My Four Hours With the 2014/15 Louisville Basketball Team

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This is an article that I would have loved to have completed on Sunday night but for the first time since National Signing Day I had so much content that it was just impossible to do. Sunday was Media Day and the first Red and White Scrimmage of the 2014/15 season. I had the opportunity to spend four hours with the team yesterday and it was great to be back at the Yum Center.

This is going to be another exciting year, but one that will be defined by a young group of Cardinals. For the first time in a long time this team doesn’t have that solid veteran foundation to fall back on and will rely on guys stepping up to create their own legacy. Losing a group of guys that were the winningest in program history will have an impact, but what they left behind will hopefully give this year’s team momentum to build upon. In successful programs tradition never graduates. The Louisville Basketball program is rich and vibrant because a lot of guys over the years have cared enough to give their very best. There are many chapters left to be written and now it’s time for this 2014/15 group to write theirs.

Montrezl, Wayne and Chris are the captains this season. Out of these guys Wayne is the only one who has been around the program for four years. Wayne and Montrezl are the only guys left from the national championship team. I think that Wayne and Chris are the lead by example kind of guys and Montrezl is the more vocal leader. Talking with them on Sunday I think they are aware of how important it is that they provide leadership for this young team.

Talking with all of the guys during media day I can tell you that they are all good kids. It’s going to be fun watching them grow into the program and to see how far each of them take their game over the next four years.

The very first public scrimmages of the season are always fun to watch. It’s great to see how much the returning guys have improved and great to see the potential that the new guys bring to the team.

-Montrezl Harrell has a jump shot. I don’t know how much we’ll see of the big fella outside of the arc but he showed in the scrimmage yesterday that he is capable of knocking it down. It will make him tougher to guard and he was already a match-up nightmare for most teams. As far as his energy level Mr. Enthusiasm Personified still has a lot of it. He was also a vocal leader on Sunday and that will be very important going forward.

-Wayne Blackshear is ready for a great senior season. No nagging injuries for the first time in his career and he was making plays all over the court on Sunday. He showed that he is capable of playing with power and finesse making plays both ways. I think he looks more physically ready than he’s ever been also. Not only could he be the break out player to propel this Louisville team but he may be the breakout player in college basketball this season.

-Chris Jones is a no nonsense speedy, hardnosed guard. His gritty character comes out when he is on the basketball court. If you are in front of him he wants to beat you, and when he beats you he will make it count with an assist or a score. He is going to be the spark plug for the Cardinals offense this season and with his quickness be a headache for opposing teams on defense. He’s got that Memphis moxie and the teams we play this year will learn quickly what that means.

-Terry Rozier is the total package. If you are a coach this is the kind of kid you hope will cross your path in your career. He has the ability and aptitude that is rarely seen at the college level. He was the best player on the court Sunday and will be the best player on the court in most of the games this season.

-Mango Mathiang has got a lot of game but just doesn’t know it yet. He is a soft spoken and humble young man who needs to learn to be more confident when he steps between the lines. On Sunday I saw that out of him on a few plays but it needs to be every play. He reminds me so much of Gorgui and his game is taking a very similar path. This will be a very good season for him and we’ll need his production especially on defense.

-Anton Gill is now physically ready and he looked more confident on Sunday. He will be a very important part of this team and will be called upon to rest Terry. I’m confident in his offensive ability but his consistency on defense will be key.

-Anas Mahmoud “The Big Egyptian” quickly became a fan favorite on Sunday. He was the biggest surprise of the day and even shocked the coaches. A lot of folks had thought that it may be a while before we got to see this guy get any playing time, but after yesterday I don’t think we’ll have to wait long. This team is desperate to find a solid 8th or 9th contributor and Anas might be that guy. He has great court presence and has great hands. His timing and positioning is also very good. Seems to always be in the right spot at the right time. For a big guy his ball handling and footwork is also very good. Very likable kid and is going to be fun to cheer for over the next four years.

-Matz Stockman “The Big Norwegian” will take a little longer to adjust to the college game than his foreign counterpart. Matz is another guy that will have to learn to be more aggressive and will have to learn to leave his very humble personality on the sideline. He will have to get stronger and also gain more weight. Very excited to see how he develops. The possibility to see him and Anas in the line-up at the same time is also very exciting unless you are an opposing team.

-Quentin Snider showed a lot of moxie playing in front of the hometown crowd for the first time in a Louisville uniform. He has that added pressure that the other freshmen don’t. Talking with him yesterday he’s very happy to be a Cardinal and really wants to represent his hometown well. Coach Pitino is adjusting his jump shot so he’ll struggle with consistency, but I do expect him to see some minutes giving Chris a breather.

-Chinanu Onuaku is the most physically improved of the Freshman. His transformation into that college ready body is apparent, but now his game will have to catch up. He will have to adjust to the speed of the college game especially on the defensive end. He might end up seeing the most time out of the freshman. Those 10 rebounds he grabbed on Sunday was a very good start.

