Vegas oddsmakers not giving Louisville football enough credit

Can’t say it often enough: Saturdays are fun again for Cardinal fans.

Pretty clear after the University of Louisville football team’s 62-59 win over Wake Forest on Saturday that UofL is much further along than anyone expected at this point in Coach Scott Satterfield’s first season.

Satterfield and his staff have done an unbelievable job of refocusing this team from top to bottom, teaching and motivating the players, instilling in them a collective desire to win. Then they go out there and compete, winning four of their first six games, outscoring the top two offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference two weeks in a row.

Coach Scott Satterfield

“Coming in, we thought we had some good receivers and running backs, which I thought was going to be a plus for us,” said Satterfield at his Monday press conference. “I’m pleased with the way our offensive line has come around, which has been a plus. We have to get better defensively.”

The staff and players obviously have much more work to do on defense but nobody doubts that they are committed. Based on improvements in other area’s of the team’s development, don’t  be surprised to see similar improvement on that side of the ball.

Now comes the supreme test for this team, lining up against nationally second-ranked Clemson next Saturday at Cardinal Stadium for a noon kickoff. Clemson has won 21 games in a row, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers have the visiting Tigers a 21-point favorite.

The oddsmakers unable to get past Clemson’s 77-16 demolishing of Louisville last season under totally different circumstances. UofL was unable to stop anybody last season. Not expecting UofL to put up much of a fight for some reason.

If Louisville has accomplished anything during the first six games, it is that this team is not going to roll over for anybody.  The times, they are a-changing.

Community names field for UofL stats legend Al Benninger

Al Benninger, a long-time statistician for University of Louisville athletics and a UofL fan for even longer honored for his 30 years of service to the metro parks community.

Al Benninger is one of the most familiar faces along press row at University of Louisville athletic events, having served as a statistician for UofL basketball and football teams for four decades.  What’s less commonly known is that Benninger is a legend in the seniors softball community.

Al Benninger was a pitcher, coach and commissioner for the senior softball league. He is retiring this year at the age of 93. (Charlie Springer photos)

Benninger, 93 years old, had such an impact on the sport that the softball field at Camp Taylor Park was recently named Al Benninger Field. He helped to start the Seniors Softball League as a player and coach in 1990 at the age of 64  before becoming Commissioner for the next 19 years.

Al Benninger Field is located on Poplar Road near the Watterson Expressway.

Along the way Benninger also served as a coach, organizer, statistician and spokesman for the league. The league has grown from four teams in 1990 to 16 teams, largely consisting of players 60 years of age and older. The 60 and over teams compete on Tuesday, and 70 and over squads play on Thursdays during the summer..

The sign on the first base fence designating the new Al Benninger Field at Camp Tayor Park.

Many of the Benninger’s teammates, fans and admirers were on hand for the recent ceremony, including Metro Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Kenny Klein,  UofL sports information director, Anthony Williams, of the parks department, and Gary Rodemeier, retired WHAS newsman and a current coach and player in the league.

“I was overwhelmed by all the attention,” said Benninger, who announced his retirement after this season. “I never dreamed they would name the field after me.”

Benninger, who still regularly attends UofL women’s softball games, started playing softball when he was 28 years old. “I thought I would play maybe five years,” he said. “Never did I think I would be playing for 50 more years.”

He especially enjoyed playing and managing in the senior leagues because the league enabled him to meet many new friends and providing great camradery. “Most of my high school buddies are no longer around. It has been a lot of fun and some great memories.”

Equally satisfying was his career as a UofL statistician before retiring in 2006. The UofL stats crew has done the NCAA Final Four every year starting in 1969. “They liked our work and we’ve been doing it every since,” he said.

Benninger may be retiring but don’t be surprised if he is in the stands at the games next summer. He has rarely missed a UofL game since he retired from there, and he will always be welcome at Al Benninger Field.

Al Benninger and the observer, Charlie Springer, converse at home plate at Al Benninger Field.

Louisville football survives game of unbridled offense

University of Louisville running back Javian Hawkins has a productive day with 177 yards rushing, 13 yards passing and a touchdown (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one expected the road back to respectability for University of Louisville football to be easy. Too much ground to make up after being so far down.

Case  in point that cliffhanger of a 41-39 win for UofL over Boston College in front of a crowd of 46,007 at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. An outcome still much in doubt after Blanton Creque makes good on a 41-yard field goal and a two-point lead for UofL at the 1:02 mark.

An eventful week for Malik Cunningham who would choose to be called Micale, pass for 288 yards, run for 43 yards and account for two touchdowns (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

That play setting the stage for what would have been a heartbreaking finish. UofL badly needing a win after nine straight ACC losses since 2019. Another conference loss and UofL will be saddled with the ACC record. A collective sigh of relief  after the Cardinals give up eight shots but somehow containing the Eagles within their own 46-yard line.

