Youth is an excuse for a while but it gets old quickly.
What a difference between the first and second halves for the University of Louisville defense, going from dominating the Florida State offense in the first half to getting flattened by the same unit in the second half.
The lasting impression from the first 30 minutes was that of a very aggressive UofL football team that had FSU quarterback Everett Golson running for cover. The kind of defense Louisville fans had been expecting from this year’s team, holding Florida State to zero net rushing yards and two field goals.
The letdown was so pronounced that it makes one wonder what may have occurred during the locker room at the intermission. More likely the UofL players were congratulating themselves, expecting more of the same in the second half but losing their edge, forgetting what gave their team a 7-6 lead at the half. Or maybe they were just spent, having exerted so much energy on a hot, muggy day in Tallahassee.
What they demonstrated in the first half was that this is a Louisville team with the potential to compete with top-level teams, playing inspired football, looking like a team capable of running the table the rest of the way. Unfortunately, they gave the impression in the second half that they will be lucky to achieve a winning record this season, much less getting to a bowl game.
Before writing off the rest of the season, however, one should acknowledge that Florida State is a good team with superior athletes, making the adjustments it needed to make in the second half. Dalvin Cook will definitely be playing on Sundays in the NFL, making some professional athletes look inept as well. Expect Florida State to have its way with Clemson and again go undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
Louisville, meanwhile, needs to get over that second half and focus on what is possible. Except for that second half against FSU, UofL was getting better in every game, in a position to win each of them.
What appears to be lacking right now is the kind of vocal leadership provided by players like Lorenzo Mauldin. Someone who set the example, giving everything he had and more, putting his body on the line, demanding his teammates do the same. Those leaders will have to surface this week if they are going to emerge.
Bobby Petrino should have the video for the first 30 minutes of the Florida State game running non-stop in the locker room this week. That’s the kind of effort he needs from this Louisville football team. But for 60 minutes. Every game.