Dan McDonnell earns 500th, intense one over Clemson

Dan McDonnell earns his 500th win and a share of the ACC’s Atlantic Division title (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Lots of base runners for Clemson, but 16 of them left in waiting on the base paths.

One of those long, long games, this one three hours and forty-nine minutes, with the outcome always in doubt. The kind of game that ages college baseball coaches prematurely.

Happy ending, however, with still another milestone for Dan McDonnell. His University of Louisville baseball team chalking up an important 4-2 win at Clemson in the first game of a three-day series. No. 500 for McDonnell, coming in the 50th game of his 11th season at UofL.

He is, of course, the winningest coach in the program’s history, averaging 45.6 wins per season. He entered the season ranked fifth among active coaches in winning percentage. The win improves UofL’s record to 44-6 with six games remaining in the regular season.

Few of those wins more challenging than the one the one on Thursday, not with left hander Brendan McKay loading the bases in the first and second innings. His pitch count was well over 50 by the end of the third, but he still managed to hold Clemson scoreless through five innings. He’s now 8-3 on the season.

Clemson would tap Louisville reliever Sam Bordner for three hits and a couple of walks in the sixth, sending two runs across the plate. With the Cardinals clinging to a two-run lead, junior Lincoln Henzman toss two shutout innings of relief to earn his 15th save of the season.

Colby Fitch, moving back to second in batting lineup, got things off to a positive start with a home run over the right field wall in the first inning. Drew Ellis was 3-for-4 with his 17th double while raising his batting average to .392. Josh Stowers chipped in with a single, one walk and one run scored.

The win earned at least a tie for first place for Louisville in the ACC’s Atlantic Coast Division. The Cardinals need one more conference win to clinch their third division title since joining the conference three years ago.

Pitino effect kicks in, Louisville explodes past Clemson

Donovan Mitchell would not be denied in the first half, letting his teammates take over the second (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

An understatement to say things weren’t going well for the University of Louisville basketball team, and they were getting worse.

There sat Quentin Snider on the bench, with a forlorn look on his face, dejected and unavailable. And for more than nine minutes, Clemson was having its way with UofL, jumping off to a 7-0 start, slamming the ball in the basket every other play, and extending the lead to 21-12.

At that point something happened, happened after Coach Rick Pitino called a 30-second time out. Something that could only be described as the Pitino effect. No other explanation. Someone other than Donovan Mitchell would start making baskets.

Deng Adel jumper. Jaylen Johnson layup. another Deng Adel jumper. Anas Mahmoud free throws. Deng Adel with a 3-pointer. Donovan Mitchell on a layup.

The Deng Adel everybody had been waiting for showed up when he was needed most, scoring 18 points. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Less than five minutes later, Louisville had taken a 24-23 lead. The Cardinals would never trail again, smacking the daylights out of Clemson 92-60 before a crowd of 21,436 at the KFC Yum! Center. One of the most impressive in-game turnarounds in recent Pitino history.

Deng Adel, without a doubt playing his most complete game ever as a Cardinal, contributing 18 points, including two 3-pointers and three out of four free-throw attempts, and a couple of assists. This may have been the night that lit the switch for him.

Donovan Mitchell setting the tone in the first half, making all eight of his field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, for all of his 18 points in the game. What was so encouraging, however, was that his “offensively-challenged” teammates picked up the slack in the second half while he was missing all seven of his shots and making zero points.

Looking fully capable of standing in at point guard until Snider makes it back to the floor, Mitchell would be credited with four assists, four rebounds, and three steals. “The thing with us is we accept those challenges,” said Mitchell. “We love those challenges. We’ll win this game and then we’ll move on to the next one.”

Pitino relieved and reinvigorated afterwards, but cautious about going to Florida State Saturday following a late night game and only day to prepare for the 2 o’clock encounter.

“It’s a different game with Quentin being out,” he said. “Normally we would have double sessions of practice before going into a game like Florida State but we can’t because of the late game.”

Always got that Pitino effect, however. It will be needed Saturday.

 

 

 

Jackson needs to keep breaking records to get Louisville to playoffs

Following the disappointing loss to Clemson, University of Louisville football fans are left to ponder the chances of UofL still making it to college football’s championship playoffs. Their hopes hinge heavily on the popularity of sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Lamar Jackson rewriting NCAA record books. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)
Lamar Jackson rewriting NCAA record books. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

Right now, Louisville’s best shot for a playoff shot would be for Jackson and the Cardinals to take down an unbeaten Houston when the teams clash in Houston on Nov. 17. The college football world is hoping that happens because serious football fans want to see as much of Jackson as possible.

Jackson is on pace to become the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with 6,000 yards of total offense in a season, according to Kelly Dickey, UofL sports junky. The record is 5,976 yards.

Most fans would concede, however, that the odds getting to the playoffs are not great, not with nine undefeated teams in the top 10 of the Associated Press. Seventh-ranked UofL is the only team in that group not undefeated  after the first five weeks.

Louisville was so close to still being in that group, one yard from a first down, two yards from a game-winning touchdown with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game.

Like William Gay getting flagged for being offside on that failed Rutgers field goal attempt back in 2006, the memory of James Quick going down so easily a yard short a first down is going to stick with UofL fans for a long, long time.

While it’s true that one play or one player may not necessarily be responsible for losing a game, it can’t be denied that had a single play turned out differently that Louisville would be considered an odds-on favorite to make the playoffs this season.

UofL is going to need a lot of help to get there.  Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are 1, 2, 3, respectively. Other traditional big-time programs like Michigan, Tennessee and Texas A&M, as well as Washington and Houston are serious contenders for one of the four playoff spots.

