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.”

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LSU job open again, but Bobby Petrino ‘not interested’

Bobby Petrino flattered but he has a better job at Louisville.
Bobby Petrino not wasting any time addressing LSU job vacancy this time around.

Bobby Petrino addressed the coaching vacancy at LSU at his first opportunity, the Monday afternoon press conference for University of Louisville football:

“I’m not interested in going anywhere. I’m very fortunate to be the head coach here at the University of Louisville, very happy about that, very glad I have the support of our athletic director Tom Jurich. We were able to sit down last year and do a new contract. We’re going to expand the stadium. We’re coming off one of the greatest crowds and Card Marches I’ve been around (at the Florida State game). We feel like we’ve got everything going in the right direction.

LSU officials reportedly considered Petrino the last time the job was vacant.

“This is the job I want. This is where I’m going to be.

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UofL fans converge en masse at Huntington

The sweltering heat of Indian Summer encompassed Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, WV on Saturday evening, as the faithful fans of the Louisville Cardinals arrived with one goal in mind: cheering their Cards onto victory against the Marshall Thundering Herd. For this reason, they journeyed the three-hour drive down I-64 East to arrive in time to attend tailgate parties and prime themselves for their mission.

UofL fan Cindy Sturgill was in the crowd of 40,592, second largest ever at a Marshall home game.
UofL fan Cindy Sturgill was in the crowd of 40,592, second largest ever at a Marshall home game.

Parking lots were dotted with red canopies directing us to where our fans were located. Under one such canopy, I had the pleasure of speaking with Linda and Jerry Oliver, and Susan and Steve Franklin. Both couples have been Cards fans for many years. What makes this year unique for them is, as Susan proudly announced, “It’s a bucket list item for this season for us to attend every single game, both home and away. So far, so good!”

Another canopy was home camp for a group of U of L medical students. Complete with chicken wings and a cooler, these young men were ready for the game to begin. “Saturday’s for the boys!” exclaimed Madison Seay, as they raised their drinks in anticipation of the celebration they would experience with another win.

The most memorable story came from the canopy housing a diverse group of both Cards and Herd fans. This gathering was organized by Thundering Herd fans and Huntington natives, Scott and Parker Ward. These brothers shared with us that they had lost a family member who was on that fateful flight in November 1970 when Southern Airways flight 932 carrying the Marshall football team and entourage crashed moments before reaching the runway.

 Nata Sellus, Marlena Sellus and George Gambol were more than ready to devour Marshall. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)
Nata Sellus, Marlena Sellus and George Gambol were tailgating long and hard. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)

Amidst a sea of green, waves of Cardinal Red were prevalent throughout the stands. Undaunted by the thunderous home crowd, shouts of “C-A-R-D-S, CARDS!” were heard just as easily as “We Are Marshall!”

As the game ensued and the point spread widened, the green in the stands became sparse. The Cards fans remained on their feet for most of the game, staying until the final siren sounded, keeping their team focused on the mission: Beat Marshall. Mission accomplished.

Joining a group of UofL tailgaters were Scott and Parker Ward (far left in green) who lost a brother in the Marshall airplane tragedy in 1970.
Joining a group of UofL tailgaters were Scott and Parker Ward (far left in green) who lost a brother in the Marshall airplane tragedy in 1970.

One writer not hopping on UofL football bandwagon just yet

Editor’s Note:  I don’t know the writer Steven Callahan or agree with his opinions. And he wouldn’t provide a bio or a photo. However, his views may provide some balance to some of the unbridled confidence in the local media over the past week.

Every year a college football team rolls to an impressive win early in the season and everyone quickly jumps on their bandwagon.  The formula is usually the same. Said team, thought to be decent, but not great, gets a victory that looks like a marquee win, while being led by a proposed stud player and everyone goes crazy.  The team falters at some point and is not a threat for the rest of the season.  This season that team could be the Louisville Cardinals.

Card March before the dismantling of Florida State. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)
Card March before the dismantling of Florida State. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)

The college football world has gone crazy after UofL whipped Florida State 63-20.  In Las Vegas, quarterback Lamar Jackson is now the odds on favorite to win the Heisman and Louisville is suddenly a solid bet to take home the National Championship. The Cardinals jumped from tenth to third in the latest polls, their highest ranking since Britney Spears and Kevin Federline were still considered news.

Add to that, Louisville is favored BIG to win all of its remaining games (well over 90% chance for all but two) and they are also favored, just not as big, in the two games they have against ranked opponents (at Clemson and at Houston) The college football world has gone crazy for a team that will clearly fall short for some very obvious reasons.

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