Louisville off to fast start against Western Kentucky

Official attendance was 22,665 for the Louisville-Western Kentucky game in Nashville (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

So much for a neutral site location for the resumption of the University of Louisville-Western Kentucky football series. Not the best atmosphere for a game with 22,665 fans rattling around in Nissan Stadium. Suspense over early with UofL taking a commanding lead in the first half, then sleepwalking in the second half to a 38-21 conclusion.

One suspects the series– with UofL hosting the game next season, and WKU the following year — was a result of Louisville hiring Bobby Petrino away from the Bowling Green school a few years ago. The question is who was really doing who a favor. Neither fan base apparently that interested in going to Nashville.

Tutu Atwell scoring the first of his three touchdowns, including distances of 9, 46 and 62 yards (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Louisville getting off to an impressive start, with quarterback Malik Cunningham connecting with Tutu Atwell on nine and 46 yards for the first two touchdowns. Followed by a 20-yard touchdown by Javian Hawkins and a 30-yard sprint by Rodjay Burns after a fumble recovery. Up 31-7 at the half.

Lamar Jackson jerseys are a popular choice among Louisville fans (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Maybe taking WKU for granted as third quarter begins, giving the Hilltoppers false hopes, letting them hang around.  Not respecting the opponent, blowing a chance to get better, which was needed with the first ACC game a week away.

There was, however, one play that buoyed the outlook for UofL football down the road. That being, of course, that 62-yard pass play from freshman Evan Conley to Atwell, his first pass ever as a Louisville quarterback. Such a beautiful spiral, the likes of which UofL has not seen for a few years.

Malik Cunningham winning his first game as a starting quarterback at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A surprise appearance by Conley following an injury to Malik Cunningham in the third quarter. The freshman showing exceptional confidence and accuracy, completing two of three attempts for 86 yards. Cunningham, meanwhile, good for eight of 13 for 119 yards.

Three games in, Louisville football looking much improved over last season. The ultimate testing begins next week with opening of conference play against Florida State. No danger of UofL players not respecting the Seminoles. Ever.

Win No. 1 for Satterfield, and not your granddad’s UofL fans

Marshon Ford, a redshirt freshman from Ballard, scores his first of two UofL touchdowns on a five-yard pass from Jason Pass(Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Good times coming.

Every game a measuring stick for the University of Louisville football program, even against a third-year rebuilding program like Eastern Kentucky University. No shortcuts in reconstructing a program, but UofL showed undeniable promise in crushing EKU 42-0.

A crowd of 48,808 fans showing up for a game against Eastern Kentucky (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The win possibly indicating that the road back to respectability may not be quite as difficult as originally anticipated. At least it seemed that way to the many of the optimistic UofL fans in the crowd of 48,808 at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. The turnout almost as impressive as the margin of victory.

Not the old days for Cardinal fans when five or six straight UofL losses would have been punished with a half-empty stadium. The Louisville faithful obviously seeing something they liked in the loss to Notre Dame, expecting the Cardinals to be ready to handle a lower-tier opponent. Ready for a win and they would not be disappointed.

Jawon Pass needing a game with an FCS opponent to gain some confidence. Getting off to a confusing start, quickly throwing two touchdown passes in the first quarter. But struggling the rest of the first half, including an interception . He would, however, make up for slow start in the third quarter, with two more touchdown passes. He would complete 12 of 19 for the game.

Hassan Hall back in the end zone in the third quarter, giving UofL a 35-0 lead (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

If Pass needed any more motivation, all he needed to see was Malik Cunningham competing his first pass for 35 yards in the third quarter and running for 28-yard touchdown on his fourth play from scrimmage. Clearly still substantial competition for that starting quarterback spot.

Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall taking up the slack between touchdown passes with 129 and 68 rushing yards, respectively. Seemingly contradictory but Louisville has an exceptional running game between all the touchdown passes.

And how about that UofL defense, giving up only 130 yards rushing and 42 yards through the air. Louisville hasn’t had a defense that motivated since the Charlie Strong days four years ago. Virtually the same defensive people from last season’s team but demonstrating how vital good coaching is to rebuilding a successful program.

Much more to do, but there’s nothing better than a win in the short term. Win No. 1 in the first of many for Scott Satterfield.

Louisville football is suddenly fun again

The Unversity of Louisville football team gave fans reasons to be optimistic about the future direction of the program (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of the biggest games in University of Louisville football history, with a new coach and a new attitude, accompanied by Notre Dame’s first ever visit to Louisville.

Lots of questions, mucho suspense, with Coach Scott Satterfield on the sidelines for the first time. Would the program begin the road back to respectability or linger in the wasteland created by the former mentor. A 35-17 loss to the Irish would certainly make one wonder.

Quarterback Jawon Pass celebrates with teammates after scoring his second touchdown, giving UofL a brief lead over the nation’s ninth-ranked team (Cindy Rice Sullivan phot).

The Observer is thrilled to report that Louisville is back on the right track again and few people in the record crowd of 58,187 would disagree, including the approximately 7,000 Notre Dame fans. The Cardinals arrived ready to rumble, maintaining their intensity during adversity, competing until the final whistle.

A red sea of humanity for the first Card March of the 2019 season.

As did the vast majority of UofL fans, hanging around long after the game had been decided. Basketball may be the dominant sport but football will always be the fun sport. The fans emerging from the shadows after a season from Hell, desperate for new signs of life from their favorite team.

No Louisville fan will ever be happy with a loss and this was no exception. UofL would in the game until the final seconds of the first half, until quarterback Jawon Pass would fumble on three consecutive plays. Should have been a 14-14 tie at the half, but those miscues opened the door for Notre Dame’s seven-point lead at the half.

