Louisville back in the win column

A win is a win is a win, especially satisfying when it’s the first one.

The University of Louisville football team badly needed a victory after three close losses. Something to celebrate, needing reassurance, a boost in confidence, and the Cardinals got all that in a 45-3 blowout of Samford University.

A crowd of 50,021 fans showing up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, turning out in good numbers for a game against a non-marquee opponent. Rewarded with three UofL touchdowns in the first quarter, most of the partisans hanging around until midway in the fourth quarter.

Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson needed this one, wanting to prove some things, catching up with the tempo of the college game, again displaying some of that dazzling speed. Setting an all-time UofL quarterback rushing record with 184 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 212 yards and another touchdown.

James Quick needed this one, needing to get back in the action following his ankle injury three games ago, wanting to make a favorable impression, shaking off the uncertainty, pulling in three catches for 69 yards, teaming up with Jackson on a pass play for his 36-yard touchdown.

Reggie Bonnafon needed to play a role, the team utilizing his speed at other positions than quarterback, wanting to contribute, rushing for 41 yards while completing three of six passing attempts for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Coach Bobby Petrino needed this one, never having started a season losing his first three games, needing some positive to build on after losing four straight games (including the bowl game last season). Needing some things to go his way, needing a blowout to get things on the right track.

Long days in many ways for Louisville football

Brandon Radcliff finds some running room, setting up UofL's first touchdown in the third quarter.
Brandon Radcliff finds some running room, setting up UofL’s first touchdown in the third quarter with a six-yard carry to the 3-yard-line. Jeremy Smith would score two plays later. Offense still very much a work in progress.

The University of Louisville football team could be looking at the worst possible scenario after losing its first three games, the first 0-3 start since 1984. No surprise really with all the personnel changes since last season.

Too soon for any dooms day scenarios, however, considering how competitive UofL has been in every game, three or four plays away from completely opposite results. Two straight games that could have gone into overtime had some field goals been converted.

Amazing really, considering the young guys on the offensive line, the porous defense against the run, the lack of any consistent offense, and the quarterback dilemma. And, of course, the unpredictability of the quarterbacks and the field goal kicking.

So close. Yet so far away from turning things around. We must already conclude that this will not be a special season. Already at a place where some fans are doubting whether this team knows how to win. That’s absurd, of course, because this coaching staff and the majority of the players are accustomed to winning.

What’s missing this season was the patsy to get things off to an easier start. Some think UofL will finally get one patsy next week when Samford shows up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That may not be the case with Samford have romped over Central Arkansas 45-16 and Florida A&M 58-21 in its first two games. What the Bulldogs will provide is another pretty strong test for UofL’s defense.

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Personally the disappointment of UofL fighting back cut the deficit to three points only to have John Wallace miss another field goal attempt was topped only by returning to the parking lot. Surrounded by a lot of disappointed, some angry, fans from the crowd of 55,396, the third largest crowd in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history.

Adding to the disappointment was the inability of the two-year-old vehicle to start, the ignition system apparently programmed into thinking the observer was trying to steal his own car. Numerous attempts by fellow tailgaters and the towing service unable to trick the car into starting.

Rather than wait for AAA to arrive two or three hours in the wee hours of the morning, the observer choosing the leave the car overnight. Thanks to Mark and Michelle Mitchell for going out their way to take the observer and his wife home. No sleep coming Thursday night, no possible way, with the disappointment of the game and the frustration with the car.

AAA arrives Friday morning after an hour-and-a-half wait, Chris Lininger, the expert on batteries and car starters, patiently, between numerous calls to the car dealership, trying one last thing, and amazingly coming up with a solution. If that last one hadn’t worked, the wrecker was next with a tow to the dealership and a humongous auto repair bill.

Finally, collapsing in bed Friday afternoon. Things could have been much worse, stronger for all the challenges.

Tough decision leads Robert Clark from UofL to Samford

Robert Clark, who would have been a senior wide receiver on the University of Louisville football team, is transferring, taking his talents to Samford University.  He could be missed because he’s a talented receiver with good hands and great speed.Robert Clark 2

Clark, remember, transferred to UofL along with Gerald Christian, another wide receiver from the University of Florida in 2011. He had to sit out a year in 2012 but when he got his chance last season, he caught 25 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown in 13 games. He was clearly headed in the right direction, destined for more playing time this season.

Former UofL Coach Charlie Strong once compared Clark to Lorenzo Mauldin saying, “Mauldin is a player who goes 100 miles per hour. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in shorts or full pads, he going to go full speed. Robert Clark is the same way. He goes hard every play. If he runs 100 yards down the field, he’s going to sprint back. It’s just amazing to watch his athletic ability.”

Life in college football can be tough for players like Clark, however. Sitting out a season, making good when he finally gets his chance, only to see the coach who lured him away from Florida take a job at Texas during the player’s senior season. He has, in fact, already graduated and was ready to focus full-time on football.

But it became clear to him under new/old UofL Coach Bobby Petrino that his aspirations would never be realized and playing time would be limited, with fellow seniors Kai De La Cruz, Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris constantly getting called before him during practice sessions.

Tough decision, transferring but there’s no joy in watching games from the bench.

One has to admire Clark for recognizing the position he was in and taking charge of his destiny. He wants to be in the game, even if that means going to a Division I-AA FCS program in Birmingham. We wish him well.

Pitino taking notes during Louisville’s romp over Samford

Just a nice, easy 80-54 win over Samford in one of those early season learning sessions for the University of Louisville basketball team. A far cry from the edge-of-the-seat games in which they will soon be immersed.

The only person really getting worked up is Rick Pitino as he experiments with varieties of player combinations, some players needing encouragement, others needing experience,  some requiring extra attention.

  • Inserting Wayne Blackshear into the starting lineup, Blackshear responding, playing more assertively, with the confidence and poise befitting his credentials. He will  contribute 13 points, five rebounds and two steals. Some day soon, the switch will turn on again for Blackshear and there will be no stopping him.
  • Luke Hancock
  • Keeping the pressure on Luke Hancock, expecting him to shoot three-point shots no matter how of them he misses. Hancock allowing the pressure to get to him for now during the gimmes. He may one of those players who requires serious competition to excel. Maybe that’s what Pitino sees in him.
  • Giving Zach Price six minutes of playing time, probably the most since he arrived at UofL, Price getting aggressive on defense for a change, costing him three personal fouls during his limited time on court.
  • Allowing Kevin Ware to become more familiar with the offense, giving the youngster time to learn the offense while usurping natural skills. Ware making lay ups when spectacular dunks were an option, knowing Pitino is taking notes.
  • Returning Chane Behanan to the starting lineup, observing that Montrezl Harrell isn’t sulking. Behanan responding with 18 rebounds and 12 points. Harrell  not taking anything personally, knowing he’s more than capable when Pitino looks his way.