Louisville football gets better in a 35-point loss

Clemson cornerback Clemson linebacker Andrew Booth lands a blow to the head of UofL’s Trennell Troutman and is immediately ejected from the game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A game the Observer will tuck away among the memories for numerous reasons despite the University of Louisville football team on the wrong end of a 45-10 loss to third-ranked Clemson. A beautiful day of football and 51,015 fans at Cardinal Stadium.

The best part personally was having son Steve on hand for his first Louisville football game in several years. Getting up in the wee hours for the four-hour trip from Murray, coincidentally greeted by the UofL marching band as the car pulls into the tailgating area. He’s an even bigger Cardinal fan than the Observer, believe it or not.

Steve Springer welcomed back to Cardinal Stadium by the UofL Marching Band .

A close second was the effectiveness of the UofL defense during the early stages of the game, limiting the defending national champions to a three-point lead in the first quarter and a 14-point deficit in the first half. This was essentially the same defense that gave up 77 points to Clemson in a 61-point loss last season.

Except that this isn’t the same defense, not even in the same neighborhood as last year’s. Blessed with a new set of coaches who have inspired a sense of competitive spirit into a team that was playing in a coaching-deprived void in 2018. Making Clemson fight for every yard on Saturday, long after it was obvious that UofL is lacking any depth on the defensive side.

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Vegas oddsmakers not giving Louisville football enough credit

Can’t say it often enough: Saturdays are fun again for Cardinal fans.

Pretty clear after the University of Louisville football team’s 62-59 win over Wake Forest on Saturday that UofL is much further along than anyone expected at this point in Coach Scott Satterfield’s first season.

Satterfield and his staff have done an unbelievable job of refocusing this team from top to bottom, teaching and motivating the players, instilling in them a collective desire to win. Then they go out there and compete, winning four of their first six games, outscoring the top two offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference two weeks in a row.

Coach Scott Satterfield

“Coming in, we thought we had some good receivers and running backs, which I thought was going to be a plus for us,” said Satterfield at his Monday press conference. “I’m pleased with the way our offensive line has come around, which has been a plus. We have to get better defensively.”

The staff and players obviously have much more work to do on defense but nobody doubts that they are committed. Based on improvements in other area’s of the team’s development, don’t  be surprised to see similar improvement on that side of the ball.

Now comes the supreme test for this team, lining up against nationally second-ranked Clemson next Saturday at Cardinal Stadium for a noon kickoff. Clemson has won 21 games in a row, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers have the visiting Tigers a 21-point favorite.

The oddsmakers unable to get past Clemson’s 77-16 demolishing of Louisville last season under totally different circumstances. UofL was unable to stop anybody last season. Not expecting UofL to put up much of a fight for some reason.

If Louisville has accomplished anything during the first six games, it is that this team is not going to roll over for anybody.  The times, they are a-changing.

Louisville football poised for attendance records in 2019

A no-brainer really.

A bold prediction here as the schedule is announced for the 2019 University of Louisville football season, based on the combination of a new coach and one of the sport’s most hallowed programs.  

The opening game against the University of Notre Dame will set an all-time  attendance record for a football game in Louisville, attracting between 63,000 and 65,000 people to Cardinal Stadium. 

Even higher if Athletic Director Vince Tyra wants to fill every cavity in the stadium, which was expanded from 55,000 to 61,500 prior to last season.

The current record for a UofL home game was 55,642 on Sept. 16, 2016. The game was featured on ESPN’s Game Day. Louisville fans were attracted by a tenth-ranked Louisville versus second-ranked Florida State. No contest that day, with the Cardinals throttling the Seminoles 63-10.

Scott Satterfield’s first game as the new head coach signals a whole new beginning for UofL football, bringing with him a whole new staff, a fresh outlook and a commitment from the University to compete at the highest levels. 

Notre Dame, of course, has one of the largest fan bases in the country and attracts capacity crowds wherever it plays. Always has, probably always will.

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If Louisville football is on the uptick under the new staff next season, expect another capacity crowd to be on hand on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a game against Clemson, the defending national champion, with Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson has played in Cardinal Stadium twice since UofL joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, attracting 55,396 and 55,588 during the 2015 and 2017 seasons, respectively.

