Louisville football’s resurrection begins against lowly Kent State

The pain is still almost as acute today as it was immediately following  the University of Louisville football team’s humiliating loss to Clemson. The worst possible outcome for witnessed by a national TV audience. Thankfully most of the viewers probably switched channels before the fourth quarter.

The quest to regain credibility begins anew this weekend with a noon game against Kent State, one of the worse teams in college football. Under Paul Haines, who was out with an illness until last week, the Golden Flash is 1-2 this year and 13-35 over the last five seasons. They lost their starting quarterback with an ACL knee injury in the last game.

Not exactly the kind of opponent that commands respect for a UofL team that has provided more questions than answers.

UofL's running game has been disappointing because it largely consists of Jackson, Jackson and Jackson. No secret about what it takes to stop Louisville, just stop Jackson.

Even if UofL’s defense were to hold Kent State scoreless, it would be still suspect after giving up 110 points in the first three games. Opposing quarterbacks have moved the ball with ease with their passing, finding little resistance, keeping the Cardinals grabbing for air. Watch for Kent State to test the UofL corner backs and safeties early and often.

UofL’s running game has been disappointing because it largely consists of Jackson, Jackson and Jackson. No secret about what it takes to stop Louisville, just stop Jackson. He badly needs some help in the backfield and he’s not getting any from Reggie Bonnafon who has gained only 79 yards in 20 carries.

Until Coach Bobby Petrino gets past Bonnafon, there will be little assistance. Malik Williams provides Petrino with an excellent option if he chooses to take advantage, with the athleticism and escapability so badly needed. Possibly the worst thing that could happen would be for Bonnafon to have a field day against Kent State, delaying the inevitable move to Williams.

In a lot of ways UofL is almost starting all over again against Kent State, playing in one of those valleys that follow peak opportunities like the game against Clemson. That beating took a toll on the program and will be reflected in a light turnout, largely consisting of diehard fans and hard core tailgaters  this week.

Hard for even the diehards to get up early on a Saturday morning, start tailgating early, and get there in time for a Noon kickoff. Couldn’t be that much fun for the players, largely playing to get the coaches off their backs. But the fans have been there before many times, over several decades, knowing that progress for UofL football takes time. Lots and lots of time and patience. Enormous amounts actually.

Skies finally clear, Louisville shuts down Kent State 5-0

UofL fans line up outside Jim Patterson Stadium for a late night game.
UofL fans line up outside Jim Patterson Stadium for a late start in the NCAA.

University of Louisville baseball fans entering the stadium were greeted by lots of long faces from departing Kentucky fans. The start of first game was delayed by 20 minutes and interrupted by rain twice, dragging on interminably before UK drops a 10-6 decision to Kansas.

The worst possible exit for the fans in blue, headed for the losers’ bracket, unusually quiet, but Louisville fans, painstakingly polite, eager to get to their seats for the second game. Kyle Funkhouser would finally get to the mound around 9:20 p.m., over three hours past the scheduled start time.

But there were zero indications that the late start had any effect on Funkhouser who would allow only four hits while striking out 10 batters in eight innings in a 5-0 win over Kent State, improving his won-lost record to 13-2.

Louisville would jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning following a walk to Kyle Gibson, a single by Cole Stugeon, a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Solak. They would push runs two across after the Kent State shortstop fumbled an Alex Chittenden-hit ball.

At one point Fundhouser retired nine batters in a row, including 12 of 13 batters in the first four innings. He would give up a couple of hits in the eighth, but reliever Kyle McGrath, pitching in his second game since coming back from an injury, would shut down the Kent State bats.

The game would finally end at 12:18 a.m. Anthony Kidston, a sophomore right-hander with a 7-0 record, will start against Kansas at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Kent State-Kentucky game is set for 2 p.m.

Funkhouser on mound for Louisville in NCAA opener

Funkhouse Kyle Funkhouser, a  6-foot-2, 218-pound sophomore righthander, is on the mound as the University of Louisville baseball team pursues a third trip to the College World Series in seven years. Funkhouser set a single season school record for wins going 12-2 with a 1.74 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 99.1 innings and 15 starts. He was even more dominant in eight league starts, going 7-1 with a 0.99 ERA. 

UofL baseball not overlooking Kent State or Kansas

Dan McDonnell

The University of Kentucky baseball team was conducting practice at Jim Patterson Stadium but Louisville Coach Dan McDonnell says he hasn’t given much thought to a possible matchup with UK in the NCAA’s Louisville Region this weekend.

“The most important game we have is against Kent State,” he said during a press conference. “It’s the game of the moment. There is no other game.

“We’ve getting a lot of questions about possible match ups but there’s no guarantee we’re playing one of other two teams on the other side (of the bracket). And there’s a good chance we won’t. In just about every regional we host, there’s one team we don’t play.  Right now Kent State’s the team. They went to Omaha a few years ago.

“As coaches and players, we have to focus on Kent State. I don’t see a bigger game than that. We hope to be in the winners bracket but I can’t hope, predict or want to play another team.  Both of those teams (UK and Kansas) are really good. One of them is our rival, the other we haven’t played.”

McDonnell added that Kansas is really excited about playing in the Regional and reminds him a lot of his first UofL team that went to the College World Series in 2007. “Kansas is super excited about being here and you’ve got to be careful with teams like that. You can’t overlook any team in the NCAA.”

Louisville baseball regional includes a Lexington team

The good news is that the University of Louisville baseball team will be hosting an NCAA Regional this weekend at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The not-so-good news is that Kentucky has been invited, too, bringing with it the sideshow atmosphere that always accompanies the UofL-UK rivalry, including the Kentucky followers.

Louisville’s goal is always to return to the College World Series. But when these two schools get together, often it’s not as much about being the better team as it is about the angst that exists between the programs.  Just keeping the the other school from advancing becomes a major issue.

Kent State, the team UofL meets in the opening round at 6 p.m. Friday, and Kansas, which plays UK earlier at 2 p.m., won’t have the emotional involvement and can focus solely on baseball.

UofL lost two games to the Wildcats during the regular season with freshman Josh Rogers on the hill in both games. Hopefully, a couple of the Louisville front liners — like Kyle Funkhouser, Jared Ruxer or Anthony Kidston — will be available if they meet again next weekend.

Not looking ahead or past anyone but a matchup is inevitable.