-Shaqquan Aaron is the guy who has the biggest upside of the freshman class. He’s got all of the skill in the world but has to get Stronger and get his body more college ready.

-Jaylen Johnson hasn’t been around long enough to know anything about. Don’t think he’s made a very good first impression on coach Pitino who said on Sunday that Jaylen lived in his own universe. Hope I’m wrong but he didn’t leave a very good first impression on me either.

-David Levitch “Levitch Nation” will be in full effect again this season. Coach Pitino said on Sunday that David was the most improved player on the team. Good kid to cheer for when he sees his time.

-Trent Gilbert the “HENDO” lookalike has some big shoes to fill to be like Tim, but he is a kid that comes from a solid program and will give his very best effort every day. I think Trent will get his chances in the next four years to hit some of those Hendo like shots.

-Dillon Avare hit a three point shot on Sunday and regardless of his size he can shoot the ball from deep. He’s a good kid who might see clean-up minutes.

-Akoy Agau did not play on Sunday and has been out due to a sports hernia. Coach Pitino said that they have taken their time with him because they are going to need him when the season arrives.

It was great spending four hours with the 2014/15 Cardinals on Sunday and I can tell you that we have another great group of young men to get behind this season.

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Happy Homecoming for The Cards

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It was homecoming in Louisville on Saturday and over 50,000 fans watched the Cards beat the Wolfpack 30-18. The Cardinals extend their overall lead in this series 4-1. With this win Coach Petrino is 47-11 all-time at UofL, 26-1 at home in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and has won 22 straight as the Cardinals head man. The most important thing about the win on Saturday is that it makes the Cardinals bowl eligible for a fifth straight year.

Things really started to come together for the Louisville offense on Saturday and it was probably the most encouraging day of the season for this unit. The first notable difference was on the offensive line. They did an incredible job in pass protection and really hit their marks in their run blocking also. These guys had made a lot of mental mistakes over the past couple of weeks, but today they didn’t have a single penalty. The offense only had 4 penalties total for 33 yards. I could see a big improvement in the execution today.

On a day where coming back is celebrated it was Michael Dyer and DeVante Parker who came back to the Cardinal line-up that will be remembered the most. Both of these guys have been battling injuries through the first half of the season and today both of them showed signs that they are healthy and ready to take the Louisville offense to the next level. Having his best day with the Cardinals since transferring in Dyer had 24 carries for 173 yards and 1 touchdown. He became the 4th Cardinal running back this season to have a 100 yard day.
DeVante tied a career high with 9 catches for 132 yards in his first game back from the toe injury. These guys accounted for around 80% of the Cardinals offensive production on Saturday combining for 305 yards. Really makes you think about what could have been had these guys been available all season.

I also thought that Will Gardner had a solid game on Saturday. He seems to gain more confidence with every throw. He had 203 yards with 2 touchdowns.

The #1 defense in the country again lived up to their reputation and held the Wolfpack out of the end-zone for most of the game allowing only one late touchdown. James Sample had 11 tackles, and James Burgess had 8 to lead their unit. Four different players had a sack and Gerod Holliman got his 8th interception of the season. These guys have been playing lights out and they give so much of themselves every weekend. The bye week is going to be great to give these guys a chance to rest up for the final push of the season. The biggest games of the season are on the horizon. Lorenzo Mauldin had a hamstring issue but reports after the game indicate that it might only be a minor issue.

The Cardinals will now take a great defense, improving offense with the return of Parker and Dyer into the bye week. We watched this team take a very positive step forward on Saturday and I’m looking forward to seeing what our guys will have for Florida State in a couple of weeks. Hopefully the best is yet to come. Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. Wolfpack

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It’s Homecoming weekend and the Cardinals will welcome in the NC State Wolfpack. These teams don’t have a long history of competition but they aren’t strangers either. They have played four times and the Cards lead the series 3-1. The last time these teams faced each other was in the 2011 Belk Bowl. It was the the Wolfpack that came out victorious against the Cards in that one 31-24. Louisville is 3rd with a 3-2 conference record in the Atlantic division and NC State is in last place in the Atlantic division with a 0-3 conference record.

The Wolfpack dropped to 3-4 on the year after losing to Boston College 30-14 at home last weekend. The Wolfpack have lost three straight games to Florida State, Clemson, and now Boston College after winning the first four games of the season. The Wolfpack are allowing an average of 28.7 points per game on the season, but they have given up 56, 41, and 30 points in their last three games. The NC State offense is averaging 30.9 points per game. The Wolfpack are producing an average of 225 passing yards and 188 rushing yards per game.

North Carolina State has suspended seven players for this game on Saturday. Among the suspended players are linebacker Jerod Fernand, safety Josh Jones, receiver Johnathan Alston, receiver Jumichael Ramos, defensive lineman Justin Jones, defensive lineman Pharoah McKever and cornerback Mike Stevens. This will really hurt a Wolfpack team that has struggled due to depth issues already this season.

