success. Jackson was the first player in Football Bowl Series (FBS) history with 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a season, running for 21 touchdowns and passing for 30 more TDs. Incredible numbers.
Never doubt, however, that someone on the Florida State coaching staff hasn’t spent the last year reviewing game film from UofL’s 63-10 win over the Seminoles last season. Jackson ran for four touchdowns and passed for a fifth in that one. That won’t happen again against FSU.
Good that the game was early. While Jackson was putting all those points on the board, his offensive line was regressing, making it more difficult for him at the end of the season. Some argue that he had already clinched the Heisman Trophy before the collapse. He was lucky to find the line of scrimmage as the curtain closed on the season.
Maybe opposing coaches had just figured out how to manage Jackson, knowing that if they could contain him they could stop Louisville. He definitely was not the threat at the end of the season that he was during the first half of the year.
No one, certainly not this observer, doubts that Jackson is a team player. He was always more critical of himself than his coaches were, even when he was accumulating all those touchdowns. Needing to work within the system perhaps, instead of so much freelancing, knowing how to take advantage of his teammates instead of taking it all upon himself.
One suspects that Lamar Jackson would be okay with not repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner if, in the process, he can make his teammates better players. Even if that means fewer touchdowns, accolades and personal highlight reels.
Jackson has been there, done the Heisman thing, but it was not quite what it was could have been, not with that disappointing end for his team last season.