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UofL fans will also help Western Kentucky establish a new all-time attendance record at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green. That is if WKU officials can somehow increase the stadium’s capacity for the game against Louisville on Sept. 14.

Louisville owns a 20-12 advantage in the series. The current WKY record is 23,674 for a game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24, 2016. One can easily anticipate at that many UofL fans making the two-hour trip for this year’s game on Sept. 14.

UofL hasn’t played a football game in Bowling Green since 1949.

 2019 Schedule:

Sept. 2 — Notre Dame

Sept. 7 — Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 14 — At Western Kentucky


Sept. 21 — At Florida State


Oct. 5 — Boston College


Oct. 12 — At Wake Forest


Oct. 19 — Clemson


Oct. 26 — Virginia


Nov. 9 — At Miami


Nov. 16 — At North Carolina State


Nov. 23 — Syracuse


Nov. 30 — At Kentucky

 

 

Outlook suddenly not so brilliant for Louisville football

Bobby Petrino and Lamar Jackson lead Card March into Cardinal Stadium on a day that began as early as 4:30 a.m. for some fans, especially those who wanted to participate in ESPN’s Game Day programming at Belknap Campus (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Sunday was supposed to be a day following the University of Louisville’s first win over Clemson, a time to celebrate another milestone, breaking into the nation’s top 10, and igniting talk of college playoff possibilities all over again.

Seems like some disillusion and wishful thinking now following a 47-21 beating in which Clemson dominated Louisville in all phases of the game before a crowd of 55,582 fans at Cardinal Stadium, the second largest attended game in UofL football history.

Lamar Jackson finds some rare running room in the third quarter (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambling and hemmed in most of the night, unable to connect with his favorite receivers when it counted. Throws to Jaylen Smith bouncing off his fingers or his chest much of the night. Des Fitzpatrick covered up, hard to find. Both would eventually score but not before the game was well out of reach.

None of those exciting way-down-the-field passes for Jackson in this game. The only thing that seemed to work, and dismally at that, were numerous sideline passes, resulting in only three or four yards at best. One is in trouble when that is the best available option.

The crowd of 55,580 was the second largest in UofL football history (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Reggie Bonnafon still struggling to gain any traction at running back, seemingly running in slow motion. Forget about reckless abandon for Bonnafon, and he’s not a point of emphasis for opposing coaches. Managing only 17 yards in his four carries. Malik Williams clearly the better option, picking up 39 yards in six run and 36 more on three pass receptions. But Bobby Petrino is sticking with Bonnafon until he is forced to make a change.

Reminiscent of days of old, Clemson making it look so easy. Louisville’s passing defense has been abused since the opening game against Purdue, and it’s only getting worse. Mindful of the Kragthorpian days with opposing quarterbacks getting all the time they need to find open receivers all over the field.

The one-sided loss capable of robbing fans of much of the optimism for the season. The immediate outlook ho-hum with noon kickoffs against Kent State and Murray State over the next two weeks. No disrespect but it’s pretty hard to get excited for the no-names, whether one is a fan or a player.

Making UofL football fun again has to begin sometime. There are five weeks before the Cardinals line up against Florida State in Tallahassee. Lots of time to get better, make the season meaningful again.

 

Train may have finally arrived for Louisville football

The ESPN hype train arrives in Louisville on Friday, making Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the center of the college football universe, at least for the weekend. A major intersection, a crossroads for UofL football program. Maybe still another milestone.

A game pitting the No. 13 University of Louisville football against third-ranked Clemson, featuring Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson against the defending national champion. Against a team and a coach that believed former CU quarterback Deshaun Watson was more deserving on the Heisman award.

UofL badly needs to get its first win over Clemson in four tries, after falling short, knocking on the door at the end, losing all three games by six points or less over the past three seasons. Leaving the field with their offense in the shadow of the goalposts each time, knowing they could have, probably should have won each of those games.

Former UofL assistant Vance Bedford once urged Louisville fans to get on board the train. And they will be Saturday night, upwards of 55,000 fans or so, probably setting another all-time attendance record for Cardinals’ football.

Make no mistake, much at stake here for Louisville football. Win and the program will take a monumental leap in national respect. Lose and the journey just gets harder and longer, postponing the inevitable into an uncertain future.

Blow the horn, stoke those coals, fan the flames, darken the skies with black smoke. Louisville football, time to go.