Louisville football survives game of unbridled offense

University of Louisville running back Javian Hawkins has a productive day with 177 yards rushing, 13 yards passing and a touchdown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one expected the road back to respectability for University of Louisville football to be easy. Too much ground to make up after being so far down.

Case  in point that cliffhanger of a 41-39 win for UofL over Boston College in front of a crowd of 46,007 at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. An outcome still much in doubt after Blanton Creque makes good on a 41-yard field goal and a two-point lead for UofL at the 1:02 mark.

An eventful week for Malik Cunningham who would choose to be called Micale, pass for 288 yards, run for 43 yards and account for two touchdowns (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

That play setting the stage for what would have been a heartbreaking finish. UofL badly needing a win after nine straight ACC losses since 2019. Another conference loss and UofL will be saddled with the ACC record. A collective sigh of relief  after the Cardinals give up eight shots but somehow containing the Eagles within their own 46-yard line.

A. J. Dillon, the human tank who ran for 272 yards against UofL two seasons ago, would be stopped for no gain the one time he carries the ball in that final minute. Not quite the same force he was in 2017 but still good for 118 yards on Saturday.

Blanton Creque is hoisted on teammates’ shoulders after kicking winning field goal (UofL football photo).

“None of these wins are going to be easy,” said UofL Coach Scott Satterfield. “A lot of them will probably come down to something like this. I told our guys in the locker room that we’re defined by how we finish. And you have to finish games like this, and they were able to do that. All the way to two seconds to finish the game and get the win.”

One of those games usually decided by mistakes. UofL miraculously recovering a fumble two plays before the winning field goal.  Giving Boston College a second chance during the final minute on an illegal substitution. Hanging on by the skin of their collective teeth.

The UofL defense giving up 563 yards but the offense was putting up 664 yards.  Javian Hawkins with 190 of those yards, including 177 yards rushing and one touchdown.  Only a freshman, coming attractions should be plentiful.

That same UofL defense making stops when it absolutely had to, including that surprising take-away on the 2-yard line on Boston College’s by Monty Montgomery and the first interception of the season by Anthony Johnson.

Not a pretty game, one which UofL was lucky to win — an inescapable conclusion looking back at this one. Football is a game of breaks, good and bad, with the outcomes often unpredictable. No question, though, that Louisville sorely wanted a win this day.

Letdown coming at worst time for Louisville basketball

By Ed Peak

Maybe it was the small crowd that showed up. More people show up for high school games than were at Conte Forum. Maybe it was the food in the pregame meal. Maybe it was the weather in Bean Town. Doesn’t matter, the University of Louisville basketball team was flat. Little emotion. No fire. Just weak.

Chris Mack was frustrated. His assistants were perplexed. University of Louisville fans on the post game radio shows asking what everybody is asking, what has happened to this team?

UofL looked like it was just going through the motions in a listless first half. Then the Cardinals rallied to take a lead deep into the second half, only to watch Boston College come back. The last five minutes were an implosion, with Cardinals going down to a 66-59 defeat.

Boston College is a bad team playing out the string just trying to get to the end of the season.  Look at all the missed shots, the defensive lapses. Louisville didn’t take advantage. The Eagles were without one of their top players in freshman Wynston Tabbs who averages 13.9 points. The Eagles are 4-9 without him.

Card Nation is slowly coming to accept the fact that this team is toast. This is not the same team that beat Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, led Duke by 23 in the second half and played its next opponent as if it’s life depended on it. Where has that spark, the toughness, the swag gone?

UofL fans was lulled into a false sense of confidence by all the early success. Call it Duke hangover, call it what you want. Louisville has done enough to make the NCAA tournament. But losses in the next two games and an early exit from the ACC tourney and Louisville is quite possibly a bubble team — or an eight or nine seed at best.

“Sickening to watch,” said Mack to the Associated Press following the game. “I mean we’re just not making winning plays. Not making winning plays on either end of the floor. I’m sitting there thinking like we have everything to play for. And you wouldn’t be able to tell that in the last five minutes of the game.”

Rock bottom is where UofL lives right now. Notre Dame (13-15) comes to the Yum Center on Sunday afternoon. Irish coach Mike Bray will have his team ready. Can Chris Mack recharge this Louisville team? The odds aren’t very good.

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.