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.

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.