Petrino chooses not to play safe, and the slide continues

A great day for a game, a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, temperatures in the low seventies, a kettle of shrimp boil on the burner, tailgaters all in, stuffing themselves, taking turns downing shots, celebrating football, friendships  and the beginning of the fall season.

Harry Douglas, former University of Louisville star and Atlanta Falcon great, showing up for the tailgate, having such a good time, deciding to hang out for quite a while. Clearly enjoying the adulation of UofL fans, entertaining them with his exuberance and outgoing personality.

What could go wrong?

Harry Douglas, former UofL and Atlanta Falcon great, and The Observer team up during tailgating prior to the Florida State game.

The Louisville football team on the verge of defeating Florida State for an unprecedented third straight time in three seasons. Having discovered an offense, with an actual ground game, quarterback Puma Pass his throwing eye, passing for more than 300 yards. UofL leading by 10 points going into the fourth quarter.

Late fourth quarter, marching the ball down the field, the clock winding down to 1:56, the Cardinals with a first down on the Seminoles’ 21 yard line. Easy does it, keep the ball inbounds, grind it out on the ground, run the clock out, protect that fragile three-point lead. Just run out the clock.

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Bobby Petrino not leaving Louisville anytime soon

The hounds are nipping at Bobby Petrino’s heels after an unimpressive start to the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Anybody want to start all over again in football at the University of Louisville? Not that that’s going to happen anytime soon, not with eight more games remaining this season. Yet that seems to be what some people want, jumping on the coach after only four games.

One shouldn’t be surprised, not with all the short memories, not with the what have you done for me latelies, all the loud voices. Seems to be a lack of patience, impartiality and critical thinking these days. Hostiles ready to make accusations, innocents eager to believe them. A mob scenario, with actions based on emotion and feelings, little regard for evidence or past performance.

Bobby Petrino’s team has gotten off to a less-than-impressive performance this season, 2-2 after four games, getting demolished by Alabama, struggling against two mediocre teams, and losing to a bottom feeder in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

UofL football fans were giddy, their man was Bobby Petrino. All was right with the world.

How quickly some forget. Just three years ago, in 2015, the Cardinals got off to a disastrous start, losing their first three games. Petrino managed to turn his team around with a young quarterback named Lamar Jackson and UofL won eight of it last 10 games, including a Music City Bowl championship over Texas A&M.

A season later UofL won its first four games, including an ESPN Game Day appearance and a 63-20 romp over Florida State. The Cardinals were riding high, ranked in the top five in every college football poll in America later in the season, in contention for a college playoff spot and a possible shot at a national championship.

UofL football fans were giddy, their man was Bobby Petrino. All was right with the world. They were ready to believe former UofL Coach Howard Schnellenberger’s prediction about time being the only variable to a national championship. They had never been there before and weren’t quite sure how to act but Petrino was making it happen.

At least until James Quick ran out of bounds instead of into the end zone against Clemson, resulting in a six-point loss in the next game. The crushing blow that season was a humiliating 36-10 loss to Houston. The loss exposed a non-existent offensive line and squashed any further national championship hopes.

 Disappointing, yes. Shocking, no. Fans don’t like losing, or missing out on big time opportunities. Many have never gotten over UofL’s cathartic collapse against Houston. Believing, perhaps, that some other coach could achieve what Petrino has not accomplished, making UofL a perennial national contender.

Petrino remains, however, the winningest coach in Louisville football history, with a 79-31 won-lost record, including a 4-6 post-season bowl record. An estimated 35,000 fans made the trip to Miami in 2007 for UofL’s 24-13 BCS win over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

Petrino deserves credit for what he has accomplished during seven seasons at Louisville, taking the program to new heights. Those who would condemn him so quickly after a slow start aren’t doing the program any favors.

He’s not going anywhere soon anyway, not with a $12.4 million buyout in his contract. These are the same fans, remember, who were angry because he was considering other programs during the coach’s first stay in Louisville. The buyout conditions are in there for a good reason, with fans having such short memories and those tar-and-feather mentalities.

Wow factors all in place for expanded Cardinal Stadium

Cindy Rice Shelton photos  No one could have imagined how grand the $63 million addition would be to the north end of Cardinal Stadium. The end result is nothing short of spectacular — a striking tribute to what has occurred at the University of Louisville over the past two decades and a monumental commitment to the school’s football program.

Vince Tyra is placing a heavy emphasis on a positive fan experience in his role as UofL Athletic Directory (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

One could only marvel at all the changes that will be on display Saturday for UofL’s opening game against Indiana State. Approximately 5,400 new seats have been added, raising the stadium’s seating capacity to more than 60,000. Three mammoth new video boards have been installed, including two in the north end  zone and still another on the other end.

New, larger ribbon video bands have replaced existing bands throughout the stadium. The newly enclosed facility is also going to be louder than ever and vibrant, with the possibility of some unprecedented lighting effects. The upper level of the north end features the Adidas logo, in gray stripes among the predominant red seats.

Athletic Director Vince Tyra says the school is going all out to enhance the fan experience this season, having lowered prices on numerous concession items and offering specials to get fans into the stadium for kickoff. That includes opening the parking lots two hours earlier for tailgating, and opening the stadium gates 30 minutes earlier. And for the beer lovers, those  arriving early can purchase a draft beer for $2 on the Norton Terrace and $3 on the concourses throughout the stadium two hours before kickoff.

At long last, 20 years after the opening of Cardinal Stadium, a genuine tunnel for University of Louisville football players.

Tomorrow, tomorrow is always a day away, even for UofL football

By Keith Thomerson

The Louisville Cardinals lost. Way too many mistakes to beat a good Alabama football team, or any other football team.

The sun came up on Sunday and as I look out my home-office window, the sun is shining again. We must remember the game is played by 18 to 22-year-old young men. They make mistakes just like we all did and continue to do. They, as we have, will learn from those mistakes. The coaching staff will help them solve those mistakes and go on to the next game.

As a teenager, I tore an important three-paragraph piece out of a church bulletin. It has meant so much to me over the years and every time someone wants to criticize anything, I read it. The author is unknown.

“The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they attempt many things.

“The person who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. They are the ones who never tries anything. They are the brake on the wheel of progress.

“And yet it cannot be truly said, they make no mistakes because the biggest mistake they make is the very fact that they try nothing, do nothing, except criticize those who do things.”

The Louisville football team will get to play another game on Saturday. Hopefully, the mistakes will have been fixed.

Ho hum, familiar cast of characters for college football playoffs

Its the time of year when I unveil my college football final four and teams to watch. I’ll blindly predict who will be in the college football playoff. When I say blindly. I mean blindly.

I haven’t seen any of these teams play a game. I couldn’t if I wanted to because practices are closed to most everyone. Even if I could I couldn’t gather much from practice because after all it is just. Practice.

Let’s get this out of the way right away. Alabama is No. 1 in just about every preseason poll. They should be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The Crimson Tide have one of the best coaches of all time in Nick Saban and have had 10 top 10 finishes and won five of the last nine national championships.

According to the Alabama media guide, the Crimson Tide return 12 starters, seven on defense, three on offense and two specialist. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me Bama has players, as will quickly become obvious against the University of Louisville on Saturday.

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