Stormy weather not that bad, Louisville football pummels Syracuse

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander embrace after hooking up on a 72-yard touchdown pass play in the second quarter (lead photo). Stormy weather (above) but not the terror the TV weather guys were forecasting (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).
Lamar Jackson prepares to enter Cardinal Stadium for what was what probably the final home game of his career at the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Nothing could have come close to the scary weather predictions made by Louisville’s TV forecasters during the days leading up to the UofL-Syracuse football game.  A possible storm of the decade it seemed and it was going to be confined to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The first thing to remember is that wind, rain and/or snow make for great football, creating great memories for the players and fans. The second is that the forecasts are going to be exaggerated, never matching the intensity of the people making them.

As a result lots of loyal UofL football fans were scared off Saturday, not venturing out of their comfort zones. Amazing that some 34,265 were there to enjoy one of Louisville’s most dominant games of the season, a 56-10 win over Syracuse.

Lamar Jackson is the first to congratulate Malik Williams on his 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Nothing special, Cardinal fans have seen much, much worse. The most loyal, the ones who chose to endure the elements, were rewarded Saturday with the honor of seeing what may have been quarterback Lamar Jackson’s final home game at PJCS.

Just another in many big games for him — 230 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 120 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Lamar Jackson earned legendary status during his three seasons at UofL.

All the numbers, all the touchdowns, all the memorable moments, probably never to be repeated again by anyone anywhere. Absolutely impossible to exaggerate all that he has accomplished. 

Senior running back Malik Williams, happy to be taking the ball from Jackson, having his best game ever in his final home game — 180 yards rushing, including two touchdowns, including a 46-yard TD on the second play of the game, and a 56-yard run on another play.

Reggie Bonnafon getting a hug from Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra during Senior Day ceremonies (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Senior Reggie Bonnafon, also playing in his last game at PJCS, continuing to play wherever he was needed, today as a running back and kick returner. He would score two touchdowns in the second quarter — his first on a 33-yard, the second on a 34-yard pass from Jackson.

What a performance from the UofL defense, holding Syracuse to 197 yards rushing and 138 yards passing. Freshman Dorian Etheridge in on 11 tackles, including five solo’s. Senior linebacker Stacy Thomas and freshman C.J. Avery in on seven tackles. Make a note and look ahead, two freshmen for 18 tackles, more to come.

Such an enjoyable game to watch, having learned over the years how to survive the elements at Louisville football games. Great to see the defense emerge from invisibility to becoming an effective force. Nice to once again pummel Syracuse, one of those schools that would have left UofL in a lesser conference.  

We’ve run out of football Saturdays again in Louisville, they always seem to go so quickly. Especially when the Cardinals are playing like they were the last two games.

Ray Spalding at best as UofL quells Syracuse

Unfortunately for Syracuse, Ray Spalding came to play Sunday, going home with 18 points and 11 rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

While some may question his lack of desire, coordination and shooting ability, Ray Spalding has never lacked for support from Rick Pitino. The coach shaking up the lineup, inserting Spalding as a starter on Sunday. Yeah, that Ray Spalding.

This coming off a two-point, four-rebound and two-turnover performance in a losing effort against North Carolina just last Wednesday, evoking familiar complaints from second-guessers in local sports mediums.

Never doubt that Pitino is aware of the awkward shots, the questionable ball-handling and all the miscues, not only in games, but day after day in practice. But the University of Louisville basketball coach also senses the potential waiting to be tapped, the coach allowing himself the luxury of waiting for it to emerge.

Breakthrough performances tend to come and go, so Pitino’s patience may have been only partially rewarded on Sunday in an 88-68 win over Syracuse before 22,482 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. 

There he was, knocking the ball away from a Syracuse player on defense, completing a rare alley-oop dunk on a half court pass from Quinten Snider, making a rare jump shot from the top of the key and snatching a rebound — all in the first five minutes, with UofL racing to a 13-6 lead.

Donovan Mitchell obviously having some fun at John Gillan’s expense. He also scored 25 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

All was not perfect. Spalding would miss two free-throw opportunities. But he had already outperformed, making himself a presence to be dealt with from the beginning. Easily the game of his career at UofL, making of eight of nine field goal attempts, grabbing 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

If Pitino was pleased, he wasn’t making a big deal of Spalding’s game. “What we’ve been lacking is consistency from our front line players,” he said. So the coach is not quite ready to say Spalding has turned any corners. And even if he has, that may be approaching what Pitino expects from the 6-foot-10 sophomore.

Deng Adel loves those running starts (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

— Donovan Mitchell is hitting his stride, leading all scorers with 25 points, including six 3-pointers. He would be credited with four assists and two steals as well.

— Quentin Snider making five of nine field goal attempts for 12 points while making six assists. And get this, no turnovers in 34 minutes of action.

— Deng Adel loving those going-the-distance drives to the basket, so much that we’re likely to see many of them before the end of the season. Notches 17 points.

— Anas Mahmoud (should we say it?) may be back, making four of five shots for 8 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Makes it look easy at times despite his scrawny frame.

— Tony Hicks did play. I missed it, too, but the stat sheets indicate he was in the game for one minute.

— David Levitch back for about eight minutes, apparently working his way of Pitino’s dog house for the last two or three games.