Leading this Wolfpack offense is QB Jacoby Brissett who has thrown for 1,573 yards with 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. This guy is a very heady quarterback and can be dangerous if he gets time to pick apart the defense. Like our Cardinals the Wolfpack has a stable of good running backs that they will throw against the defense Saturday. Leading the way in this group is RB Shadrach Thornton who has rushed for a team-high 423 yards with 7 touchdowns, Matt Dayes who has rushed for 309 yards with 3 touchdowns, and Tony Creecy who has 228 yards with 1 touchdown.
They have six players with over a hundred yards receiving. Leading the way is WR Bo Hines who has 347 yards with 1 touchdown, RB Matt Dayes who has 240 yards with 4 touchdowns through the air, TE David Grinnage who has 200 yards with 1 touchdown, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling who has 200 yards with 1 touchdown, and Bra’Lon Cherry who has 146 yards with 3 touchdowns.

NC State 2014 OVERALL FBS RANKINGS
PASSING YARDS
225.9
77th
Overall
RUSHING YARDS
188.3
48th
Overall
POINTS FOR
30.9
62nd
Overall
POINTS AGAINST
28.7
83rd
Overall

The Cardinal defense is allowing only 14.1 points per game, which ranks 3rd in the country. In the Cardinals last three wins they have allowed 3, 10, and 6 points. This NC State team will try a lot of quick snaps, hot routes and screen passes against our defense in order to try and keep our guys off balance. They will run all three of their running backs all day and have a veteran front line blocking for them. I don’t think they will faze our #1 ranked defense and it will be business as usual for our guys.

Their defense is where they will be hurt the most by the player suspensions. Linebacker Jerod Fernandez had led the team with 58 tackles, and also had a team-best two interceptions. Safety Josh Jones had 38 stops, one sack and an interception. Defensive linemen Justin Jones and Pharoah McKever and cornerback Mike Stevens also had been solid contributors who will sit Saturday. Even with these suspensions they will still be pretty solid up front and look for their big DE Art Norman to create some havoc. This NC State defense has been a team all season who has used a lot of shifts, stunts, and zone blitzes. With them having to make up for some losses I expect them to add some new wrinkles this weekend to try and stop the Cards attack.

The Cardinal offense hasn’t been too tough to stop this season The offense is averaging 31 points per game, 229 passing yards and 141 rushing yards per game this season. The guys have struggled to find any type of consistency, but we learned this week that we may see a special package featuring Reggie Bonnafon while Gardner will get the start. We could also see the return of DeVante Parker to the line-up. Regardless this should be another good weekend for the Cardinal offense to find some type of groove before facing some tough defenses the rest of the way.

Emotions will be high as they always are during homecoming weekend and Papa Johns will be rocking with a sold out crowd. With the way our defense is playing and the lack of depth that NC State has struggled with I don’t think this one will ever be in doubt. I also think we could see the offense finally have a breakout weekend. This isn’t going to be a very good weekend for the Pack.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 NC State 9

Louisville and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day…

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Our Cardinals made their very first trip into “Death Valley” today and despite a valiant effort by the defense the Cards fell short in a heart breaker to Clemson 23-17. The game today shuffled things a bit in the Atlantic Division of the ACC. The Cardinals had been in second place and now change spots with the Tigers dropping to third place. The Cardinals are now 5-2 and 3-2 in the ACC. Coach Petrino’s record is now 46-11 at Louisville.

After making it to the halfway point in the season it is pretty obvious that this Louisville team is one that is going to have to grind out ball games in order for them to come out on the winning side of things. A team having that kind of Modus operandi almost has to be perfect in execution and not have any mental mistakes especially on the road, at a place like Clemson. The Cardinals lack of execution cost them 7 points right off the start at the 13:58 mark when Clemson ran back a punt 72 yards for a touchdown. This one was big considering they only won by 6.

The offensive line did a better job for most of the first half but then started making the same mental mistakes that has plagued them for most of the season. In the first half they had 2 false starts for 10 yards, and a delay of game for 5 yards. In the second half and during some key moments they had 1 delay of game for 5 yards and 5 false starts for 25 yards. Four of those false starts came during a possession where the defense had just got an interception and the offense got to start at their own 48 yard line. A field goal would have tied it at this point.

The offense as a whole continued to struggle today. They could only muster one first down on 17 attempts. And coming into this game having a 90% success rate on fourth down attempts they were 0-2 today. Even the running game that had been this team’s saving grace was held to just 52 yards. The passing game yielded 212 yards with most of that coming on one 73 yard play.

There were really no standout performances today on the offensive side of the ball, but Will Gardner deserves some credit for coming in the game when he did and leading the Cardinals down the field for their first touchdown. He really showed a lot of composure and maturity. He threw for 150 yards and 1 touchdown in two quarters. Reggie showed that he isn’t ready to be a starting quarterback at this level yet. He threw for 62 yards before being pulled in the second half. Bright future ahead but this isn’t his time IMO.

