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.

Squirrel steals spotlight, but Louisville football pummels Kent State

This touchdown reception from Lamar Jackson to Javonte Bagley moved Jackson past Chris Redman on the all-time scoring list with 88 touchdowns.  In the top photo, Malik Williams scores the first of his touchdowns in the first quarter (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

The lasting memory for most fans who attended the University of Louisville-Kent State football game will be of the squirrel showing up around the 50 yard line late in the second quarter. With nobody bothering to challenge it, the rodent would scamper 50 yards to the end zone.

Stopping to catch its breath or bask in the admiration, the creature draws the only roar of the day from the crowd of 47,812 at Cardinal Stadium. It then wanders over to the Kent State sideline where it is cornered and bagged by the grounds’ crew for second loudest cheer of the day.

Trumaine Washington has been picked on a lot by opposing quarterbacks this season. Not on Saturday, however, intercepting a Kent State pass for a 39-yard touchdown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Coming on a day when Lamar Jackson would be out-gained on the ground for the first time in his college career in a 42-3 win over Kent State. Not by the squirrel but by senior teammate Malik Williams who had 51 yards rushing while Jackson chalked up only 41 on the ground.

Remains to be seen, however, whether Williams’ performance on Saturday moves him past Reggie Bonnafon in the pecking order. Williams would be good for two touchdowns, on runs of 3 and 33 yards while pulling down four passes for 43 yards. Bonnafon, meanwhile, had 18 yards rushing and 30 yards on two receptions.

Lamar Jackson getting UofL in the end zone for the 88th time, setting an all-time record and bypassing Chris Redman in the record books (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of Jackson’s better days throwing the football, completing 18 of 22 attempt for 299 yards. Think maybe that’s what his Coach Bobby Petrino demanded on him, stand in the pocket, do those progressions, and be accurate. Best percentage ever but one of those misses was an interception.

Hard to draw any conclusions about improvements against one of the most challenged teams in college football, but Kent State’s 11 passing yards were fewest allowed by Louisville since Western Kentucky University was held to 10 yards in 1989. The Cardinals allowed Kent State only 10 yards rushing and recorded 14 tackles for loss Saturday.

The face Kent State will see in their nightmares for a few days will be that of UofL freshman linebacker Dorian Etheridge, who was in on nine tackles, including nine solo hits.

As for the squirrel, it was not available for comment after the game, having been escorted to Belknap Campus to join his many buddies there.

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.

Outlook suddenly not so brilliant for Louisville football

Bobby Petrino and Lamar Jackson lead Card March into Cardinal Stadium on a day that began as early as 4:30 a.m. for some fans, especially those who wanted to participate in ESPN’s Game Day programming at Belknap Campus (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Sunday was supposed to be a day following the University of Louisville’s first win over Clemson, a time to celebrate another milestone, breaking into the nation’s top 10, and igniting talk of college playoff possibilities all over again.

Seems like some disillusion and wishful thinking now following a 47-21 beating in which Clemson dominated Louisville in all phases of the game before a crowd of 55,582 fans at Cardinal Stadium, the second largest attended game in UofL football history.

Lamar Jackson finds some rare running room in the third quarter (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambling and hemmed in most of the night, unable to connect with his favorite receivers when it counted. Throws to Jaylen Smith bouncing off his fingers or his chest much of the night. Des Fitzpatrick covered up, hard to find. Both would eventually score but not before the game was well out of reach.

None of those exciting way-down-the-field passes for Jackson in this game. The only thing that seemed to work, and dismally at that, were numerous sideline passes, resulting in only three or four yards at best. One is in trouble when that is the best available option.

The crowd of 55,580 was the second largest in UofL football history (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Reggie Bonnafon still struggling to gain any traction at running back, seemingly running in slow motion. Forget about reckless abandon for Bonnafon, and he’s not a point of emphasis for opposing coaches. Managing only 17 yards in his four carries. Malik Williams clearly the better option, picking up 39 yards in six run and 36 more on three pass receptions. But Bobby Petrino is sticking with Bonnafon until he is forced to make a change.

Reminiscent of days of old, Clemson making it look so easy. Louisville’s passing defense has been abused since the opening game against Purdue, and it’s only getting worse. Mindful of the Kragthorpian days with opposing quarterbacks getting all the time they need to find open receivers all over the field.

The one-sided loss capable of robbing fans of much of the optimism for the season. The immediate outlook ho-hum with noon kickoffs against Kent State and Murray State over the next two weeks. No disrespect but it’s pretty hard to get excited for the no-names, whether one is a fan or a player.

Making UofL football fun again has to begin sometime. There are five weeks before the Cardinals line up against Florida State in Tallahassee. Lots of time to get better, make the season meaningful again.