Signing Day Success for the Cardinals

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Coach Petrino has taken the winning culture left at the University of Louisville by the last coaching staff and capitalized on it. Over his first three seasons back he has won 26 games, 17 conference games and became bowl eligible for a 7th straight season this past year. All of this while facing some of the toughest scheduling in years. After a three game losing streak to end this past season it left folks with a lot more questions than it did answers, and it left Coach Petrino heading into year number four knowing that he had to make some changes in order to reach a new plateau. He didn’t waste any time in changing things around in his coaching staff hiring new offensive line coach Mike Summers and a new defensive coordinator in Peter Sirmon. The next step in the process was to address the recruiting needs of his team and yesterday he signed 22 new Cardinals that should do just that.

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The 2017 recruiting class could end up being the backbone of things reaching that next level for the Louisville Football program. Despite the results at the end of the season there has been a lot of success on the field at the University of Louisville and now that success is starting to spill over to the recruiting trail. Not only does Coach Petrino have a lot of wins in his back pocket he now can boast a Heisman Trophy winner. The Cardinals headed into this 2017 Class needing receivers, running backs and offensive linemen… The biggest grabs of this class are ESPN 300 WR Justin Marshall followed by WR’s Joshua Johnson and Corey Reed Jr. all out of the Peach State. ESPN 300 RB Colin Wilson was a big get along with three-star tight end Kemari Averett who will be another pass catcher. On the defensive side of things C.J. Avery is a top-10 safety and a tempo changer in the back-end. Three-star safety TreSean Smith is a steal out of Ohio and four-star corner Russ Yeast II could be a true difference-maker. The duo is joined in the secondary by some guys with a lot of upside in Lyn Strange, Kaheem Roach and Anthony Johnson. ESPN JC 50 Ronald Rudd along with 4* OT Toryque Bateman and 3* OG Cole Bentley are the biggest grabs along the line and this group is physically ready to contribute.

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Yesterday was a big success for Coach Petrino and his staff and I think that they will be able to carry some of that positive momentum into the spring. Cardinal fans also seem to still be very excited about what the future holds as it was announced to the crowd last night that season tickets were sold out and that there was a waiting list. The 2017 recruiting class had 14 three star signees and 7 four star signees… The class was ranked 29th by ESPN, 28th by Rivals, 32nd by 247 Sports and 31st by Scout. I do think that this class will be big help for years to come especially in helping establish a solid offensive line. I’m already looking forward to getting out to the practice fields this spring and seeing these new guys get after it.

One of the best things about National Signing Day is Louisville’s Signing Day party. I really like how the coaches get up and break down each guy in the class. It gives that inside look at just how they evaluate these guys throughout the process. Below is video of the Coaching staff breaking down the 2017 Class… Enjoy! GO CARDS!

Coach Petrino talks Russ Yeast & Caleb Chandler Signing Day Party 2017

OL Coach Mike Summers talks Ronald Rudd, Toryque Bateman & Mekhi Bectom Signing Day Party 2017

WR Coach Nick Petrino talks Malik Cunningham & Joshua Johnson Signing Day Party 2017

Secondary Coach Cort Dennison talks CJ Avery & Anthony Johnson Signing Day Party 2017

LD Scott talks Kam Jones & Malik Clark at Louisville Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Klenakis talks Kemari Averett & Cole Bentley at Louisville Signing Day Party 2017

Kolby Smith talks Colin Wilson & Mitch Hall at Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Lorenzo Ward, talks Kaheem Roach & Lyn Strange at Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Lonnie Galloway talks Justin Marshall & Corey Reed at Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Peter Sirmon talks Rodney Owens, Dorian Etherdge, & TreSean Smith Signing Day Party 2017

OL Coach Mike Summers Returns to Louisville

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With the way, the Louisville football team ended their season it left more questions than answers for Cardinal fans. Well maybe Coach Petrino is starting to answer some of those tough questions. We learned this past week that Todd Grantham had been replaced as defensive coordinator. That coaching shake-up was a little unexpected as most thought if anything it would be the offensive line coach Chris Klenakis that would be replaced. Today during the Duke game, we have now learned that will indeed happen. Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers will be the new head man for the guys in the trenches.

The Cardinals finished the season ranked 124th allowing 3.62 sacks a game and 95th in Tackles for loss allowed. When you have a guy as fast as Lamar Jackson being tackled so much in the back field you know that the O-line must be doing something wrong. After years of inconsistent play out of the O-Line position something had to be done to try and correct things. College football games are won and lost by what happens in the trenches. All of Louisville’s losses over the last three seasons can be attributed to the poor play up front. It was time to shake things up.

Enter Mike Summers who will try to get this unit better. Summers is no stranger to Louisville fans as he coached the offensive line here during Coach Petrino’s first time around. The Cardinals rushed for 2,974 yards in 03, 3,005 yards in 04, 2,278 yards in 05, and 2.411 in 06. In 2003, the Cards set a then-school rushing record while ranking fifth nationally in total offense (488.9) and 10th in rushing offense (228.2). Two offensive linemen, Jason Spitz and Travis Leffew, were All-Conference USA first-team in 2004 and All-Big East first team in 2005. During his tenure, Louisville won the 2004 Conference USA Championship and 2006 Big East title, and played in the 2007 Orange Bowl, 2006 Gator Bowl, 2004 Liberty Bowl and 2003 GMAC Bowl. The 2004 and 2006 Cardinal teams both finished ranked No. 6 by AP.