A. J. Dillon, the human tank who ran for 272 yards against UofL two seasons ago, would be stopped for no gain the one time he carries the ball in that final minute. Not quite the same force he was in 2017 but still good for 118 yards on Saturday.

Blanton Creque is hoisted on teammates’ shoulders after kicking winning field goal (UofL football photo).

“None of these wins are going to be easy,” said UofL Coach Scott Satterfield. “A lot of them will probably come down to something like this. I told our guys in the locker room that we’re defined by how we finish. And you have to finish games like this, and they were able to do that. All the way to two seconds to finish the game and get the win.”

One of those games usually decided by mistakes. UofL miraculously recovering a fumble two plays before the winning field goal.  Giving Boston College a second chance during the final minute on an illegal substitution. Hanging on by the skin of their collective teeth.

The UofL defense giving up 563 yards but the offense was putting up 664 yards.  Javian Hawkins with 190 of those yards, including 177 yards rushing and one touchdown.  Only a freshman, coming attractions should be plentiful.

That same UofL defense making stops when it absolutely had to, including that surprising take-away on the 2-yard line on Boston College’s by Monty Montgomery and the first interception of the season by Anthony Johnson.

Not a pretty game, one which UofL was lucky to win — an inescapable conclusion looking back at this one. Football is a game of breaks, good and bad, with the outcomes often unpredictable. No question, though, that Louisville sorely wanted a win this day.

Big, bad A. J. Dillon savors Boston College return to Cardinal Stadium

Don’t look now but A. J. Dillon is coming back to Cardinal Stadium. The scene of one his most dominating games ever. Yes, against the University of Louisville.

Not all that imposing, the six-foot, 245-pound Boston College running back. But looks can be deceiving, as the bedraggled UofL defense discovered the hard way in 2017.  Dillon was unstoppable in a 45-42 win over UofL, carrying the ball 39 times for a total of 272 yards.

Surprising that the experts on football gambling sites like Bovada have the Cardinals picked as a 4.5-favorite over the visiting Eagles in Saturday’s game at 12:30.

Nightmares still linger of Dillon and his offensive line pushing the UofL defense backwards, crushing them time after time. Then a freshman, Dillon would score four touchdowns that day, from one, three, 11 and 75 yards. Stealing the spotlight in a game when UofL’s Lamar Jackson was scoring three touchdowns and rushing for another.

Louisville would catch a break last season with Dillon being sidelined with an ankle injury when they played in Boston. The Cardinals would still get crushed 38-20.

A couple of key defensive stats favor UofL.  Boston College allows 304 passing yards per game. On the flip side, Louisville yields up just 160.  The Cardinals also only allow 4.55 yards per play at home while the Eagles are giving up 6.33 yards per play.

Anyone overlooking the Golden Eagles, however, Vegas experts or not, has short memories and could be in for a rude awakening. A. J.Dillon is licking his chops for another shot at Louisville in Cardinal Stadium.

No lack of competition at Louisville quarterback

Two former University of Louisville quarterbacks – Lamar Jackson and Teddy Bridgewater – were featured in back to back games in NFL action on Sunday. Both looking impressive, with Teddy winning and Lamar losing.

Timely reminders about some really good quarterbacks at UofL down through the years, especially when it comes to the passing game. That’s an aspect of the game in which the Cardinals are seriously challenged this season.

Jawon Pass, who has missed the past two games, was struggling before his injury. He had completed only 24 of 46 passing attempts for 52.1% passing efficiency. His successor, Malik Cunningham, is a little more accurate, connecting on 25 of 41 attempts for 60.9%.

Fortunately, there’s open date on the schedule this week, giving Pass some additional time to recover before that Boston College game on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, Cunningham had to be carted off the field on the final play against Florida State. Plenty of questions about who will be calling signals in the next game.

Fortunately for UofL, which is heavily dependent on the running game, both are blessed with exceptional speed. They are among the leading rushers on the team, with Pass and Cunningham averaging 5.2 and 3.2 yards, respectively.

If UofL is overly dependent on the running game, however, Cunningham is probably the better choice. A quarterback with exceptional speed, combined with elusiveness, a more difficult runner to contain. He moves at a speed similar to that of athletes who have been boosted with gear from Valkyrie online. He’s only going to keep getting better.

Many observers were surprised with Pass’s confidence in the opener against Notre Dame, keeping UofL in the game until well into the third quarter. In the game against EKU, he completed 12 of 19 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns. His injury came at an unfortunately time in his development.

The only thing certain is that will be lots of second guessing about the quarterback situation over the next couple of weeks.