Hopeful things in Louisville’s 30-18 win over NC State

Some significant steps forward during a football game in which the University of Louisville appeared to make a 30-18 win over North Carolina State more challenging than the crowd of 50,227 expected.

Just getting DeVante Parker back on the field would have been a plus, but he was back to his old form, confident, smooth and more than capable, pulling in a Will Gardner pass in full stride on the second play from scrimmage, accumuating 37 yards. He would catch eight more passes and account for 132 yards, Just getting a feel for the game again, the touchdowns will come later.UofL-NCState

“I thought he played really well,” said Coach Bobby Petrino. “I was really impressed with the way he ran after the catch. I thought he’d get open, I thought he’d catch the ball, but I didn’t expect to see that many yards after the catch.”

Michael Dyer made an impression during practices leading up to the game, playing like he practiced, playing his best game since arriving at UofL a year ago, churning for 173 yards. He also caught a couple of passes for eight yards.The 46-yard touchdown dash with 44 seconds to go a fitting reward for the past week and all those months healing from injuries.

“I always tell our players they earn their playing time on the practice field, and we’ve tried to really live by that. And it’s shown up this year, so we’re just going to keep working on that,” said Petrino.

Will Gardner would finally get some time in the pocket, time to look for receivers, completing 21 of 36 attempts for 203 yards. Not Teddy Bridgewater numbers but Gardner’s still learning. Two touchdown passes, too, including a 13-yarder to Eli Rogers and a three-yarder to Kai DeLa Cruz.

No Louisville fumbles or interceptions, believe it or not. Thankfully an official review erased what appeared to be a Gardner fumble and an ugly North Carolina State return for a touchdown. Didn’t really happen. No turnovers.

No false starts. In fact, the UofL offensive line was responsible for only one violation, a holding penalty and was penalized for only 10 yards out of four penalties for 33 yards. A good day for Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, Tobijah Hughley, and Aaron Epps. Not so great for senior tackle Ryan Mack watching from the sideline.

Signs of improvement against a team that has lost eight straight conference games, but progress nevertheless.

Or as Petrino puts it, “We’re a work in progress.”

Petrino a realist not a magician, but offense will get better

Bobby Petrino
Bobby Petrino

Maybe Bobby Petrino isn’t a magician after all, unable to get his offense clicking after six games.

Quarterbacks Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon struggling, the offensive line making so many false starts, formerly reliable wide receivers dropping balls in their hands. Not what anyone expected from this University of Louisville football team under Bobby Petrino’s leadership. Painful to watch for a fan base that was expecting the complete opposite coming into the season, the anxiety heightened by inexplicable errors in judgement and carelessness with the football.

But such great effort and execution of the defensive side, a defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in four games.

Now we have a better understanding of why Charlie Strong’s offense appeared to struggle against mediocre opponents last season. Remember the narrow seven-point wins over Memphis and Cincinnati in the final two games in the American Athletic Conference? Teddy Bridgewater seemingly carrying the offense on his back. The defense reflects Strong’s emphasis on that side of the ball, the part of the game he knew and coached so well.

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Rags to riches as Louisville enters Atlantic Coast Conference

Forgive University of Louisville fans if they seem to be walking on air the next few weeks and months. No waking up, shaking their collective head and realizing it was all a dream. They’re living it. A new era in UofL athletics and academics begins Tuesday as the University is officially welcomed into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

To fully appreciate the significance of the move, one would have had to have followed Louisville for seven decades through the various conferences in which UofL has participated during one’s lifetime, seven conference affiliations during that span. Check that. Make it eight now — the ultimate conference, the ACC. Member institutions speak volumes about the quality of the conference — Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Miami. And, of course, Notre Dame in every sport except football.ACC-logo-with-Louisville-Cardinal-Bird

The premier destination for a program that has competed at the highest levels for decades despite tremendous obstacles, overcoming the stigma of mid-major status in struggling conferences, achieving national respect despite severe scheduling challenges.  Building for the future, investing in athletic facilities second to none, hoping, wishing, praying not to be left out when the final bell rings for conference realignment.

Some really dark days there for a while, more than five years, watching conferences expand and implode, prominent members leaving the Big East Conference, watching a once proud league steadily implode. There would be tantalizing, sometimes conflicting rumors of possible inclusion in the Big XII only to lose out to West Virginia in the end. Any chance of getting into the SEC expansion blocked by a rival university. The ACC said to be beyond UofL’s reach for geographic and academic reasons. Anxious UofL fans scouring the Internet daily dissecting dozens of rumors, parsing official statements, watching and waiting, trusting all the while in the abilities of Tom Jurich to prevail against sometimes overwhelming odds.

Being excluded would have been a crushing blow to fans for whom the University is like a second family. Missing out would surely mean being forever banished to the ranks of the also-rans, getting shut out in the recruiting wars, being relegated to second-rate football bowls, relying on past accomplishments with little odds of seriously being respected in the national polls. The situation was undeniably bleak until the Big 10 decided to expand again in November 2012, extending invitations to Rutgers and Maryland. The ACC needed to replace Maryland. At long last, the gods were smiling on UofL.

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Sporting News picks Louisville third

A sure sign that sportswriters are tired of writing about conference realignment.

Making pre-season college basketball top 10 predictions as summer nears.

The Sporting News has picked the University of Louisville as the third ranked team in the nation next season. No indication of whether that’s at the end or the beginning of the season.

U of L is ranked behind Indiana and UCLA, first and second, respectively. Ohio State is fourth and Kentucky fifth (even though UK lost five players in the draft?).

Michigan is sixth, North Carolina State seventh, Duke eighth, Syracuse ninth and Arizona tenth.