In 2006, his Louisville offensive line paved the way for the Cardinals offense, ranking second nationally (475.3), seventh in passing (290.0) and 12th in rushing (185.3). Three of his linemen (Renardo Foster, Kurt Quarterman and George Bussey) were All-Big East first-team picks. The 2004 line helped the Louisville offense set school records with 6,468 total yards, 3,005 rushing yards, 597 points and 47 rushing TDs. The Cardinals led the nation in both total offense (539.0) and scoring offense (49.8).

Coach Klenakis is a great guy and a great recruiter and will remain on the staff as the tight end coach. I’m glad that he is staying with the team but there had to be a change made with how this season ended and I think that Mike Summers is a good hire. He already has chemistry with Coach Petrino and has a proven pedigree. Welcome back to the Card Nation Coach Summers…

The Cardinals and their fans hope Citrus will get the bad taste out of their mouths

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The Louisville Football team carried a lot of momentum from the end of the 2015 season into 2016… The excitement of spring ball and summer practice was a catalyst to a 4-0 start to the regular season. We watched as our Cardinals made it to that 5th spot in the College Football Playoff Poll. The Cardinals started the regular season being compared to a red hot-rod going up and down the field in those chrome helmets but somewhere along the way the tires went flat.

Beating Florida State with the ESPN College Gameday crew on site was the zenith of the season and losing at home to arch rival Kentucky to end the regular season was the nadir. This team was making some of the same mistakes throughout but the effort in those early games masked some of those issues that cost this team in the end.

-The Cardinals offensive line gave up 3.25 sacks a game this season ranked 121 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals averaged 7.75 penalties a game this season ranked 118 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 21 fumbles this season ranked 128 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 31 turnovers this season ranked 124 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

When this team got complacent they stopped getting better. This Louisville team never got better than they were during that 4-0 start to the season. In the final two games of the season the effort we had seen early on was nonexistent. These guys appeared to have lost all that great momentum they had in September and October… and will now have to dig deep to get it back.

The game on Saturday is important to the legacy of a great senior class, it is important for the guys who came to Louisville for their last chance, it is important to Cardinal fans who deserve to see their team end the season with a win and the game on Saturday is important to regain some positive momentum headed into next season. The attitudes in the weight room and on that practice field next spring and summer will be a lot different coming off a Bowl win as opposed to three straight losses. There is a lot of discussion around this time of year about how much these Bowl games really matter… for the Cardinals and their fans it’s the only thing that matters now.

Louisville will be making its 21st bowl appearance when they face LSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and looking for its sixth bowl win in the last eight Bowl games. The Cardinals offense enters the Bowl game averaging 45.3 points per game with 256.8 rushing yards and 302 passing yards per game. Having won 14 of his last 18 starts our Heisman winner Lamar Jackson is completing 57.6% of his passes for 3390 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Jackson has rushed for 1538 yards and 21 touchdowns. Brandon Radcliff has added 877 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns for the Cardinals. James Quick has caught 42 passes for 688 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Cole Hikutini has caught 49 passes for 656 yards and 8 scores. This Louisville offense will be facing a very good defense on Saturday. The biggest key will be the offensive line. Lamar can’t win this side of the ball alone. It’s going to take a balanced attack. That means time for plays to develop and open running lanes. Coach Klenakis’s guys were able to rise to the occasion last year in the Music City Bowl. Can they do it again?

The Louisville defense is giving up 23.3 points per game with 110 rushing yards and 206.3 passing yards per game. Leading this unit is Keith Kelsey with 81 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Stacy Thomas with 74 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack and Chucky Williams with 45 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Zykiesis both have 61 tackles on the season. The Cardinals defense will be without sack leader James Hearns but still have Devonte Fields coming off the edge. This unit will be playing with a lot of emotion. They will be playing without one of their defensive leaders in Hearns and it will be the last time a lot of these guys will be wearing a Cardinal uniform. I think Coach Grantham will have them ready.

LSU lost 2 of their last 4 games and finished tied for 2nd in the SEC West. The LSU offense is averaging 28.3 points per game with 238.1 rushing yards and 187.6 passing yards per game. QB Danny Etling isn’t anywhere near as good as the guy he will be facing but gets the job done completing 60% of his passes for 1906 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The Tigers leading rusher is big powerful running back Derrius Guice. He has rushed for 1249 yards and 14 touchdowns. Their speed back Leonard Fournette will not play. Their leading receivers are Malachi Dupre who has caught 34 passes for 454 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Travin Dural who has 28 catches for 280 yards and 1 score. Who knows what to expect from this LSU offense. What will it do to this unit’s chemistry with Fournette not playing? Or will affect them at all?

This LSU team can put points on the board but it is their top ranked defense they rely on. The LSU defense is giving up 16.4 points per game with 121.8 rushing yards and 201.2 passing yards per game. The leaders of this unit are Linebacker Kendell Beckwith with 91 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Linebacker Duke Riley with 85 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 interception. Safety Jamal Adams has 70 tackles, and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux has 58 tackles. Defensive end Arden Key leads this unit with 10 sacks. I think we will get this units best shot on Saturday. A good defense takes pride in being able to stop great players. They have their chance to shut down a pretty good one Saturday.