The running game was pretty much stopped cold in this one and Brandon Radcliff who has been on a tear was held to just 23 yards on 11 attempts. Dom Brown had 47 yards on 17 attempts with a touchdown.
James Quick had the only significant yardage in the passing game with most of his 101 yards coming on one play.

Last but certainly not least I’m left talking about how great this defense is again this week. My goodness folks these guys are really a great unit and this might end up being the best defensive team in the history of our program. This Clemson team was ranked 26th in the nation in total offense and #1 in the ACC coming into the game today. They had scored 91 points on offense in the last 2 weeks before today; they scored 9 points today on three field goals. And I know we knocked their big time QB out, but they limited him to just 7 yards in the first quarter.

I’ve said it a hundred times this season and I’ll say it again these guys on the defensive unit just get it. Defense is all about attitude and these guys go all in every week. They play like their hair is on fire. It’s a joy to watch a group of guys play with such passion and desire. The guys that stood out today in another stellar performance was James Sample who had 14 tackles and James Burgess who had 11 tackles with 1 interception. Kudos around the board though… It’s a shame these guys weren’t rewarded with a win.

They lose as a team and win as a team. This Louisville football team must come together and continue to work hard to overcome some of the issues that are making them struggle every weekend. Greatness is contagious and right now some of that from the defensive side needs to rub off on the offense. And the Coaches, especially on the offensive side of the ball need to make the appropriate adjustments that give their guys the best chance at success. I think a big part of the offensive struggles is these guys not fully understanding the offense or how it works.

It wasn’t a very good day for Louisville and their fans. This one hurt pretty bad. Most disappointing loss in a long time. But I do have faith and do believe that we got some big wins left in us this season. Our players and coaches are too talented to not turn today into a learning moment. Just keep in mind that this team is 1 muffed punt, 1 fumble in the end zone, and 1 KO return from being 7-0. 3 plays from perfection. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cardinals vs. Tigers

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On Saturday our Louisville Cardinals will travel to “Death Valley” to do battle on the gridiron with the Clemson Tigers. This will be the first ever meeting between these teams and this is one of those games that we all looked forward to when we learned that we were moving into the ACC. This is a pivotal game from both a national and conference standpoint. Clemson is #25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll while Louisville is looking to get back into the top 25. Both Clemson and Louisville are in the Atlantic Division of the ACC. Right now the Cards are #2 and the Tigers are #3. The game can be seen on ESPNU at 3:30pm.

Clemson improved to 3-2 on the year after beating North Carolina State 41-0 last weekend. The Tigers have lost to Georgia and Florida State, while beating S. Carolina State, North Carolina, and now the Wolfpack. They manhandled NC State, outgaining the Wolfpack 493 to 154 in total yards. The Tigers are looking to improve to 4-0 at home after scoring 91 points in back-to-back home wins. They are 22-2 in their past 24 home games.

Clemson has the #1 total/scoring offense in the ACC. On the year, they are averaging 40.4 points per game, which ranks 19th in the country. They have a very potent attack and can score in a variety of ways, they do favor the pass. They produce nearly two-thirds of their total yards by throwing the ball. Leading their passing attack is freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson who has won over the starting position, passing for 1,181 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 68.9 percent of his attempts. His main target through the air is wide receiver Mike Williams who averages 104 receiving yards per contest and 24.8 yards per reception, catching four touchdowns in five games. Wide receiver Artavis Scott has 18 catches for 305 yards with 3 touchdowns, and Germone Hopper has 8 catches for 233 yards with 2 touchdowns.
This will be the second week that the Cardinals will face a running QB. Watson rushed for a team high 62 yards on 15 carries with 2 touchdowns in their last win against NC State. Also featured in their running game is C.J. Davidson who has 40 carries for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wayne Gallman has 29 carries for 150 yards and Adam Choice has 30 carries for 144 yards with 1 touchdown.

Our Cardinals have the #1 total/scoring defense in the ACC. This Louisville defense is allowing just 12.7 points per game, which ranks an impressive 6th in the country. Louisville is leading the nation in rush defense, allowing only 58.2 rushing yards per game. Facing one of the best offensive lines they’ve played all season it is important this week that our guys put pressure on their QB and take away that long pass play down field. Clemson’s redzone offense ranks dead last in the league. Very important this weekend for the Cardinal defense to limit the big plays and make them earn their scores the hard way.

They are a decent defensive team but it’s not one of the things about this Clemson group that stands out. Their defense is allowing 22 points a game on average, which ranks 47th in the country. They were able to shut down NC State last weekend holding them to 154 total yards. They have a few standouts on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive end Vic Beasley who tied the school mark with his 28th career sack last weekend. He ranks 2nd in the nation with 7 sacks this season. Senior Corey Crawford at the other end position who has 12 tackles with one sack and returning starter Grady Jarrett, a defensive tackle who has 14 tackles. Shaq Lawson is also pretty good with 11 tackles and 2 sacks.