NCAA football betting odds for the slots are all over the place but at least one  source has Alabama and Ohio State at 5-2 odds, Clemson and Washington at 7-1, Houston and Louisville at 8-1, Michigan at 12-1 and Miami, Tennessee and Texas A&M at 20-1.

Forget about UofL getting to the ACC championship game. There’s just no way Clemson loses two more conference games. Louisville has to get back on the winning track and stay there, taking care of business against Houston and in the final home game against Kentucky.

Equally, if not more, important, Jackson must continue his record breaking pace. Along with that comes an immediate ratings boost for any network in a game in which he is involved.

He’s currently averaging 300.8 yards of total offense per game in his career, according to Dickey. He says Jackson is currently on pace to break the NCAA record of 63 total touchdowns in a season with 4:17 left in the second quarter vs. Kentucky on Nov. 26.

Louisville football approaches another crossroads

Another one of those “biggest games in University of Louisville football history” coming up Saturday. If UofL wins, there will be several more monster games this season, each bigger that the last.

The Cardinals are facing a Herculean challenge this weekend, facing a fifth-ranked Clemson team that has won 18 games in a row at home. The official capacity of Memorial Stadium is 81,500 but the stadium can accommodate close to 90,000 for a major showdown.

Why is Bobby Petrino smiling?
Why is Bobby Petrino smiling? (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

This game means everything to Clemson which came within five points of winning a national championship last season. The Tigers know what to expect, they will be highly motivated, and probably playing in front of a record crowd. They will be confident, charged up and expecting to win.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, once considered the hands-down favorite for Heisman Trophy, has something to prove, having been overshadowed by UofL’s Lamar Jackson during the first four games. Watson been in the national spotlight many times, and it’s proving time, he’s ready for his moment.

The time for wishful thinking, the coulda, woulda, and shouldas, are hopefully in the past.

The Cardinals rank first in scoring offense (63.9 points per game) and total offense (with 682 yards per game). Clemson, however, ranks among the top 10 in scoring defense (11.0 points), passing defense (125 yards) and is allowing only 92.7 yard rushing per game.

Louisville is currently ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll for the second week in a row. The last time UofL was ranked that high was in the poll following a Thursday night win over West Virginia at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2006. The Cardinals weren’t there long, losing a nailbiter the following week at Rutgers.

As much as this game means for Clemson, it means so much more to the University of Louisville. The media frenzy surrounding UofL will become even more insane if the Cardinals beat Clemson, starting out 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with wins against two teams ranked among the top five in the country.

Ten years between top five rankings is a long time, both times under Bobby Petrino’s leadership. An affirmation of Tom Jurich’s belief that Petrino is one of the best football coaches in the nation. UofL fans have seen a lot of ups and downs, not wanting to gamble on another decade.

Pardon us if we seem to be more than a little anxious about actually beating Clemson. Hard to act like one has been there before when we haven’t been there before.

The time for wishful thinking, coulda, woulda, and shoulda are hopefully in the past. The future is front of us. This Saturday at Clemson.

Schnellenberger sorry he left UofL, doubles down on prophesy

Howard Schnellenberger wants to see his prophesy fulbilled.
Howard Schnellenberger eager to see his prophesy fulfilled.

By Steve Springer

Every die-hard Card fan knows the infamous phrase that Coach Howard Schnellenberger termed during his introductory press conference when he was hired over 30 years ago. But in the event that this season’s unprecedented success and exposure has you donning the red tinted glasses, drinking the Kool-Aid and is consuming you and your bleeding Cardinal heart so much that you can’t think straight, here ya go:

“We’re on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time…”
              Howard Schnellenberger

A few months after this glorious prognostication, said coach made another impression on the writer of this article by trading hats with the then 10-year-old at his weekly radio show at W.W. Cousins on Breckenridge Lane. He left as much of a mark on that young fan as he did the University of Louisville’s football relevance and trajectory, so said fan grew up and felt that it was imperative to catch up with the legendary leader in south Florida and ask a few questions about this year’s magical ride.

The author, then 10 years old, gets an autograph from Schnellenberger in 1985.
The author, then 10 years old, gets an autograph from Schnellenberger in 1985.

When asked Monday about how he feels knowing that UofL is on the cusp of realizing the ultimate, Coach told me, “I’m delighted that they have exploded on the scene the way they have and to have the team prepared for the introduction of Action Jackson.” (Yes, Coach has jumped on the sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson hype train and is officially calling him Action Jackson). He even went as far as to call him the “Commander in Chief for the next two years” and a championship is “inevitable.”

After coining the infamous “collision course” comment, did he really feel like that was possible for a team that almost dropped football and was playing in a minor league baseball stadium in front of freebie-ticket fans? Or was he just appealing to the fan base to generate some excitement and interest in the program?

“I was appealing to my God Almighty, the students, the faculty, the staff, the basketball fans, and to the whole world that Louisville had the capability.

“I was appealing to my God Almighty, the students, the faculty, the staff, the basketball fans, and to the whole world that Louisville had the capability, and when we got the stadium it had the opportunity to become reality; it was the fulfillment of what the University of Louisville was destined to be.”

Why he came to the University of Louisville

When the USFL deal didn’t materialize, what peaked his interest or curiosity about the University of Louisville? Was it just wanting to come home, or was there more?

“It was a combination of a whole bunch of things. The fact that it was my hometown, I played and coached football in Kentucky, played football and basketball for Flaget High School, used to play St. X, Trinity, Manual” and went on to mention his “pipeline to the pro’s from south Florida and saw that that could be important to the scene.”

Continue reading “Schnellenberger sorry he left UofL, doubles down on prophesy”