This game comes down to very good offense vs a very good defense. There will be a lot of speed and athleticism on both sides of the field but it will all come down to emotion. There will be a team that wants it more. LSU can lose this game and rely on the benefit of that SEC bias to be right back in playoff conversations again next season. If Louisville loses this game they will start next year with a very different narrative. The Cardinals need this game more and if they play like they need it more they should be able to secure the victory. If they come out uninspired like they did in the two games to end the regular season it will be a long off season.

It’s gut check time for the Louisville football program. They have faced a lot of adversity on and off the field over the last couple of months. Sure, individual awards are great and it was special for the program and the fans getting to celebrate a Heisman Trophy. But in the end football is a team sport and this team needs a win. Let’s hope the Citrus Bowl gets the bad taste out of our mouths and we can head into next season on a high note. GO CARDS!

The 50th Meeting Between the Cards & Cats

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We are just a few weeks removed from the Cats and Cards doing battle on the gridiron to end the regular season of college football. On Wednesday night they will take the battle to the basketball court. This week we have flown our flags a little higher and wore our gear with that little extra boost of pride. This is the Cards and the Cats and it just doesn’t get any bigger in college basketball.

“Two elite teams meet once again, eternal bragging rights (at least for another year) Hall of Fame coaches who can’t stand each other. It’s not always a pretty watch, but it’s compelling TV and the best soap opera in the sport at the moment.” -Sports Illustrated

It is the eve of one of the best rivalries in college sports… If you grew up in the state of Kentucky then you chose your side very early in your life. I was singing the Louisville fight song to my son on the night he was born. I picked a side 30 years ago and have never regretted my decision. I love my Cardinals and I love this rivalry. Rivalries are what define sports and every competition needs a great rivalry. We have one of the best rivalries in all of sports and it deserves the credit. The Rivalry has given us many enjoyable moments and now it’s time to have another.

This will again be a highly anticipated Battle of the Bluegrass with both teams ranked within the top 10. It has been the Cats who have won the last 8 out of 10 in this battle head-to-head including 4 straight, but when looking at their entire body of work these teams have had similar success in the last 30 years. A series that started in 1913 these old rivals will meet for the 50th time on Wednesday night. Kentucky holds the all-time lead in this series 34-15.

NCAA Final Fours

Kentucky – 17 (Tied 2nd all-time)

Louisville – 10 (Tied 6th all-time)

NCAA Tournament Championships

Kentucky – 8 (2nd all-time)

Louisville – 3 (Tied 7th all-time)

NCAA Tournament Appearances

Kentucky – 54 (1st all-time)

Louisville – 41 (5th all-time)

Kentucky beat North Carolina 103-100 in Las Vegas in its last game as Malik Monk scored a UK freshman record 47 points and De’Andre Fox totaled 24 points and 10 assists. The Wildcats are among the top five nationally in scoring (3rd in the nation, 95.2 ppg), assists (4th, 19.9 apg), scoring margin (4th, +23.5), offensive rebounds (5th, 15.7 per game), and blocked shots (5th, 7.1 bpg). Fox is eighth in the nation averaging 7.2 assists. Fox and Bam Adebayo were preseason All-SEC first team selections, while Monk and Isaiah Briscoe were second team All-SEC preseason picks. Kentucky is No. 9 in the RPI, No. 4 in the Sagaring Ratings and No. 4 by Ken Pomeroy through Dec. 18.

Louisville leads the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency through Dec. 18. The Cardinals are fifth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.359), 11th in scoring defense (59.4 ppg), fourth in blocked shots (7.2 per game), 22nd in three-point field goal defense (.287), 24th in turnover margin (+4.6), 11th in rebound margin (+9.3), fifth in rebounds per game (45.0), third in offensive rebounds per game (16.1) and 15th in scoring margin (+19.1). Six of the Cardinals 11 opponents this season have scored under 60 points. Eight of Louisville’s 11 opponents this season have shot below 36 percent from the field and four have shot below 32 percent. Eastern Kentucky shot 35.6 percent in UofL’s last game when the Cardinals limited the Colonels to 16 first-half points. It was the third time UofL has held a team under 20 points in a half this season.

This game as most of them have in the Pitino/Calipari era will come down to good offense vs good defense… The best way to beat Kentucky this season is to play great lock-down defense against their back-court and not let Fox have his way in the lane and not let Monk have many open looks from deep. The Louisville guards also need to brace up in the face of the Wildcats’ defensive harassment. Kentucky still has a lot of length and talent in their front-court but unlike previous seasons this Louisville team has plenty of talent and height of their own to challenge them here. According to Kenpom’s advance analytics the Cards are #9 in effective height and #19 in average height. The cats are #16 in effective height and #59 in average height.

The Cardinals X-factors on Wednesday night will be the front-court players. If Anas, Mango, Johnson and Spalding can play great defense and grab those offensive/defensive rebounds I really like our chances. They have to neutralize the Kentucky bigs. I also think our bench scoring will come into play in this one. There are always a lot of fouls called in these games. The Cardinals have 327 bench points already this season. Per Kenpom Louisville is ranked 54th in bench minutes. I’ve heard them mock David Levitch and Ryan McMahon… but so did the experts before Tim “Wichita” Henderson led the Cardinals to the Championship game in 2013.