Reggie Bonnafon made some big steps forward last week in the win over Cuse, and at this point it looks like he and Will Gardner could share time at the position and we could see them both on Saturday. Hopefully they’ll have an extra target and finally a deep threat to add to the passing attack with the possibility of Devante Parker returning to the line-up. This would also open up more for James Quick. Brandon Radcliff has put the offense on his back the past couple of weeks and he’ll have to come up big Saturday for our Cardinals to have a chance. Things improving in the passing game would also make it easier for him. Michael Dyer is the only Louisville player to ever experience “Death Valley” first hand. He played there during his Auburn days. He had 151 yards with 2 touchdowns, so maybe he could recapture some of that Magic Saturday. Things won’t get easier for the offensive line this weekend. I just hope they can keep the penalties downs. It’s going to be very important for our offense to keep the ball this weekend and dominate time of possession. The more they maintain steady drives the less time the Clemson offense gets to try and score points.

It’s going to be a different situation for our guys on Saturday and this will be the most hostile environment they’ve been in all season. It will also be the toughest test of the season. I think our defense will step up to this challenge and welcome the opportunity to play against such a great offense. If the Cardinals offense can sustain some drives and keep them rested I really like the Cardinals chances to pull off the upset. Defense wins big games…

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 27 Clemson 24

When The ACC Gives You An Orange, Make Orange Juice

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Cardinal fans your football team is 5-1 in their inaugural season in the ACC and have now handed three teams in the ACC a loss in their opener. Syracuse become the latest team to fall to the Cards during the conference opener. It wasn’t always pretty but our Cardinals rolled up their sleeves and got the working man’s win beating the Orange 28-6. With the win the Cardinals now take the lead in this series 7-6 and maintain their spot at #2 in the Atlantic division.

It is very apparent after watching the game tonight that the offensive line still has a long way to go. They had some moments where they looked like they had made some improvement but as far as the execution and the consistency that Coach Petrino wanted to see this week that really didn’t happen. The offensive line was responsible for 3 false starts for 15 yards, 2 offensive holding penalties for 20 yards, 1 clipping penalty for 15 yards. The offense was responsible for 1 delay of game for 5 yards, and 1 illegal formation for 5 yards. So yes these guys lacked some execution tonight.

Enough with the negatives about tonight as the offense did have a lot of positive moments. The biggest story of the night was how Brandon Radcliff continues to be so effective. He becomes the first running back to have consecutive hundred yard games since Senorise Perry and romped for 110 yards with two touchdowns. It really looks like he is going to be the featured back moving forward. His footwork and ability to get that extra yard is phenomenal. He is a guy that runs downhill and can always find a hole even if it looks like he’ll be stuffed. Can’t wait to see what this kid has for them for the rest of the year.

I really feel like we watched Reggie Bonnafon grow up a lot tonight. At times he showed a lot of poise as the pocket collapsed around him and he found a way to make the play. His second career touchdown pass was as good as it gets. He threw for 174 yards and one touchdown escaping at least three would be sacks. He only threw one interception and had a very efficient night. I don’t know if he will remain the starter once Will Gardner gets healthy, but he certainly has give Coach Petrino something to ponder.

I really like what I seen from James Quick tonight as well. He was one of the guys that I had said in my pre-game that needed to have a good game and he did. His numbers weren’t huge but he had some clutch catches. It is going to help Quick greatly when DeVante returns.
I tell ya folks the foundation is here for this to be a great offense and there is a lot of talent here. Lord help the ACC if our offensive line figures things out.

I know I say this after every game in these online ramblings but I love our defense. This group came into tonight not allowing a touchdown in 11 quarters of football and left Syracuse tonight not allowing one. They have now played 15 quarters of football without allowing a touchdown and are only allowing 12.67 points a game. They held the Orange to 255 total yards and that #1 rushing defense in the country held a very good run offense to just 59 yards. This group will really move up in most of the national defense categories after tonight.
The guys who really stood out tonight on defense was James Sample who had an interception, and Gerod “Superman” Holliman who had added to his national lead that now stands at 7 interceptions. Keith Kelsey led with 9 tackles on the night. These three guys were flying all over the field and making big play after big play tonight. Coach Grantham take a bow sir… You got one of the best defenses in the country and it just might be the best when the dust settles this season.

And I have to give a shout out to our punter Ryan Johnson who really helped the Cardinals win the field position battle tonight especially in the first half. Cuse was only able to start one drive in Louisville territory in that first half. They started the rest of their drives on their side of the field. They started on the 49, 20, 16, 15 and Ryan also pinned them at the 1 and 9. Their average start in the first half was at their own 18 yard line and their average starting field position in the second half was their own 19. Ryan’s punting was a big reason why. It really helped us in that first half as our offense was sputtering. John Wallace also did a great job including some big kicks with one for 51 yards. This is a part of college football that is very important and these guys really stepped up tonight.

