Louisville needed football to be good this season

Sad, the depths to which University of Louisville football has descended.

For a brief period there, UofL was considered one of the up-and-coming programs in college football. A program generating win after win, consistently setting new attendance records, taking large, enthusiastic crowds to BCS bowls and entertaining legitimate college playoff hopes.

Football having raised the profile of UofL to levels not possible with any other sport. The king of college sports, integral to achieving and maintaining national respectability. Especially at a school where the basketball program is faced with an uncertain future. UofL needed football to be good. 

Any hope of football filling any voids for the University or achieving much of anything this season was greatly diminished with Saturday’s 38-20 drubbing at the hands of Boston College. Were it not for a couple of turnovers during the early going, it would have been much uglier.

Pretty apparent to a fan base with a legacy of great quarterbacks that Louisville has missed the mark this season. Granted the offensive line has some challenges, but the quarterback should be able to overcome some of those deficiencies once in a while.

What fans are seeing is a lack of leadership at the position and little evidence of any of the right instincts. Taking too long to make decisions, spending half the game in panic mode, showing little sense of timing, and missing badly on wide open receivers. Not knowing when to throw the ball away, not playing with emotion, standing way behind the curve on the development scale.

The offensive line, expected to be one of the strongest team’s strongest units, often resembles a flimsy barrier of yellow tape, inviting defensive linemen to have their way with Louisville’s quarterback. A recurring scene from Saturday’s game was of linemen standing straight up, ignoring, avoiding incoming defensive lineman.

Credit the Cardinal defense for keeping Boston College from keeping the game from being a complete rout. Little help from the offense, which had only five offensive series in the second half. Way too much pressure on a defense already struggling to contain the edge and runs up the middle.

Sadly there are probably more beatings to come for a team that has stumbled out of the gate with 2-5 won-lost record. Finding any reason for optimism will become increasingly difficult.

No stopping Boston College for UofL’s leaky defense

Louisville’s defensive line needed lots of help from linebacker Dorian Etheridge (17). He would make nine solo tackles and get five assists (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith finally back in action, with 118 yards on six catches.

Wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick as good as ever, turning seven catches into 127 yards, including a touchdown.

Running back Reggie Bonnafon actually breaking loose for a 64-yard touchdown.

Lamar Jackson tossed for three touchdowns and ran for two others (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson living up to his reputation, with more amazing stats, including 181 yards and three touchdowns rushing, 323 yards and two touchdowns passing.

Some nice offensive stats, just not enough of them.

The University of Louisville’s offense could still be putting up points but there would never be enough. The defense was incapable of stopping Boston College, the Cardinals losing 45-42 in a three-ring offensive circus before 44,679 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

UofL’s defense remained as porous as always, seemingly unable to stop anyone on the first tackle attempt, usually on the second or third attempt. Not a pretty picture, foreshadowing visions of even more dismal performances in the weeks ahead against stronger opponents.

The exception was UofL linebacker Dorian Etheridge, the 6-foot-3 freshman winding up with nine solo tackles and five assists.

Jaylen Smith’s joyous return would be spoiled by a fumble following a catch with less than two minutes remaining at UofL’s 30-yard line. Just a matter of time, Boston College wasn’t going to be denied, converting a 27-yard field goal for the win in the closing seconds.

Boston College’s first Atlantic Coast Conference win since 2014, Louisville’s third ACC loss in four games this season. More than likely, it’s going to get uglier before it gets better for UofL football. Prepare yourself.

Kylee Shook gets message, UofL women skate past Boston College

Apparently when Jeff Walz sends a message to a University of Louisville player, he wants to make sure the individual has time to consider the desired result. Just ask Kylee Shook who was benched quickly in the second half against Virginia Tech on Thursday.

Kylee Shook attacks the basket for two of her game-leading 14 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So surprised when she had a wide open path to the basket, Kylee did an awkward ball fake, was called for traveling, and summoned to the bench. Done for the night, having to think about it the rest of the night and over the next three days.

Imagine her relief, then, when Walz tapped Shook as the starting forward the following Sunday. The coach appealing to her competitive edge, hoping she would react in a positive way, needing her to be a leader.

Shook would do just that, the young 6-foot-4 freshman responding with one of the best games in her career in a 68-43 win over Boston College before 9,306 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. She would make six of 10 field goal attempts, including two of three 3-point shots, to lead all scorers with 14 points while pulling down five rebounds. 

No mishaps in this one, either, Shook with zero turnovers in 20 minutes of playing time. 

Before one gets carried away, however, it should be noted that Shook may have gotten the starting opportunity because Asia Durr, UofL’s leading scorer, was the one on the bench in this game.

All game long, with no explanation except for a “coach’s decision.” Nobody close to the team knowing anything, saying nothing, not even her. As Durr was leaving the floor, an elderly woman called out to her, “Hey, Asia, what did you do?”

“It’s okay,” replied Asia. “I’ll be back next game.”

Also of note, Mariya Moore did not return for the second half after making three turnovers and missing all six of her field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes.

More messaging? Or was it because she wasn’t needed? Myisha Hines-Allen, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds, saw only eight minutes in the second half. Regardless, they will have all week to think about it, UofL not playing until next Sunday when North Carolina arrives for a Noon tipoff. 

A long week ahead, plenty of time to let any object lessons sink in.

Louisville football cuts through the gloom

A football game always a great diversion for whatever ails a fan base, the University of Louisville vs. Boston College game attracting 41,486 fans on an overcast day at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Whether it was the gloomy weather forecast or the SkankGate fallout that resulted in the lowest turnout since PJCS was expanded to 55,000 seats will never be known for certain. Those who chose to stay home missing a good opportunity to shake the cobwebs, focus on the positive.

Pity the poor guys sitting behind Boston College fan Jack Hall.
Pity the poor guys sitting behind Boston College fan Jack Hall.

The Cardinals prevail 17-14 in a game that is decided at the 1:17 mark as the UofL defense continues its almost total domination. Boston College is only in the game because of costly turnovers by Louisville’s offense, a muffled punt in the second quarter and a late fumble in the third quarter.

The outcome very much up in the air until late with a Boston College quarterback named Troy Flutie, the nephew of Doug Flutie, inspiring ugly visions of an unlikely comeback similar to the historic last second Hail Mary pass in 1984 giving Boston College  a 47-45 upset of Miami.

As long as the UofL defense was on the field that wasn’t going to happen. Louisville would allow BC only four first downs in the game, holding the Eagles to minus 14 yards rushing and 93 yards through the air.

Defensive end Sheldon Rankins recovers a Boston College fumble in the second quarter and returns the ball 46 yards for a touchdown, the first of his college career. Linebackers James Burgess and Keith Kelsey will have six and four solo tackles each, respectively.

Louisville’s offense, meanwhile, is losing two fumbles, giving up an interception, getting a punt blocked, and, at one point, committing three false starts in a single offensive series. Quarterback Lamar Jackson again struggling in rainy conditions but managing 230 yards passing.

To be fair, Boston College’s defense was ranked No. 1 coming into the game. Despite all the self-imposed barriers, UofL was credited with 365 yards on offense. The 139 yards rushing the most allowed on the ground by Boston College this season.

The college football season passes all too quickly. Only two home games remaining for UofL — against Syracuse on Nov. 7 and Virginia on Nov. 14. No way a Lazy Boy seat is better than one at Papa John’s.