The win improves UofL’s record to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, good for second place with a showdown coming against Notre Dame at home next Sunday.  

But first one of those dreaded late night ACC road games, this one against Wake Forest at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

Ryan McMahon off the bench, carries Louisville past Syracuse in overtime

Ryan McMahon the guy who usually leads the cheers on the bench was leading the University of Louisville on the court at Syracuse in overtime on Big Monday. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of the most unpredictable games ever, no one ever really in command or playing under control, last one with the basketball wins … unless someone turns the ball over or dribbles it out of bounds.

Keystone cops near the end of regulation, balls bouncing off of heads, toes, butts and elbows. Or maybe a pinball game, balls ricocheting off the flappers, winding up with the weirdest angles, sometimes even in the basket.

The comedy on the court upstaged only by Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim roaming around with his mouth wide open, unable to believe any call could go against his Syracuse team. University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino trying hard to stifle a smile or a smirk (who knows?) with the game on the line in the closing seconds of regulation. 

Anything seemed possible but winning the least likely after Donovan Mitchell fouled out at the 1:18 mark, with UofL clinging to a fragile five-point lead. No surprise Syracuse coming back to tie it up after one of those Keystone cop plays on a three-pointer by John Gillon. Deng Adel missing the front end of two bonus situations.  This one was destined for overtime.

With Mitchell out, Adel missing everything and Snider all but exhausted, the question was where UofL’s points were going to come from in this overtime.

Wait, is that Ryan McMahon out there? Was that Ryan McMahon with that 3-point jumper? Was that Ryan McMahon with an offensive rebound, cleaning up the garbage?

Syracuse fans had to be wondering, thinking, “Who is this guy?” They hadn’t seen him the entire game.

Yes, indeed, it was, Pitino confirming it. “Ryan never met a shot he didn’t like,” said the coach. “He has nerves of steel.”

Entirely appropriate that Ryan McMahon would be the UofL player at the line with one second on the clock, all but sealing the 76-72 win by swishing two of two free throws. Should have been over but that was only assured in the final split second when a Syracuse player stepped out of bounds. 

Louisville had outlasted Syracuse, but this time Ryan McMahon, usually leading cheers on the bench, was leading the charge on the floor when the final horn sounded.

The man:

Asia Durr erupts for 34 points in one half for Louisville women

An awestruck 8,586 fans witnessed an historic performance at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday — a keeper they will store in their treasure box of University of Louisville memories. 

They were there the night when Syracuse looked almost unbeatable in the first half, jumping out to an 11-2 starts, owning 12-point leads over Louisville in the second quarter. UofL considering itself lucky to trail by only seven points at the half.

Al Benningfield, who worked with the UofL stat crew for 46 years befoe , told Asia after the game it was the best performance he had seen in 50 years for a UofL player.

Things had not gone well for Asia Durr in the first half, looking apprehensive, tentative, afraid to shoot. And for good reason, missing all five of her field goal attempts. She would eke out two points during the first 20 minutes, making two free throws.

What happened in the second is the stuff of legend. Asia scoring 18 points in the third quarter with UofL outscoring Syracuse 29 to 4 to own a 20-point lead. She wasn’t done yet, tacking on an additional 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead Louisville to an epic 91-76 win over the visitors.

Yes,  34 points for Durr in that second half. She would wind up with a career high 36 points for the game, making 10 of 18 field goal attempts, including seven 3-pointers, and 9 of 12 free throw attempts.  

“The first half was tough,” she said afterwards. “I gained a lot of confidence in that second half. I’m not the type of player who if things don’t go well is going to shut down. I love this game too much. It’s how you bounce back.”

Nobody was happier than Coach Jeff Walz about that mesmerizing second half. “We didn’t start the game well,” he said. “Asia wasn’t really looking to score in the first half. It’s kind of hard to score if you don’t shoot. She looked scared.

“I told her at halftime she was wide open at times and she wasn’t looking to score. She’s a scorer. That’s what she has to do for us. The second half she finally started to attack. Credit her teammates for getting the ball to her.”

Memorable night, too, for Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen. Moore coming through with a triple-double, with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Hines-Allen contributing 18 points and six rebounds. Those two keeping UofL close in the first half, setting the stage for Durr’s milestone performance.

A significant win over a quality opponent, with Coach Jeff Walz describing Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes of Syracuse as “two of the best guards in the country.” They would wind up with 31 and 21 points, respectively.

The win improved UofL’s won-lost record to 13-2, getting the Cardinals off to a good start in ACC play. Next up is Duke at Durham, N.C. on Monday.

Durr’s confidence builder couldn’t have come at a better time.

Not a dream: Lamar Jackson with 600 yards of offense

new-hurdleThe kind of player every college football fan dreams about, but almost never happens, is playing quarterback at the University of Louisville.

Not a dream, not a figment of imagination. He’s real.

One yard short of becoming the first player to ever record 400 yards of passing and 200 yards rushing in a college football game. Winding up with 411 through the air and 199 on the ground.

With his team amassing an amazing 845 yards of total offense, leaving treadmarks on the back of the bewildered Syracuse defenders.

Continue reading “Not a dream: Lamar Jackson with 600 yards of offense”