Next weekend things get really serious as the Cardinals take their very first trip to “Death valley”. That is not a very friendly place to visit and that nickname was earned. I really think that our guys can go in and give Clemson a good game. With the way our defense is playing we have a shot to win against any team in the country. Devante Parker might soon make an appearance and I really feel like that will be the boost our offense needs. If it catches up we are gonna be really good down the stretch. 5-1 folks…. Enjoy this win!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. The Orange

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Our Cardinals have a quick turnaround this week as they will take to the road to play Syracuse on Friday night. Yes we will be heading into the the Carrier Dome. Every Cardinal fan remembers the last time our Cardinals played Syracuse there. We had a perfect 9-0 season going in 2012 and they crushed our hopes of going undefeated winning that game 45-26. The Cardinals are 3-3 at the Carrier Dome and 6-6 all-time against the Orange. This will be their first ACC game of the season. Friday will be the Cardinals fourth conference game, and in all four games they will have faced a team playing its ACC opener.

Syracuse dropped to 2-2 on the year after losing to Notre Dame last weekend, 31-15. The Orange won their first two games of the season over Villanova and Central Michigan, before losing to Maryland. Against Notre Dame, the Orange gained 429 total yards while giving up 523 total yards to the Fighting Irish. The Orange run a hurry-up no huddle, run-first spread offense, and have adapted triple option principles for one of their primary offensive plays. This is a team that favors the run but they have a pretty balanced offensive attack with 930 yards on the ground and 872 through the air. They are 48th in the nation in total offense.

Syracuse 2014 OVERALL FBS RANKINGS
PASSING YARDS
218.0
81st
Overall
RUSHING YARDS
232.5
25th
Overall
POINTS FOR
25.5
88th
Overall
POINTS AGAINST
23.5
56th
Overall

Leading this Syracuse offense is quarterback Terrel Hunt. To say this guy likes to go right at defenses is an understatement. He is the leading rusher on offense with 299 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. He has also thrown for 782 yards and 1 touchdown. This team has some other good weapons in this option offense as well. Running back Prince-Tyson Gulley already has two games where he’s ran for over 100 yards. He has 280 yards with 1 touchdown on the season. He averages 7 yards a carry good for 14th in the nation. Gulley is running his way into the record books as his current per-carry career average stands at 5.6, trailing only Jim Brown and Ernie Davis on Syracuse’s career list. Running back Adonis Ameen-Moore is not too shabby either. He has 208 yards with 1 touchdown on the season. All three of these guys are seniors and play like it.
They’ve got a pretty good group of receivers in Jarrod West who has 236 yards, Ben Lewis who has 134 yards and Ashton Broyld who has 125 yards. One of their top receivers Brisly Estime will miss the game Friday.

Our Cardinals are ranked 3rd in the nation in total defense and have the #1 defense in the country against the run. It is going to be interesting to see our unit take on the triple option this week. This should be a great test for our defense and a good battle. Can’t wait to see what Mauldin, Burgess, Mount, Kelsey, Gaines, Holliman and company can do against this Cuse offensive group. My money is on the guys in red.

The Syracuse defense is ranked 53rd in the nation and they aren’t a big until but they do get to the ball well and have some decent speed. They have a good defensive front seven, led by DE Micah Robinson and LBs Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis. Lynch is one of the best pass rushers in the ACC and in the country ranked 5th with 4.5 sacks this season. The Orange have been stingy against the run allowing only 104 yards per game ranked 38th, and good at getting into the backfield. Syracuse is 36th in the country of tackles for loss per game at 6.8 per game. Syracuse loves to send pressure.

We learned on Wednesday that Reggie Bonnafon will get the start again on Friday. Will Gardner may be available if needed. The word coming out of the offensive side this week is consistency. Coach Petrino wants his guys to establish more of a rhythm this week and also do a better job at execution. Penalties and turnovers have killed the offense this year and it won’t be pretty Friday night if our guys make mental mistakes and turn the ball over. Wide receiver Eli Rodgers played well in that last game at the Carrier Dome and he will need to step up again this week. He and James Quick will have to play well. I really like our running game in this match-up. We got 4 guys that can go at their defense all night long. With the way they come at you fatigue will start to be a factor if we pound it down their throats all night. Our offensive line has acknowledged their need to get better. I think we’ll see that this week. Our offense has caught a bad wrap this season and it’s justified to some extent but we have played some solid defenses and this group for Cuse is also pretty good. Hope our guys answer the call.

I think we’ll see another good ballgame early on Friday night. If our offense struggles it could be another very close game. They will be hype wanting to win their first ACC game of the season and will have a great home crowd behind them. I really think our defense along with a solid running attack will be the difference and our Cards will roll to their 5th win of the season.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 Syracuse 17

The Cardinals Exercise The Demon Deacons

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Much like the last time these teams met in 2007 at the Orange Bowl this one was ugly at times and it was a grind it out type of game. The Cardinals got the hard fought win over the Demon Deacons 20-10. Our Cardinals are now 4-1 on the season and 2-1 in the ACC good for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Cardinals are now 2-0 against Wake Forest.