This will be one of the biggest tests of the year for both of these teams. Each has to play to their strengths and attack the others weakness, but as I mentioned above with the player always coming out of nowhere there will be a scenario play out that nobody expected. These rivalry games are packed with emotion and that along with the home crowd will also factor in. I’m looking forward to a great game and an opportunity to knock off this Kentucky group. It has been too long. Should be another great one in the series… Go Cards!

Lamar Jackson Leaps His Way into Cardinal Lore

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There have been many great athletes come through the Louisville football program each leaving their mark etched in Cardinal Lore… Young men who make the decision to come be a part of the Cardinal family and let us all be a part of this very important chapter in their lives. We share their highs and their lows and feel proud of them when they succeed.

This season Lamar Jackson left a pretty big mark on the Louisville program and leaped his way into the hearts of the College football world. He won over thousands with his athletic ability and electrifying moves on the football field, but it was the humble, shy, respectful, decent young man off the field that won me over.

When he wasn’t beating himself up with those way too low grades he gave himself after every game he was praising his teammates and coaches. A guy so soft spoken that you had to sometimes struggle to hear in a post-game locker-room, but one who had just been ferocious on the football field.

Lamar Jackson would take the time to sign a young girls cast or to give a kid his wrist band, but did everything he could to avoid the fanfare. Back in September I covered the very first football game of the season. Lamar had 8 touchdowns, 286 yards passing and 119 yards rushing. I took the picture above and after the game against Charlotte the writing was on the wall. But I digress…

After the post-game interviews wrapped up that night in the locker-room I gathered my things and headed to my car. As I walked out Lamar Jackson walked out of the player’s door ahead of me. As he headed out of the gates in front of me there were several groups of fans and players acquaintances. I noticed that Lamar put his ear phones in, pulled his hood up and headed towards Floyd Street.

I always park in the lot over by Lynn Stadium and as I watched Lamar walk down a low lit side walk towards campus I thought to myself here’s a kid who just put his name in a lot of sports conversations walking all alone back to his dorm just like the average college student getting out of a night class.

Lamar didn’t stop by the fanfare that night to accept all of that praise; he didn’t go get into a flashy sports car and drive off with a car load of co-eds… That’s not who Lamar Jackson is.

Lamar Jackson is an unbelievable athlete and I love watching him spin… leap and dive like those characters I played with as a kid on my Nintendo. But nothing impresses me more than how someone with all that ability can be so humble.

Last night Lamar Jackson was awarded the biggest individual prize in college football. He won the Heisman Trophy by gathering all those amazing stats and by being a phenomenal athlete. He earned it… But it was that soft spoken humble guy who clumsy with his words gave all of the credit to his coaches, friends and family who deserved it.

Now back to that Cardinal Lore… my son is 5 years old and I already have him very active in the Cardinal universe. I’ve got to share some pretty cool moments with him already. Last season when he got to stand beside me on the field in the Georgia Dome, this season when Coach Galloway called him over and talked with him during spring practice… I’m trying to create tradition and those memories for him to pass down to his kids someday.

Last night he was with me celebrating the Football programs first Heisman Trophy and I had him out taking a picture with me in front of the Lamar Jackson tribute at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 11:30. That’s good stuff folks. And we owe it all to those great Cardinal football players who have helped us make those memories. And we owe it to Lamar Jackson.

Lamar Jackson has added an amazing story to Cardinal Lore and I’m sure it will not be the last. Hopefully we’ll all be right back here a year from now doing this all again. Archie Griffin is the only person to win the Heisman Trophy two times… Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes said of Griffin, “He’s a better young man than he is a football player, and he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen”. Does that remind you of anyone you know..?

Thank You #8

Twas The Night Before the Heisman

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As Louisville Football fans we have seen the program soar to prominence over the years. This can be attributed to great administration, great coaches and great players. I remember watching Teddy Bridgewater and saying to myself that it would be a long time before we had a program changing player like that again. I feel like Teddy bridged the gap to help Louisville be a legitimate contender in the college football world. When Teddy was winning a Big East Title with one arm and on one leg to give the Cardinals a berth to the BCS and then shredded the Florida defense to win the Sugar Bowl he was creating a winning legacy that would live on even after he was gone.

Now here we are three years after Teddy Bridgewater threw his last touchdown pass in a Cardinal uniform getting ready to watch the Louisville Football program win it’s very first Heisman Trophy. Lamar Jackson has said Bridgewater is a reason he ended up looking at the Louisville program. While I was thinking to myself years ago, that we wouldn’t see another player like this in a long time little did I know that the next man up was just a few years away from taking over that role. Where Teddy bridged that gap Lamar Jackson has helped the program take a giant leap on to the College Football stage.

Behind the raw athleticism, electrifying play-making and his will to win Lamar Jackson had Louisville in the national conversation and playoff picture for most of the season. Now for those efforts he has himself in a position to win the biggest individual prize in college football. He has been on a whirlwind tour over the last couple of days picking up different hardware along the way but nothing will be as sweet as hoisting that 20-pound bronze statue on Saturday night. The excitement level has reached an all-time high as Cardinal fans show their support by bathing their homes and businesses in Red light for the QB sensation. We all know what this means and how important it is. Especially for that winning legacy to continue.

I had a fan share this great little poem over on the Fan Page and I think it sums up well how excited we all are.
Thanks for sharing Susan.

Twas the night before Heisman and all through the street,
the houses lit red for the man with the feet.

The Cardinal player who can do it all
Now waits in New York for his name to be called!

