Louisville football is suddenly fun again

The Unversity of Louisville football team gave fans reasons to be optimistic about the future direction of the program (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of the biggest games in University of Louisville football history, with a new coach and a new attitude, accompanied by Notre Dame’s first ever visit to Louisville.

Lots of questions, mucho suspense, with Coach Scott Satterfield on the sidelines for the first time. Would the program begin the road back to respectability or linger in the wasteland created by the former mentor. A 35-17 loss to the Irish would certainly make one wonder.

Quarterback Jawon Pass celebrates with teammates after scoring his second touchdown, giving UofL a brief lead over the nation’s ninth-ranked team (Cindy Rice Sullivan phot).

The Observer is thrilled to report that Louisville is back on the right track again and few people in the record crowd of 58,187 would disagree, including the approximately 7,000 Notre Dame fans. The Cardinals arrived ready to rumble, maintaining their intensity during adversity, competing until the final whistle.

A red sea of humanity for the first Card March of the 2019 season.

As did the vast majority of UofL fans, hanging around long after the game had been decided. Basketball may be the dominant sport but football will always be the fun sport. The fans emerging from the shadows after a season from Hell, desperate for new signs of life from their favorite team.

No Louisville fan will ever be happy with a loss and this was no exception. UofL would in the game until the final seconds of the first half, until quarterback Jawon Pass would fumble on three consecutive plays. Should have been a 14-14 tie at the half, but those miscues opened the door for Notre Dame’s seven-point lead at the half.

Except for that disastrous series of plays, UofL looked like a team primed for a possible upset. The kind of win that speeds up the rejuvenation process, sending a charge through the fan base. Not to be. But plenty about which to be optimistic, with Louisville actually outgaining an opponent on the ground (249 to 230) for the first time since the Lamar Jackson era.

Serious questions remain about UofL’s passing game, with Pass completing only 12 of 28 passes for 134 yards. That has got to get better. But Pass was improved in other phases of his game, scoring two touchdowns on runs of eight and 17 yards. Nice to have some contributions from running backs from the running backs, with Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall gaining 128 yards and 72 yards, respectively.

Scott Satterfield said afterwards that the team is going to keep improving, getting much better, and is ready to compete. Any UofL fan who saw the improvement from last season to now would have to agree. Louisville football has a future again.

Louisville football always a good excuse for a party

Forgive me for being ecstatic but another September has arrived. Another academic year at the University of Louisville, nine months of athletic competition … college football, basketball, baseball and soccer, et al. Making up for lost times over another long summer.

Kicking things off with a reunion of fellow UofL fans at Cardinal Stadium. The partying season on again, tens of thousands of fans converging in the parking lots, in the VIP suites and at the Cardinal Cabooses. Tailgating is back. Good friends, enjoying great food and beverages, many catching up with each other for the first time since the end of last season.

Vince Tyra hooks up with tailgaters at Harry’s Hangout in the former Green Lot. From left are Michelle Mitchell, Barbara Springer, Paula Derringer, Ginny Staley and Candy Cook.

Over at Harry’s Hangout in the newly-named Purple Lot (formerly the Green Lot), David Derringer and friends are erecting the canopies, lighting the grill, turning up the speakers, and preparing for another major feast and endless toasts and poppers. They’ve been getting together for more than a decade now, doing what they enjoy the most. Hell, it’s UofL and it’s UofL football, the place to be.

Louisville fans like to party, nobody has ever questioned that. But they are especially enthusiastic about celebrating at UofL events. It’s UofL against the world, as far as they are concerned, having gone through so much hell together the last three or four years. But it’s so much more than that, knowing how far the University has come over the decades despite many obstacles.

Progress has been driven by a number of UofL leaders over the years. Not the least of which was Howard Schnellenberger who dared dream of a national title in football. Former athletic director Bill Olsen introduced the notion of tailgating at the Fairgrounds, hired Schnellenberger, and built a football stadium on Belknap Campus Olsen’s successor, Tom Jurich, adding many more facilities, getting the University of Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Thanks to Jurich’s efforts, the University of Louisville opens the 2019 season with a bigger than life opening game against Notre Dame. A concept that would have been considered inconceivable a decade ago. UofL standing shoulder to shoulder with one of the richest traditions in college football. No matter the game turns out, it is an historic occasion for UofL fans.