This game was ugly especially in the first half. The Cardinals had 3 fumbles and 11 penalties for the game and at times this one was really hard to watch especially the offense, but there were some bright spots. First Reggie Bonnafon a kid who one week ago to the day buried his father. I lost my father when I was 38 years old and I did good to function that first week let alone following a game plan and leading a college football team to victory as a college freshman. Reggie did this all in his first career start. This just proves how special that some of these athletes are. Not only are they athletically gifted, but they are wise beyond their years. Reggie had some mistakes but was able to manage the game and make some big plays when the offense needed him the most. He threw for 206 yards with no interceptions and ran for 46 yards. This kid is the real deal and I firmly believe that he is the future at the QB spot for this Louisville team.

Brandon Radcliff who is described by his coaches and his teammates as one of the hardest workers on the team. Everyone speaks very highly of this young man. He is just another stud in the Louisville group of running backs and tonight was his moment to shine. With 2 touchdowns and 129 yards rushing this was his best performance as a Cardinal. We will also be hearing this kids name a lot in the future.

I know a lot of Cardinal fans have been really down on this offense especially the offensive line, but when you talk with these kids and their coaches and hear how hard they are working and trying to get better it just puts everything in perspective. Jake Smith after the game tonight talked about an offensive line that needs to get better and even admitted that the touchdown by the Wake Forest defense tonight being his fault. Coach Petrino said about his offense tonight that basically they had been playing with a new group every week due to players being banged up and how that lack of consistency had also contributed to the groups slow progress. As Jake Smith also mentioned in his post game tonight. These guys have one of the greatest offensive minds in the college game on the sidelines and there’s no doubt that we will see improvement. Thanks to the solid play of Reggie and Brandon the offense did have good balance today with 206 yards through the air and 215 yards on the ground. This unit will get better. Just try to have patience folks.

Don’t know how many times that I have typed this, but what about this Cardinal defense… I also said after that first game how it was very clear that the defensive philosophy that was instilled by the last coaching staff was still present with this group. Tonight in his post game Lorenzo Mauldin who finished with 3 sacks said that they were just doing what they did last year and that the defense has just carried over. These guys held Wake Forest to -22 yards rushing today folks and had 8 sacks along with three interceptions. That is just flat out getting after it. Gerod Holliman added to his national lead with 1 interception, James Burgess had 1 interception and Sheldon Rankins had 1 interception. For all of the talk about an exciting offense to watch I am really enjoying watching this defense play. This is a special group and they are really getting it done every week. Don’t take that for granted stressing about the offense not scoring 60 points every week.

It wasn’t a beautiful win but if you are a Cardinal fan then you have gotten used to close wins. The last coaching staff was all about the grind it out ugly defensive win. For three years we watched our Cardinals do this every weekend. That’s how the program was being built for the last 3 seasons and the talent was also recruited for that. It’s going to take this coaching staff some time but they will put their signature on the offense. In the meantime put on your hard hats and cheer for this defense as they are one of the best units in the county. And stay behind this offense. They are a good group of kids who are working their tails off and deserve credit for that. GO CARDS!

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The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs Demon Deacons

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Our Cardinals will come back home this weekend for their 3rd ACC game of the season. The game will kick-off the teeth of the schedule for Louisville and it is grind time. The opponent Saturday is one that will be a Trivial Pursuit Sports question someday if it isn’t already. “Who did the Louisville Football Program play in their first BCS Bowl Appearance?” The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will forever be a part of Cardinal lore after that 2007 Orange Bowl and now will be a conference foe. The Cardinals and Demon Deacons have only met once with the Cards taking the Orange Bowl championship 24-13.

Wake Forest is a team that is going through one of those complete program makeovers. They have a new coach in Dave Clawson who was the former coach at Bowling Green. The Demon Deacons return a conference-low 35 percent of their offensive production from a year ago and just 54 percent of their defense. They have 28 freshmen or sophomores on their two-deep, which is tied for fourth-most in the country this season. They have the 72nd-ranked roster talent in college football this year, which puts them at the bottom of the ACC. They just had their first win of the season over an FBS school beating Army at home 24-21, while losing at Louisiana-Monroe (17-10) and Utah State (36-24) on the road. The game against our Cardinals Saturday will be their ACC conference opener.

Wake Forest 2014 OVERALL FBS RANKINGS
PASSING YARDS
220.8
81st
Overall
RUSHING YARDS
42.0
127th
Overall
POINTS FOR
20.3
112th
Overall
POINTS AGAINST
20.3
34th
Overall

On the offensive side of the ball the Deacons lost their three top guys at the skill positions passer, rusher and receiver. Completely reshaping this offense Coach Clawson describes his coaching style as one that utilizes the available talent to maximize success. His philosophy focuses on getting individual playmakers more touches rather than sticking to a rigidly-defined system. His offenses have displayed components of the Pro-Style, Spread and Power Running attacks.