Fans wearing RED to support number 8,
Lamar is a player with humble, great fate!

So raise up your L’s and keep the faith PROUD
With hope that the Heisman will land with “our” CROWD!

#L1C4LIT – Susan Blake Turner

College Football Playoff was Not In the Cards

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Just a few weeks ago we were buzzing about the Cardinal’s Playoff chances and counting down the hours until the Playoff Rankings show came on. Louisville climbed to that 5th spot and it became a real possibility that they could still do this. The excitement reached another level. For the first time in program history the Cardinals had a College Football Playoff shot and a Heisman front runner. The hype swirling around the Louisville program was astounding. There was extra coverage on ESPN, extra coverage from national print media, and social media back-and-forth between players, fans and media. It’s the kind of exposure that every major program wants to achieve. The run that the Louisville football team had during the regular season was special. But the kind of pressure that comes along with that will make a great team shine or expose leaks in the foundation.

Unfortunately we had leaks in the foundation…

This weekend I sent out a tweet that I thought the players had let the hype ruin their season. After having a few days to process it all I still think it played a part. The extra posing, the extra gestures… a lot of stuff we weren’t seeing from these guys when the season started. I really do believe that these guys started reading their headlines. Somewhere in all of that complacency set in. When this team played hungry and with something to prove it masked their inability to play clean football. When they got complacent they weren’t able to overcome all of those turnovers, penalties and mistakes. This Louisville Football team is really good. They have explosive playmakers on both the defensive and offensive side of the football field with talent everywhere. But they have turned the ball over 31 times and had 93 penalties along the way. The Cardinals had 19 penalties and 7 turnovers over the last two games.

The offensive line accounted for many of those penalties and allowed 39 sacks this season. When the national spotlight was on them at Houston they gave up 11 sacks. This group was out-manned for most of the season as they faced some very good defensive units. Physical struggles turn into mental struggles resulting in a complete breakdown. There was some improvement this season but this unit still needs a major upgrade to compete for a national title.

Lamar Jackson is such a fierce competitor that sometimes he tries to do too much. Over the last couple of weeks this has become more apparent. Trying to make the play himself while not making the right read, diving for the extra yard while not protecting the ball and throwing into tight coverage all trying to make something happen for his team. This young man is an incredible athlete, but is still very raw. I’m reminded of the story about the old bull and the young bull standing on top of the hill. Lamar is going to learn that if he walks down the hill he can be more effective sometimes. Lamar Jackson will mature a lot as a result of this season. He is going to take that Heisman honor as a personal challenge to live up to what that standard is. It will help him be a more complete player next season. Yes we have him again next season…

The Louisville defense was just good enough but good enough didn’t cut it in the 3 losses. I think some of this responsibility falls on the players and some of it does fall on the coaches. The Louisville staff was out coached at Houston and against Kentucky in my opinion. It’s up to the coaches to have the players in the right spot so they can make the play. That didn’t happen at times. We have seen more big plays on this defense in the last two weeks than we’ve seen in two seasons. I think the defense got complacent and lost some of their intensity. They gave up 943 yards in the last two games and the defensive line only had 1 sack and 9 tackles for loss over the last two weeks. This group can say they had a pretty good regular season but sometimes just being good isn’t good enough.

I cover these guys from summer workouts, thru spring football and into the season. I know nobody in that lockerroom took failure lightly. They are going to get back to work and be ready for the Bowl game in a few weeks and will finish strong. Losing the playoff hopes and the Governor’s Cup over the last two weeks was rough. Putting it into perspective just being in the playoff picture was great for the program and we had held that Cup for 5 years. The program will also have its first ever Heisman Trophy winner. Did I mention that Heisman Trophy winner will be back next season?

Next year we will be back in that playoff picture and we will take that Cup back. Go Cards!

It’s Time for Louisville to win The Governor’s Cup… again

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There doesn’t seem to be as much buzz or anticipation for this seasons battle for the Governor’s Cup. I think that the Cardinals uninspired performance against Houston has a lot to do with that. It might also be the fact that the Cardinals haven’t lost a football game to Kentucky since 2010… But by the time kickoff rolls around tomorrow I expect the spirit of this Bluegrass Rivalry to be in full effect. The all-time series is currently tied at 14, with Louisville winning the past five meetings. The Wildcats will bring one of the best teams they’ve had during the Stoops era into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and they are Bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season. Our Cardinals also have one of the best teams they’ve had during Petrino Era part 2. We have enjoyed watching them compete for a playoff spot all season and will hopefully enjoy another victory over Kentucky on Saturday at noon.

This is the third season that this game will take its place at the table of rivalry weekend in college football. And this has the potential to be one of the better games on Saturday. Kentucky is finally getting together enough size, talent, speed and athleticism to be fairly competitive again. They have done a nice job utilizing their talent with that Wildcat offense. They have rushed for 2,666 yards this season out of that Wildcat look and are ranked #17 in the country in rushing offense. Their passing attack isn’t as effective but still capable of that big play. They have 1,892 yards through the air this season ranked 111th in passing offense. This Kentucky team has been inconsistent at times on the defensive end of the field but can be very good at times. They are ranked #81 in total defense allowing 428 yards a game. They are giving up 220 yards a game on the ground and 208 yards a game through the air.