Vince Tyra taking a business and fan-friendly approach, bringing ambitions of his own for UofL athletics, starting with the return-to-red seats. He has hired a young new coach in Scott Satterfield, trusting he will return Louisville football to national respect all over again.

Nobody from UofL is expecting a win against the Irish although many fans may be quietly hoping for some sort of miracle. It is a time for celebration because the hopes of Louisville partisans have been realized. They dared dream of days like these, like they did for their own stadium and wins in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl. They dared to dream and, unbelievably in some cases, many of the dreams came true. Don’t tell a UofL fan something can’t happen because it does, more often than not.

Still a way to go for Louisville football. Well, actually some lost ground to make up after last season, but UofL fans are a hardy lot. Nothing has ever come easy for them. Much of the fun is in the journey, and it could be argued that the program is starting all over again.

That’s okay. UofL fans have been there, done that, and they’re ready to do it all over again. No matter how long it takes.

Notre Dame right opponent to welcome new era for Louisville football

Notre Dame is coming.

Not news to anyone but some of us had a hard time believing that would ever happen, the Irish showing up at Cardinal Stadium. Notre Dame is coming, one keeps repeating to himself.

Were it not for last season’s dismal season, the opening game against the Irish would have been the most anticipated game in University of Louisville football history. One has every reason to believe it will be a sellout and, in all likelihood, will set a new single game attendance record.

Some would argue that it couldn’t come at a worst time, with UofL coming off the most embarrassing seasons in the program’s history. Louisville has has had worse won-lost records, losing every game in the 1931 and 1932 seasons with identical 0-8 records. UofL won only 17 of 70 games during that decade.

Fact is the game against Notre Dame could have come under worse conditions. Bobby Petrino would still be coaching UofL football had Athletic Director Vince Tyra not had the guts to eat the $14 million payoff.  Sent Petrino packing. He’s gone, hopefully never to be seen in Louisville again.

Last year’s humiliating 2-10 record followed a $70 million expansion of Cardinal Stadium, buoyed by numerous finishes in the top 20. Growing seating capacity from 55,000 to 60,000-plus. Louisville was a contender, having earned national respect, greatly boosting the athletic department’s overall reputation. No longer just a basketball school.

Two seasons after Louisville football had risen to No. 3 in the national polls and competing for the college football playoffs. Those aspirations crashing down to earth following a 36-10 loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the 2016 season. The Cardinals allowing 50 points in seven games during an awful 2018 season.

This season’s opener has been designated a Black Out game, with fans being encouraged to wear black. Not that any extra incentive was needed to get UofL fans there, not with Notre Dame being the opponent in the opening game of the season.

Ten months is a long time between seasons, especially between tailgating sessions for party-loving Louisville partisans. The long wait is over and there’s new blood with Coach Scott Satterfield and his enthusiastic staff. One has to believe last season’s team could not possibly have been as bad it looked at times.

It’s a new beginning for UofL football, fans recognizing there are going to be some significant challenges. Those of us who have been following the program for several decades, however, have been there before. Going to require a lot of patience and persistence, the kind that enabled UofL to become a national contender just a few years ago.

So forgive long-time Louisville fans if they are more than a little ecstatic that Notre Dame football is coming to town.

Louisville football poised for attendance records in 2019

A no-brainer really.

A bold prediction here as the schedule is announced for the 2019 University of Louisville football season, based on the combination of a new coach and one of the sport’s most hallowed programs.  

The opening game against the University of Notre Dame will set an all-time  attendance record for a football game in Louisville, attracting between 63,000 and 65,000 people to Cardinal Stadium. 

Even higher if Athletic Director Vince Tyra wants to fill every cavity in the stadium, which was expanded from 55,000 to 61,500 prior to last season.

The current record for a UofL home game was 55,642 on Sept. 16, 2016. The game was featured on ESPN’s Game Day. Louisville fans were attracted by a tenth-ranked Louisville versus second-ranked Florida State. No contest that day, with the Cardinals throttling the Seminoles 63-10.

