Stormy weather not that bad, Louisville football pummels Syracuse

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander embrace after hooking up on a 72-yard touchdown pass play in the second quarter (lead photo). Stormy weather (above) but not the terror the TV weather guys were forecasting (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).
Lamar Jackson prepares to enter Cardinal Stadium for what was what probably the final home game of his career at the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Nothing could have come close to the scary weather predictions made by Louisville’s TV forecasters during the days leading up to the UofL-Syracuse football game.  A possible storm of the decade it seemed and it was going to be confined to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The first thing to remember is that wind, rain and/or snow make for great football, creating great memories for the players and fans. The second is that the forecasts are going to be exaggerated, never matching the intensity of the people making them.

As a result lots of loyal UofL football fans were scared off Saturday, not venturing out of their comfort zones. Amazing that some 34,265 were there to enjoy one of Louisville’s most dominant games of the season, a 56-10 win over Syracuse.

Lamar Jackson is the first to congratulate Malik Williams on his 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Nothing special, Cardinal fans have seen much, much worse. The most loyal, the ones who chose to endure the elements, were rewarded Saturday with the honor of seeing what may have been quarterback Lamar Jackson’s final home game at PJCS.

Just another in many big games for him — 230 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 120 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Lamar Jackson earned legendary status during his three seasons at UofL.

All the numbers, all the touchdowns, all the memorable moments, probably never to be repeated again by anyone anywhere. Absolutely impossible to exaggerate all that he has accomplished. 

Senior running back Malik Williams, happy to be taking the ball from Jackson, having his best game ever in his final home game — 180 yards rushing, including two touchdowns, including a 46-yard TD on the second play of the game, and a 56-yard run on another play.

Reggie Bonnafon getting a hug from Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra during Senior Day ceremonies (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Senior Reggie Bonnafon, also playing in his last game at PJCS, continuing to play wherever he was needed, today as a running back and kick returner. He would score two touchdowns in the second quarter — his first on a 33-yard, the second on a 34-yard pass from Jackson.

What a performance from the UofL defense, holding Syracuse to 197 yards rushing and 138 yards passing. Freshman Dorian Etheridge in on 11 tackles, including five solo’s. Senior linebacker Stacy Thomas and freshman C.J. Avery in on seven tackles. Make a note and look ahead, two freshmen for 18 tackles, more to come.

Such an enjoyable game to watch, having learned over the years how to survive the elements at Louisville football games. Great to see the defense emerge from invisibility to becoming an effective force. Nice to once again pummel Syracuse, one of those schools that would have left UofL in a lesser conference.  

We’ve run out of football Saturdays again in Louisville, they always seem to go so quickly. Especially when the Cardinals are playing like they were the last two games.

Tom Jurich should be there for first game in expanded PCJS

Tom Jurich watches as his son, Mark, announces the Thornton’s sponsorship of the Academic Center in 2013 (Charlie Springer photos).

The massive edifice of the north end zone expansion at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is impressive. Even more so under the lights during a recent home game. A striking preview into the future of University of Louisville football.

When viewing the concrete and steel framework, it’s impossible not to think about Tom Jurich’s impact on the University.  Making UofL athletics nationally competitive in almost every sport, consistently among the top 20 in basketball, baseball, soccer and football.

One has to regret that Tom, who had the vision and the optimism to tackle the project, will probably not be on hand for the official opening on the stadium, which is scheduled Sept. 9, 2018.

Of all the projects TJ has undertaken, this may have been the one he wanted the most. The expansion will be a stunning addition to the stadium,  with the addition of 10,000 seats, including 1,000 club seats, 70 premium boxes and 12 exclusive field-level suites.

One is optimistic that Tom’s son, Mark Jurich, will be an integral part of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and for the opening home game. Tom had put him in charge of the project, fundraising and all, and he appears to be right on target in terms of fundraising and construction.

What would make the event even more special would be for Tom Jurich there as well. Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra has said Tom is a good friend and he greatly admires what he accomplished at UofL. Tyra should do everything he can do to make that happen.

Hell week ends for Louisville with win over Florida State

Plenty of accolades to go around following the University of Louisville football team’s 31-28 win over Florida State Saturday at Tallahassee:

— Kicker Blanton Creque for that 34-yard field goal with five seconds left on the clock. First game winner ever for him in the closing seconds. More than making up for a dud at the end of the first half.

— Running back Dae Williams finally making it into the backfield after recovering from an injury that kept him on the bench for most of the season. The freshman scoring his first touchdown on a 25-yard dash in the third quarter. The long wait for him finally over.