Leading the Kentucky offense is QB Stephen Johnson. He took over the starting role after Drew Barker was injured. Johnson isn’t going to “wow you” but is consistent and does a good job out of the Wildcat offense. He has 1,524 yards through the air with a 9:4 TD: INT ratio and has 195 yards with 2 touchdowns on the ground. The Wildcats offense has taken off in the past few weeks in large part thanks to the two headed monster of running backs Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr. This duo is as good as any in the country. Williams ranks seventh nationally and is second in the SEC in yards per carry (7.3) and 32nd nationally. He has 2,413 career rushing yards, seventh on Kentucky’s career rushing list. Snell’s 1,006 rushing yards this season is a school record for a freshman in a single season. Williams ranked #31 in rushing yards uses his speed to run by people and Snell ranked #41 uses power to run over people. This kid is a beast…

In the Wildcats passing attack WR Jeff Badet has surfaced as a solid threat himself with 335 yards and three scores on just 14 catches over the past five weeks. When this guy catches a pass he makes em count ranked second nationally in yards per catch at 24.46 per reception. The Kentucky offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the success of this team. This is one of their most experienced positions returning 83 career starts, including 46 from last year. Senior center Jon Toth anchors their O-line and he has started in 46 consecutive games. He is considered one of the top centers in college football.

Trying to stop the Wildcat Offense is a Cardinals defense that has been strong against the run, holding eight foes to less than 140 rushing yards. They have limited the last five opponents to an average of 58.4 yards per game and will need that type of effort against this Kentucky offense on Saturday. DT DeAngelo Brown (11.0 tackles for loss), LB Devonte’ Fields (22 tackles, 5 sacks), S Josh Harvey-Clemons (33 tackles), and LB Keith Kelsey (41 tackles) will be running out onto the field at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the last time on Saturday. These guys have never suffered a loss to the Wildcats and how they play tomorrow will determine if they can graduate with that claim. The Louisville defense took the day off last Thursday night. They have had over a week to think about that effort. I think we will see an inspired performance out of this group.

So far this season, Lamar Jackson has 3,109 passing yards with 28 touchdowns, and also leads the Cardinals in rushing on 209 yards and 1,367 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had a breakout performance against Kentucky last season leading the Cardinal’s to a come from behind victory at Commonwealth Stadium. Jackson is a fierce competitor and you can bet that he doesn’t want to end his record breaking regular season with a loss to the Wildcats. For offensive leaders RB Brandon Radcliff (787, 6 touchdowns), WR James Quick (621 yards, 6 touchdowns), WR Jamari Staples (593 yards, 2 touchdowns), and TE Cole Hikutini (556 yards, 7 touchdowns) this will also be their last time on the home turf. This offense has been explosive and these guys have been a big reason why. Makes no sense to think that they won’t play a big role in this one. This rivalry tends to mean a lot more to the guys from the state and in the case of OL Tobijah Hughley who is from Lexington it really means a lot. He along with OL Matt Cohen, and OL Kiola Mahoni will be playing their last game in front of the home crowd and they should be motivated to finish the home-stand strong. They’ll want to erase that awful game last week (11 sacks) out of the minds of Cardinal fans.

Trying to slow down the explosive Louisville offensive attack is a Kentucky defense that has been very inconsistent this season. They can play lock down on one series then turn around and give up the big play on the next. Playing against this Louisville offense that averages over 15 yards per catch (#8 nationally) that could be a problem for them. This Wildcat defense is strongest at the Linebacker position. LB Jordan Jones is a really good player and flies around all over the field looking for somebody to hit. He has 90 tackles this season to rank third among all SEC defenders with 8.2/game. He also leads the SEC in solo tackles (62), and has a team-high nine quarterback hurries. He will be the biggest challenge for the Louisville offensive line on Saturday. LB Courtney Love, a transfer from Nebraska, is third on the team with 62 tackles and strong-side LB Josh Allen has posted 53 tackles with a team high 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, which ranks eighth nationally. Kentucky also has five corner-backs with extensive experience, including Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC corner-back Chris Westry (72 career tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 11 pass breakups). If the Wildcats pull off the upset Saturday these guys will be a big part of it.

I always look forward to this football game. Rivalries are what make college sports so interesting and we have one of the best rivalries in the country. For the first time in a while this game will make its way back to ESPN for the noon kickoff. I hope both teams come out and play the best game of their seasons and make this one an instant classic. With their running backs they could make it a very competitive game and the Louisville defense will face one of the toughest challenges of the season. Penalties could also play a big part in a game like this. The Wildcats are ranked #25 in fewest penalties per game while our Cardinals rank #122. Having said all of that I think Lamar Jackson along with the emotions of Senior Day will be the difference in this one. This is one of the better teams that Kentucky has brought into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and I do think it will be competitive but the Cardinals will win their sixth straight in the Governor’s Cup battle. Let’s get loud tomorrow Cardinal Fans. GO CARDS!

The Beak’s Prediction for the
Howard Schnellenberger Award:

My prediction for the award this year is Lamar Jackson. I believe he will win this award for his ability to take over this game like he did last season. He should be able to have his way with a very inconsistent UK defense. The Stoops defense has struggled with mobile QB’s and will have trouble with the speed and athleticism of Jackson again on Saturday.

The 2010 game was the inaugural year for the award. The award is given to the Most Valuable Player of the game. It is named for Howard Schnellenberger, who played under Bear Bryant for Kentucky and coached at Louisville.