That available talent this season appears to be freshman QB John Wolford who has thrown for 883 yards with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His main targets in the passing attack are senior WR E.J. Scott who has 17 catches for 220 yards with 4 touchdowns, senior WR Matt James who has 18 catches for 217 yards, sophomore WR Jared Crump who has 16 catches for 172 yards, and freshman TE Cam Serigne who has 21 catches for 219 yards with 1 touchdown. Leading their rushing attack freshman RB Isaiah Robinson who has 30 carries for 82 yards with 1 touchdown, and senior RB Orville Reynolds with 44 carries for 132 yards. Their offensive line is also young and has been plagued by injuries, allowed six sacks at Utah State and seven in the opening loss at UL-Monroe.

Much like their offense the Deacons defense is going through some growing pains. They return just 5 starters on this side of the ball. Their stand-outs are defensive tackle Josh Banks who was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week after the Utah State game where he had seven tackles, a sack, and returned a interception 70 yards for a touchdown. Three of the five returning players on defense are in the secondary. Safety Ryan Janvion who had a career-high 18 tackles in that Utah State Game, senior corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel have combined for 23 tackles. Wake’s passing defense is ranked 32nd in the secondary and they are ranked 20th overall on defense.

VIDEO OF DAVE CLAWSON BREAKING DOWN LOUISVILLE VS WAKE FOREST

The most consistent thing about our Cardinals this season has been the defense. Lorenzo Mauldin, Gerod Holliman, Terell Floyd and the team’s stable of defensive backs have helped the Cardinals once again establish themselves as one of the nation’s best ranking 12th in scoring defense and 7th in total defense. Cornerbacks Charles Gaines, Andrew Johnson and safety James Sample, have allowed opponents to pass for just 178.2 yards per game and has snagged seven interceptions. These guys should feast on that young Deacons offense Saturday.

Our Cardinals offense has been the most inconsistent part of the team this season. Our offensive line woes have played a big part of that. They’ll face a Wake Forest defensive line Saturday that should help them line some things out and they should win the war in the trenches in this game. With LJ Scott, and Michael Dyer 100% in this one along with Dom Brown it should be a big rushing day. I’m a little concerned about the passing game as that is the Deacons biggest strength on defense. True freshman Reggie Bonnafon will have his work cut out for him throwing against their two future NFL corners.

Kind of crazy that the last game against Wake Forest turned out to be the end of an era as Coach Petrino left for the NFL after the Orange Bowl win. And now he’s back for the beginning of a new era and is playing them again for the second game in the series. The outcome should be the same but I expect it will be a little more convincing as Wake Forest is very over matched in this one.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 38 Wake Forest 10

New Cardinal Football Swag Getting Mixed Reviews

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So the new Show Time Adidas football uniforms for the FSU game were released today to a flurry of mixed reviews. And while these new crazy uniform styles may not appeal to the adult crowd you have to keep in mind that they don’t design them with a middle aged man or woman in mind. In the end, the new uniform is all about creating a product that can be marketed and enticing to 17-18 yr olds. Not only to encourage them to buy the Adidas product, but also updating the look and feel of the uniforms to give the athletes that sizzle factor. For apparel companies to grab the attention of the younger audience nowadays the crazier and louder the better. Just look at some of the shoe designs of today.

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Consumers no longer buy sports apparel just to show support for their team, as fashion and wearability have become the new standard for buyers’ purchasing decision. Often a team’s success on the field is irrelevant to the buyer. More often color scheme, and perhaps more often, the color scheme’s impression determine a uniform’s selling ability. The image that different colors portray is a huge factor. Gone are the days when uniform color was purely symbolic. Today, colors are both symbolic and psychological.

The psychological impact of logo and color usage has made an impact upon opposing teams giving an illusory impression of speed or tenacity. I wouldn’t want to be bringing the ball up the field facing Louisville’s nasty defense combined with those crazy and loud uniforms. Look at how the crazy infrared uniforms helped get our basketball team rolling a few years ago. And the uniforms were a factor. I remember being a junior in high school and our basketball team was given the new baggy style uniform that was inspired by the Fab Five of Michigan. When I put that uniform on it immediately gave me a feeling that I could run faster and jump higher. I went from just being able to touch the rim to being able to grab and hold on to it. There is no denying the psychological affect.

So no matter what you think about these new and crazy looking uniforms just try to keep an open mind about it and realize that a lot of research and development go into the design process. Adidas wants their product to be successful and they want the teams that wear their products to be successful. And if they can give a slight psychological or physical advantage to our Cardinals with some new material and a crazy color scheme then I’m all for it. I’ll paint my face in that crazy gray paint if we can beat Florida State.