— Running back Reggie Bonnafon in one of his better offensive performances, 74 yards rushing and a two-yard touchdown. Never flashy but never to be counted out.

— Cornerback Trumaine Washington intercepting two Florida State passes, including that one he returned 22 yards in the second quarter leading to a UofL touchdown in the second quarter. Finally making an opposing quarterback pay, twice even.

— Quarterback Lamar Jackson, of course, rushing for 178 yards and a touchdown while passing for an additional 156 yards and another touchdown. The exceptional becoming the expected.

— Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon for a noticeable improvement in his defensive unit’s tackling, holding Florida State’s offense to 155 yards rushing. Earning a reprieve from the boo birds for at least six days.

— Junior linebacker Isaac Stewart in on nine tackles, including five solo tackles. Emerging from the pack, providing much needed leadership. Goodbye obscurity.

— Coach Bobby Petrino winning his second game in four tries against Florida State. First win in Tallahassee for the Cardinals since Johnny U in 1952. His offense at times more closely resembling Bobby 1.0 this day.

Down goes Florida State again, ending the week from hell for Louisville fans. Needed that one.

No stopping Boston College for UofL’s leaky defense

Louisville’s defensive line needed lots of help from linebacker Dorian Etheridge (17). He would make nine solo tackles and get five assists (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith finally back in action, with 118 yards on six catches.

Wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick as good as ever, turning seven catches into 127 yards, including a touchdown.

Running back Reggie Bonnafon actually breaking loose for a 64-yard touchdown.

Lamar Jackson tossed for three touchdowns and ran for two others (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson living up to his reputation, with more amazing stats, including 181 yards and three touchdowns rushing, 323 yards and two touchdowns passing.

Some nice offensive stats, just not enough of them.

The University of Louisville’s offense could still be putting up points but there would never be enough. The defense was incapable of stopping Boston College, the Cardinals losing 45-42 in a three-ring offensive circus before 44,679 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

UofL’s defense remained as porous as always, seemingly unable to stop anyone on the first tackle attempt, usually on the second or third attempt. Not a pretty picture, foreshadowing visions of even more dismal performances in the weeks ahead against stronger opponents.

The exception was UofL linebacker Dorian Etheridge, the 6-foot-3 freshman winding up with nine solo tackles and five assists.

Jaylen Smith’s joyous return would be spoiled by a fumble following a catch with less than two minutes remaining at UofL’s 30-yard line. Just a matter of time, Boston College wasn’t going to be denied, converting a 27-yard field goal for the win in the closing seconds.

Boston College’s first Atlantic Coast Conference win since 2014, Louisville’s third ACC loss in four games this season. More than likely, it’s going to get uglier before it gets better for UofL football. Prepare yourself.

Sure wins have disappeared from UofL football schedule

The game at North Carolina State was expected to provide a barometer of where the University of Louisville stands in the college football landscape. The conclusion following a 39-25 thrashing is not deniable, that the Cardinals are close to being on life support.

Unfortunately UofL has few offensive options than Lamar Jackson in the running game and it’s finally catching up with the Cardinals (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

An embarrassing offensive performance, with UofL leaning heavily on quarterback Lamar Jackson for everything but returning kickoffs and punts. Jackson running for 102 of Louisville’s 119 rushing yards and passing for 354 yards.

The offensive line, which was supposed to be improved, has yet to arrive, giving up four Jackson sacks and losses for 30 yards. Making it even more difficult for running back Malik Williams and Reggie Bonnafon, getting only 10 handoffs for 44 yards between them.

What once appeared to be a light football schedule has become a barricade.

UofL’s passing defense is almost non-existent as well, consistently giving up 300 yards through the air to four Power Five opponents. Scenes of UofL defenders flailing at receivers, allowing opponents to march down the field at ease, have become commonplace.

Jackson, who was supposed to be older and smarter, is older but his decisions aren’t getting any better. Those short bullet passes to receivers aren’t any easier to handle and the overthrows down field are becoming more frequent. He completed only 26 of 48 passing attempts against NC State.

One want to give him credit for hanging on to the ball, with no fumbles, but that one interception in the fourth quarter was a game clincher for the Wolfpack. By then UofL was totally predictable and a pick six was inevitable.

What once appeared to be a light football schedule is now a barricade. The immediate future littered with “formidable” opponents like Boston College, Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse and Kentucky. None of them no longer considered sure wins.