Previous winners:

-(9-04-2010) Derrick Locke, RB@ Kentucky had 23 Carries, 104 Yards, for 2 TD’s
-(9-17-2011) Dexter Heyman, LB@ Louisville had 12 Tackles & 1 Forced Fumbles
-(9-02-2012) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 19/21, 232 Yards
-(9-14-2013) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 16/28, 250 Yards, 1 TD
-(11-29-2014) DeVante Parker Louisville WR 6 Receptions, 180 Yards, 3 TD’s
-(11-28-2015) Lamar Jackson Louisville QB 8/21, 130 yards, 1 TD 17 carries, 186 yards, 2 TDs

Another Big Thursday Night Game for the Cards

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Louisville is no stranger to Thursday night football, and has used the weekday games to help propel the program onto the national scene. There have been some of those Thursday night games that have had major implications to the Cards post season. This week marks the ten year anniversary of the Thursday night Jeremy Ito kicked a 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to lift No. 15 Rutgers to a 28-25 Big East Conference victory over No. 3 Louisville. That loss most would argue knocked Louisville out of their first chance to play for a National Championship. You can bet that Coach Petrino and Louisville fans have thought about that night many times. With another big Thursday night game looming it to could have major implications on the Cardinals post season playoff hopes.

On Thursday night Louisville will visit Houston to play the Cougars in what should be a very competitive game. This will be the 17th meeting between these teams with the series tied at 8-8. The Houston Cougars are 8-2 (5-2) this season after beating Tulane by a score of 30-18 in their last game. Houston hasn’t been the team that most expected them to be this season after their big win over Oklahoma but make no mistake about it they are very good. Last year Houston’s season was highlighted by their big win against the Cardinals in Louisville. This game has been labeled as their Super Bowl by several pundits.

With Houston it starts at the top with their head Coach Tom Herman and his staff. Last season I covered the game between Louisville and Houston and spent some time observing the Houston side line. They have a very young and energetic staff and that funnels down through their team. They have struggled at times this season but that competitiveness has been their one constant. The Cougars have always been known for their explosive offenses and that legacy has only improved with Herman. Offensively the Cougars are going to come from all directions and are averaging 37.6 points per game with 168.6 rushing yards and 283.8 passing yards per game. They have scored 26 touchdowns on the ground and 17 touchdowns through the air.

Leading this Cougar offense is a very athletic and talented QB Greg Ward Jr. Ward is completing 68.5% of his passes for 2608 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 8 interception this season. He leads the Cougars rushing attack with 429 yards and 9 touchdowns. Houston also features two very solid RB’s in Duke Catalon (411 yards, 2 touchdowns), and Dillon Birden (277 yards, 6 touchdowns). Ward’s favorite targets through the air are WR’s Linell Bonner (774 yards, 2 touchdowns), Chance Allen (637 yards, 3 touchdowns), and Steven Dunbar (585 yards, 5 touchdowns). One of Herman’s best attributes is how he utilizes his talent in his spread offense and this group has embraced that.

Trying to stop Houston’s very aggressive style of offense is a Louisville defense that has been very consistent this season. Defensively, the Cardinals have moved up to sixth in the country in rushing defense, yielding only 102.7 yards per game and are tied (Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan) for the national lead by allowing just three rushing touchdowns all season. Louisville is also #6 in 3rd down conversion defense, #7 in yards allowed per pass attempt and #10 in sack yards. Louisville hasn’t permitted a touchdown on the ground in the last 22 quarters (since the second stanza versus Clemson.) They are ranked #6 in total defense. There have been different guys stepping up each week on this defense. Keith Kelsey has led the Louisville defense with 68 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, while Stacy Thomas has added 58 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. Last week DeVonte Fields got back to his dominating ways. This is a promising sign as the Cardinals are going to need him down the stretch.

Lamar Jackson got his first college start against the Houston Cougars last season but ended up being replaced by Kyle Bolin after he and the offense struggled. This time around things are a little different. Louisville has the #1 scoring offense averaging 49.6 points per game with 270 rushing yards and 313.2 passing yards per game. Jackson is completing 58.6% of his passes for 2898 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions for Louisville. Jackson has added 1334 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. This Louisville offense has many weapons and can attack on every level. Houston ranks #41 in the country in passing yards allowed. Look for the Cardinals WR’s to play a big role in the game on Thursday night. Leading this group is four guys well over 400 yards in receiving James Quick (608 yards, 6 touchdowns), Jamari Staples (585 yards, 2 touchdowns), Cole Hikutini (526 yards, 6 touchdowns), and Jaylen Smith (487 yards, 6 touchdowns).

Speaking of the Houston defense they are giving up 21.3 points per game with 92.8 rushing yards and 210.5 passing yards per game. The backbone of this defense is the defensive line and their line-backers. Up front they have maybe one of the best interior lineman in the country in Ed Oliver who has 55 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He is tied for 6th in the country in tackles for loss per game. LB Matthew Adams has 55 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. While LB Steven Taylor has 50 tackles, and 6 sacks. Houston’s defensive front really has some nice size and these guys get to the ball. With Louisville needing to attack their weak secondary it will be a busy night for the Cards offensive line giving Jackson time to do so.