Except for that disastrous series of plays, UofL looked like a team primed for a possible upset. The kind of win that speeds up the rejuvenation process, sending a charge through the fan base. Not to be. But plenty about which to be optimistic, with Louisville actually outgaining an opponent on the ground (249 to 230) for the first time since the Lamar Jackson era.

Serious questions remain about UofL’s passing game, with Pass completing only 12 of 28 passes for 134 yards. That has got to get better. But Pass was improved in other phases of his game, scoring two touchdowns on runs of eight and 17 yards. Nice to have some contributions from running backs from the running backs, with Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall gaining 128 yards and 72 yards, respectively.

Scott Satterfield said afterwards that the team is going to keep improving, getting much better, and is ready to compete. Any UofL fan who saw the improvement from last season to now would have to agree. Louisville football has a future again.

Louisville football always a good excuse for a party

Forgive me for being ecstatic but another September has arrived. Another academic year at the University of Louisville, nine months of athletic competition … college football, basketball, baseball and soccer, et al. Making up for lost times over another long summer.

Kicking things off with a reunion of fellow UofL fans at Cardinal Stadium. The partying season on again, tens of thousands of fans converging in the parking lots, in the VIP suites and at the Cardinal Cabooses. Tailgating is back. Good friends, enjoying great food and beverages, many catching up with each other for the first time since the end of last season.

Vince Tyra hooks up with tailgaters at Harry’s Hangout in the former Green Lot. From left are Michelle Mitchell, Barbara Springer, Paula Derringer, Ginny Staley and Candy Cook.

Over at Harry’s Hangout in the newly-named Purple Lot (formerly the Green Lot), David Derringer and friends are erecting the canopies, lighting the grill, turning up the speakers, and preparing for another major feast and endless toasts and poppers. They’ve been getting together for more than a decade now, doing what they enjoy the most. Hell, it’s UofL and it’s UofL football, the place to be.

Louisville fans like to party, nobody has ever questioned that. But they are especially enthusiastic about celebrating at UofL events. It’s UofL against the world, as far as they are concerned, having gone through so much hell together the last three or four years. But it’s so much more than that, knowing how far the University has come over the decades despite many obstacles.

Progress has been driven by a number of UofL leaders over the years. Not the least of which was Howard Schnellenberger who dared dream of a national title in football. Former athletic director Bill Olsen introduced the notion of tailgating at the Fairgrounds, hired Schnellenberger, and built a football stadium on Belknap Campus Olsen’s successor, Tom Jurich, adding many more facilities, getting the University of Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Thanks to Jurich’s efforts, the University of Louisville opens the 2019 season with a bigger than life opening game against Notre Dame. A concept that would have been considered inconceivable a decade ago. UofL standing shoulder to shoulder with one of the richest traditions in college football. No matter the game turns out, it is an historic occasion for UofL fans.

Vince Tyra taking a business and fan-friendly approach, bringing ambitions of his own for UofL athletics, starting with the return-to-red seats. He has hired a young new coach in Scott Satterfield, trusting he will return Louisville football to national respect all over again.

Nobody from UofL is expecting a win against the Irish although many fans may be quietly hoping for some sort of miracle. It is a time for celebration because the hopes of Louisville partisans have been realized. They dared dream of days like these, like they did for their own stadium and wins in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl. They dared to dream and, unbelievably in some cases, many of the dreams came true. Don’t tell a UofL fan something can’t happen because it does, more often than not.

Still a way to go for Louisville football. Well, actually some lost ground to make up after last season, but UofL fans are a hardy lot. Nothing has ever come easy for them. Much of the fun is in the journey, and it could be argued that the program is starting all over again.

That’s okay. UofL fans have been there, done that, and they’re ready to do it all over again. No matter how long it takes.

Vince Tyra: Louisville football ready to win again

Thomas Jackson, a senior wide receiver, and Luke Massad, a senior long snapper, enjoyed the kickoff luncheon at a table with University of Louisville fans.

“It’s another day, it’s another season, and in the spirt of looking forward and not looking back at last year, this has been a traditional winning football program and it will remain a winning program.”

Vince Tyra enters the 2019 season with high expectations for the UofL football team under Scott Satterfield.

With that promise, Athletic Director Vince Tyra greeted a crowd of between 1,400 and 1,500 fans during the University of Louisville’s annual Kickoff Luncheon on Monday at the Downtown Marriott Inn. A crowd wanting to put last season in the past, eager to write some new chapters in UofL football.

“Winning in the classroom, winning in the community, and winning on the field are key attributes of this program and this athletic department,” he continued. “We have hungry players who are ready to go. They’re talented,  they’re ready to be competitive today. Right now. They are anxious to show you the real them. The players believe they are ready, and so do I.”

Not sure who Tyra was seeking to persuade the most, the coaches, the players, the fans or himself. But he certainly wanted everyone to know he is setting the bar high for Louisville football, even during a rebuilding year. A year after everybody gave up on each other in one of the most disappointing football seasons ever.

“The key to leadership is the transfer of beliefs and values to those you are leading, essential to the culture we have created in the athletic department and which Coach Scott Satterfield has created in our football program,” Tyra continued.

“The transferring of beliefs is contagious. We are seeing our players infect each other on a daily basis with a positive approach — otherwise known as attitude and effort. It has been a tremendous eight months getting to know Coach Satterfield, his family and a terrific staff he has assembled. I bought into his leadership and program attributes last December and I am going to be committed to working my butt off to make him successful.”

Tyra believes something special is happening with Louisville football, noting that season ticket sales are up by more than 2,000 seats and rising. “The fans play a key role,” he concluded. “We need to you create that home field advantage. The players won’t let us down, they are going to lift us up, and we’ll see you at Cardinal Stadium on Sept. 2.”

Losing is not an option for Vince Tyra.