Scott Satterfield’s first game as the new head coach signals a whole new beginning for UofL football, bringing with him a whole new staff, a fresh outlook and a commitment from the University to compete at the highest levels. 

Notre Dame, of course, has one of the largest fan bases in the country and attracts capacity crowds wherever it plays. Always has, probably always will.

*    *   *

If Louisville football is on the uptick under the new staff next season, expect another capacity crowd to be on hand on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a game against Clemson, the defending national champion, with Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson has played in Cardinal Stadium twice since UofL joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, attracting 55,396 and 55,588 during the 2015 and 2017 seasons, respectively.

*    *   *

UofL fans will also help Western Kentucky establish a new all-time attendance record at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green. That is if WKU officials can somehow increase the stadium’s capacity for the game against Louisville on Sept. 14.

Louisville owns a 20-12 advantage in the series. The current WKY record is 23,674 for a game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24, 2016. One can easily anticipate at that many UofL fans making the two-hour trip for this year’s game on Sept. 14.

UofL hasn’t played a football game in Bowling Green since 1949.

 2019 Schedule:

Sept. 2 — Notre Dame

Sept. 7 — Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 14 — At Western Kentucky


Sept. 21 — At Florida State


Oct. 5 — Boston College


Oct. 12 — At Wake Forest


Oct. 19 — Clemson


Oct. 26 — Virginia


Nov. 9 — At Miami


Nov. 16 — At North Carolina State


Nov. 23 — Syracuse


Nov. 30 — At Kentucky

 

 

Time is now, Louisville women cut ACC tournament threads

A time to celebrate for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team with the program’s first ACC tournament championship (UofL Women’s Basketball photos).
Sam Fuehring and Myisha Hines-Allen go just a little bit crazy celebrating UofL’s first ACC tournament championshp.

No shoulda, woulda, coulda’s for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. No looking past anyone, no waiting until next year, and no getting blinded by the spotlight.

Your UofL women are the winners of the 2018 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, the best all season long. Defeating Notre Dame 74-72 on Sunday in the tournament finale, claiming the Cardinals’ first ACC tournament championship and their first conference tournament title since 1993.

Defeating the Irish for the second time this season. Denying Notre Dame a fifth consecutive tournament championship and handing the Irish first loss  ever in ACC tournament play. In the process, the Cardinals earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a most desirable spot in the Lexington Regional.

A milestone win for a group of players Coach Jeff Walz has often described as a wonderful group of young women, people who enjoy working and playing together, and pulling for each other to succeed. They have carved a unique niche in program history, positioning themselves for something even more special.

Arica Carter solidified herself as a major 3-point threat in the ACC tournament, with eight of them in three games (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Notre Dame wanted this one, wanted it bad, wanted redemption for a 33-point loss in Louisville in January. The Irish, who have dominated the ACC the past four seasons, weren’t going to wilt in this one, holding a 42-37 lead at the 8:30 mark in the third quarter.

That seemed to be all the incentive the Cardinals needed to get down to business. Asia Durr would hit her second 3-pointer, Myisha Hines-Allen would get a layup, Arica Carter  her third 3-pointer, Hines-Allen another layup, Jazmine Jones a layup, followed by a layup by Sam Fuehring, propelling Louisville to a seven-point lead at one point.

Five players scoring in double figures for UofL — Durr with 17, Carter 16, Hines-Allen and Fuehring with 15, and Jones with 11 — and with a total of 22 assists, personifying an all-out team effort. Players stepping up at all corners of the court.

With Durr struggling for much of the tournament, her teammates had to come through and they did.  The ACC player of the year went six of 27 — and one for 12 from 3-point range — in her first two tournament games. But it would be Durr who would hit all four of her free throws in the final seconds assure the win in the final game.

Jeff Walz reaffirms with ACC tournament title that he’s in this thing to win championships.

Hines-Allen, with combined totals of 48 points and 26 rebounds in three games, was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. She was joined by Fuehring on the all-tournament first team, and Carter and Jones on the second team.

Walz, the ACC Coach of the Year, ecstatic but not fully content with the latest conquest, apparently eyeing an even bigger prize in the days and weeks ahead.  “I hope it puts a smile on everybody’s face,” he said. “It’s been a remarkable run, but we aren’t finished. … We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Much bigger.