To say I’m a bit nervous about this Thursday night game would be an understatement. I know a playoff spot is pretty much still a long shot at this point but I really would like to see the Cardinals compete for that spot all the way to the end. A loss to Houston would completely derail any outside shot at playing for a National Title and send the Cardinals plummeting down in the polls. This game will be Houston’s BCS Bowl game. They are looking to make a late season statement themselves and perhaps looking for a bit of redemption after losing a few games. I think that Houston will ride the emotion of their crowd and the hype surrounding this game. I look for them to keep it close and for this game to be a battle. But ultimately big games are decided by great players. I think our O’s are much better than their X’s, and we have the best offensive player in college football on our sideline. Big Thursday night games have served as the ultimate proving ground for Louisville Football. It’s time to show the nation once again that we belong. Go Cards!

ACC Finale on a Saturday Night under the Lights

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Our Louisville Cardinals are heading down the home stretch of the college football season. They moved up one spot this week in the Playoff poll to #6 and winners of four games straight they will close out their 3rd ACC season against Wake Forest Saturday night under the lights of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals and the Demon Deacons have met three times on the gridiron with the Cardinals winning all three. The Cardinals have won 9 straight at home including a perfect 4-0 this season.

In the last three games, Louisville has put up a whopping 138 points, and has held opponents to 14 points or fewer in three of their last four. The Cardinals have dominated the opposition this season, having out-scored opponents 211-61 and having scored 50 or more points in three of the four home contests. Next up is a very respectful opponent in Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 6-3 and 3-2 overall after a 27-20 win over Virginia last week. They will be coming to Louisville on Saturday night with upset on their mind and the Cardinals will get their best shot. This Wake Forest team reflects the resilience of their head coach. Dave Clawson has turned several programs around and in year number three in Winston-Salem has them going Bowling. The programs first trip to a Bowl game since 2011.

Leading the Wake Forest offense is another guy who is a direct reflection of his coach. QB John Wolford has been right in the middle of the rebuilding process and has taken the blows that comes along with that. His numbers don’t necessarily reflect it but Wolford has weathered the storm and has his offense moving the football. So far this season, Wolford is 127-of-225 for 1313 yards and has a 5:7 TD: INT ratio. The Demon Deacons have a pretty balanced attack with 1476 yards on the ground and 1507 yards through the air. Leading their rushing attack is Matt Colburn with 109 carries for 463 yards and one TD. Wolford is a mobile QB and he is second on the team in rushing with 456 yards and 6 touchdowns. Wolford’s favorite targets are WR Tabari Hines (367 yards 2 touchdowns), WR Cortez Lewis (298 yards), and TE Cam Serigne (257 yards, 1 touchdown).

Looking to stifle this Wake Forest offense is a Louisville Defense that keeps getting better every week. After giving up 201 yards on the ground in the 42-36 loss to No. 2 Clemson on Oct. 1, the Cardinals have allowed just 66.3 average over the last four games holding the last three opponents to under 100 yards on the ground. Entering the game last weekend, Boston College totaled 170.1 yards per game on the ground, and were held to 57 yards on 47 carries an average of 1.5 yards per attempt. The Cards are ranked seventh in rushing defense this season. They have also done a great job at defending teams through the air and rank 15th in the country allowing 187 yards a game. The Cardinals are ranked 8th in the nation in total defense giving up 293 yards a game. For DeAngelo Brown (second on the squad with 6.5 tackles for loss), Keith Kelsey (team leader with 61 tackles), Devonte Fields (30 tackles, 2 sacks), and Josh Harvey-Clemons (second on the team in tackles with 56) their college careers are nearing the end. Look for them to be playing some of their best football on Saturday night and during these final weeks.

On the year so far, Jackson is rolling with a 170-of-288 line for 2753 yards and 26 touchdowns, also leading Louisville in rushing with 1181 yards and 19 touchdowns on 162 attempts. Brandon Radcliff ranks 10th in the nation with an average of 7.12 yards per carry. James Quick is the Cardinals’ lead receiver this year with 35 catches for 601 yards and six touchdowns of his own and not far behind is Jamari Staples second on the team with 557 receiving yards. Jaylen Smith has caught a pass in 14-straight games and is tied for the lead with six touchdowns. Cole Hikutini has caught 27 passes and always seems to be there to move the chains when needed. This Louisville offense is rolling along like a well-oiled machine and I only expect that to continue Saturday night.

I don’t think that Wake Forest can stand up to this kind of offensive onslaught in any realistic scenario, but do think that they’ve got a defense that will sure be excited to try and slow down the Heisman leader and the weapons he has around him. Wake Forest has some very good player’s at all three levels of their defense. This is a hard-nosed group who flies around the field looking to hit somebody. The leaders of this group are DL Duke Ejiofor (36 tackles, 8 sacks), LB Marquel Lee (71 tackles, 5 sacks), LB Thomas Brown (45 tackles, 1.5 sacks), DB Brad Watson (40 tackles, 2 interceptions), DB Ryan Janvion (42 tackles, 1 interception), and DB Jessie Bates (63 tackles, 5 interceptions). You can tell by their numbers that these guys come to play and they will Saturday.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be under the lights of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday night covering this game. We haven’t had the chance at many of these night games since joining the ACC. It will also be great to be a part of the atmosphere that will honor our veterans. The Cardinals will wear maybe their best uniform combinations of the season when they take the field. I don’t see any scenario where this game will be in doubt. With the home crowd behind them this Louisville offense and defense will come out and play one of the best games of their season looking to gain momentum as they close this thing out. It’s going to be an awesome Saturday night folks. Go Cards!