Louisville off to fast start against Western Kentucky

Official attendance was 22,665 for the Louisville-Western Kentucky game in Nashville (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

So much for a neutral site location for the resumption of the University of Louisville-Western Kentucky football series. Not the best atmosphere for a game with 22,665 fans rattling around in Nissan Stadium. Suspense over early with UofL taking a commanding lead in the first half, then sleepwalking in the second half to a 38-21 conclusion.

One suspects the series– with UofL hosting the game next season, and WKU the following year — was a result of Louisville hiring Bobby Petrino away from the Bowling Green school a few years ago. The question is who was really doing who a favor. Neither fan base apparently that interested in going to Nashville.

Tutu Atwell scoring the first of his three touchdowns, including distances of 9, 46 and 62 yards (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Louisville getting off to an impressive start, with quarterback Malik Cunningham connecting with Tutu Atwell on nine and 46 yards for the first two touchdowns. Followed by a 20-yard touchdown by Javian Hawkins and a 30-yard sprint by Rodjay Burns after a fumble recovery. Up 31-7 at the half.

Lamar Jackson jerseys are a popular choice among Louisville fans (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Maybe taking WKU for granted as third quarter begins, giving the Hilltoppers false hopes, letting them hang around.  Not respecting the opponent, blowing a chance to get better, which was needed with the first ACC game a week away.

There was, however, one play that buoyed the outlook for UofL football down the road. That being, of course, that 62-yard pass play from freshman Evan Conley to Atwell, his first pass ever as a Louisville quarterback. Such a beautiful spiral, the likes of which UofL has not seen for a few years.

Malik Cunningham winning his first game as a starting quarterback at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A surprise appearance by Conley following an injury to Malik Cunningham in the third quarter. The freshman showing exceptional confidence and accuracy, completing two of three attempts for 86 yards. Cunningham, meanwhile, good for eight of 13 for 119 yards.

Three games in, Louisville football looking much improved over last season. The ultimate testing begins next week with opening of conference play against Florida State. No danger of UofL players not respecting the Seminoles. Ever.

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

 

 

Western Kentucky highly motivated for Louisville

One constant over the years, with the University of Louisville going in and out of seven different conferences, has been the presence of Western Kentucky University on the basketball schedule. They’ve met 77 times since the series began in 1926.

If fans should have learned anything over that span, it would be never to take Western Kentucky lightly. Despite the fact Louisville has won 22 of the last 25 games, WKU still owns a 39-38 edge in the series,

Back during the 1955-56 season, one of Peck Hickman’s best teams ever went to Bowling Green with a sparkling 8-0 record. Ed Diddle was coaching Western at the time, waving that red towel of his, and would hand Louisville an ignominious 88-77 defeat. Hickman’s team would lose only two more games that season en route to a National Invitation Tournament championship.

A 68-65 loss to Western in 2000 may have been one of many cumulative factors that sealed Denny Crum’s fate at UofL.  His team lost six of its first nine games that season en route to 12-19 record, UofL’s first losing season in more than 40 years.

Coach Rick Pitino sure isn’t overlooking Western, warning that his team would lose to WKU if they play the way they did against UNC Wilmington. The last time a UofL team took Western lightly was on a lazy Sunday in December 2008 when WKU handed Louisville a 68-54 defeat at Freedom Hall.

This year’s game at Bowling Green is the first game on an opponent’s home court, and WKU will be highly motivated. The Hilltoppers, with a 5-4 won-lost record, have won three of their last four games and may be getting their act together at the right time.

Ray Harper is in his fourth season as head coach, having guided the Hilltoppers to two consecutive winning seasons. He joined WKU after guiding Kentucky Wesleyan College to four NCAA Division II national championships and five national coach of the year awards.

Harper is a blue collar coach, one with a great deal of success, one who knows what this series means to Western Kentucky fans. Diddle Arena will be a hostile environment, and Bowling Green is a place where UofL teams have been humbled more times than any long-time UofL fan would like to admit.

Allergy relief — and a UofL win — at Jim Patterson

Pastels prevail at Jim Patterson (Click to Enlarge).
Pastels prevailed Tuesday at Jim Patterson (Click to Enlarge).

Jim Patterson Stadium has always provided the perfect setting for watching University of Louisville baseball, along with a lot of wins and a growing tradition over the years.

The observer discovered another reason to be there Tuesday, following a week of a non-stop fight with the enormous army of pollens that make the Louisville area the worst among American cities for allergy problems.

You see, at Jim Patterson, there are no blooming trees, no flowering plants, no freshly mowed grass or blowing dandelion seeds. Just beautiful synthetic turf as far as the eye can see.

No sneezing, no itchy nose, no deep-throated coughing — at least for three hours at Third and Central. What a relief.

*    *    *

Also a great day at the ballpark for Josh Rogers, a left handed freshman pitcher from New Albany, who won his first game at Louisville in a 3-1 win over Western Kentucky University.

Josh Rogers
Josh Rogers

Rogers, it should be noted, was selected by Dan McDonnell as the starter in both games against the University of Kentucky this season — the losing pitcher in both games.

McDonnell knowing Rogers has great potential, continuing to develop the freshman.

Rogers would go seven innings Tuesday, rare for a college pitcher these days, while allowing up three hits and striking out five batters.

*    *    *

UofL faces Morehead State at 6 p.m. Wednesday if you need a respite from nature’s toxins.

Minimal drama as Louisville outpaces WKU

Another chapter in the long-time University of Louisville-Western Kentucky series was written Saturday, but the drama lasted only until the intermission. Little doubt about how this installment would end, with UofL emerging on top, 79-63.

Western arriving on a slow bus, hoping to keep the game at a snail’s pace, milking the clock at every opportunity, bearing little resemblance to the run-and-gun Hilltoppers of the past. The visitors really didn’t have much choice, with UofL challenging every dribble, pass and shot. WKU still managed to achieve a 28-25 lead with 2:14 remaining in the first half.

That was before Russ Smith discovered that Wayne Blackshear was working without the ball, getting open, wanting the ball in his hands. Blackshear would connect on two consecutive three-pointers and UofL would take a 31-28 lead into the dressing room.

As the second half got under way, Blackshear would return the favor, steal the ball, find Russ Smith rushing to other end,  pushing the margin to five and WKU would never seriously threaten again.

  • Smith was looking more for teammates than shots this game, streaking down the lane, passing on the circus shots. He would still launch 16 attempts, making six of them while totaling 14 points. What was making Rick Pitino jubilant, however, was that Smith was credited with 10 assists.
  • Blackshear getting the message from Pitino, becoming more assertive, making himself available, collecting 12 points while pulling down two rebounds and a couple of steals. Maybe, just maybe, he’s ready to assume a leadership role (I know we’ve said that before).
  • Mangok Mathiang, meanwhile, was becoming more aggressive in attacking the basket, making good on five of five attempts for his 10 points. Less timid on the boards, pulling down four rebounds, was credited with a block. Slowly but surely making progress.
  • Tim Henderson, better known as “Wichita” to an uncle for those legendary shots in the NCAA last season, filling in as a reserve for injured Chris Jones, getting 22 minutes of playing time. Good numbers, too, four of six behind the arc for his 12 points, four assists and a steal. Just the latest example of Pitino’s long-term development process.
  • Montrezl Harrell will be remembered in this game for another of those monster dunks. But he would see only limited action, getting into early foul trouble and only 18 minutes of playing time.
  • Chane Behanan becoming more of a fixture, returning to form, using that big body more effectively these days, adding 11 points, seven rebounds and even a couple of assists. Stay focused, Chane, good things will continue to happen.
  • Terry Rozier , in a starting role again, mixing in on the boards, loving it, pulling down 10 rebounds to go with his four points.
  • Kevin Ware, alas, 24 seconds of playing time, but remembered for the turnover as he was doing the patented six seconds to halftime thing.
  • Luke Hancock wanting to convince himself and everybody else that the Achilles injury isn’t bothering him. He’s not limping or showing any signs but it’s slowing him down. Still made his only three-point attempt for his three points in 17 minutes of playing time.

The teams have played 77 times since 1926, with Western Kentucky owning a 39-38 edge in the series.