Cards Bid Adieu To FIU

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Our Cardinals moved to 3-1 on the season after beating FIU 34-3 today in a game that seemed to last forever. It really was like watching paint dry at certain points. Nothing new in this series as all of the games have been some of the most uneventful I’ve ever seen. Good news is that today will be the last time these teams meet for the foreseeable future and hopefully forever. The Cards end the series leading 3-1.

It’s really hard to take anything away from games like this sometimes but it is pretty obvious that our offense needs some work. I know that there is a lot of blame being placed on the shoulders of Will Gardner. And yes he does have 7 of the 8 turnovers on the season including two fumbles today. While I do agree that Will could clean some things up he also needs his offensive line to do a better job. The batted down passes, the missed targets, the fumbles how much of that has to do with the fact that our offensive line isn’t getting it done in pass protection. They are allowing teams to penetrate and aren’t doing a very good job of holding their blocks. Missed assignments, not blocking the right person it all has a serious effect on the passing game. Coming into the game today Louisville ranked 96th in the country in Sacks allowed with 8 on the season for 55 yards. Today the offensive line allowed 4 sacks for 41 yards. That’s just not acceptable and you can’t expect your passing game to get into any type rhythm when your QB is running for his life. The offensive line was a concern for Coach Petrino coming into the season and now he finds himself scrambling to fix it.

Even though we got to finally see all of our running backs get involved in the game the rushing attack was not very effective today. The Cardinals had a net of 12 yards in the ground game… Yup 12. The highlight of this day was the passing attack and regardless of the deficiencies of the offensive line the Cardinals had a net of 324 yards through the air. The star of that show was James Quick. He had 7 catches for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns. I think this is what we all envisioned when the 5* stud from Louisville signed with the Cardinals. He is going to be fun to watch over the next couple of years and will be a nice complement to Devante Parker when he returns in October. Good luck to defensive coordinators trying to stop both of them.

What else can you say about our defense other than thank you. They have been the highlight of the early season for this team and were the highlight again today. Coming into today the Cardinals ranked 12th in the nation in total defense allowing only 273 yards a game. They only gave up 205 yards today and have yet to allow a 300 yard game this season. They also had 5 sacks today for over 50 yards. The star of this solid defensive effort was Gerod Holliman who had 2 interceptions today and one for a touchdown. He leads the country with 5 on the season. On defense it’s all about playing fast, physical and with an attitude. The Cardinals defense is doing all three. They have really adjusted well to the new coaching staff and have answered the call every time out. Again what more can you say besides thank you.

I would be lying if I said that I haven’t lowered my expectations a bit for this season. I think when it’s all said and done if we can make it to a decent bowl game and chalk it up to a transition year I will be happy. Bobby Petrino will get the offense rolling according to his standards soon enough, but it just may take longer than the rest of this year to do it. I’m as excited as I was day one of this season, but am now seeing things clearly and with a sense of reality. My advice to those who are turning into Chicken Little’s is to do the same. The easy games and the learning games are over. It’s going to be a grind for the rest of the way. Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cardinals vs. Golden Panthers

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Our Cardinals dropped a tough one last weekend in their first ACC road trip. They will now head to South Beach with a 2-1 record to play the FIU Golden Panthers on Saturday at 3:30. This game can be seen on Fox Sports 1. The Cardinals and Panthers have battled on the gridiron three times in the past and the Cards lead the series 2-1. FIU came to Louisville on September 9th 2011 and beat the Cardinals 24 to 17. The next year it was the Cardinals who claimed victory down in Miami beating the Panthers 28-21. Last year it was a complete blowout 72-0. It got so bad that the teams were contemplating the running clock.

The best way to sum up this FIU program is by using the word “raw”. They are in complete rebuild mode with a new coach, new players and a new league. Their new coach is Ron Turner, the ex-Illinois coach who spent eight seasons in the NFL before returning to the college game. And they moved from the Sun Belt to Conference USA. The Panthers are 1-2 to start their season and lost to fellow ACC team Pittsburgh 42-25 at home last weekend.

FIU 2014 OVERALL FBS RANKINGS
-PASSING YARDS
202.7
98th
Overall
-RUSHING YARDS
82.7
117th
Overall
-POINTS FOR
23.7
95th
Overall
-POINTS AGAINST
19.7
37th
Overall

FIU has some decent players at their skill positions. Leading Ron Turner’s pro style West Coast offense will be freshman QB Alex McGough. His ability to make throws and good decisions with a certain bearing of a leader have been mentioned as the reason he has the starting job. He has thrown for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. They also have a freshman RB who has shown a lot of potential. Alex Gardner has 39 carries for 228 yards this season. FIU also has some pretty solid receivers. Their leading receivers are sophomore Jonnu Smith who has 18 grabs for 209 yards with 2 touchdowns, senior Glenn Coleman with 4 grabs for 96 yards with 1 touchdown, and junior T.J. Lowder with 6 grabs for 83 yards and 1 touchdown. These guys have decent size, good hands and decent speed.

On the defensive side of the ball these guys have a lot of speed and raw talent. FIU ranks 47th nationally in tackles for loss and 13th nationally in sacks. A big reason why is their defensive ends junior Michael Wakefield and redshirt junior Denzell Perine. Wakefield has 7 tackles with 3 1/2 for loss including two pass blocks, two fumbles recovered and a forced fumble. Perine has 15 tackles, 5 1/2 for loss and 4 sacks. Their young line backing group redshirt sophomore Imarjaye Albury, junior Darrian Dyson and redshirt junior Lars Koht are also players that have really improved the FIU defense. They have some speedy and talented Cornerbacks including senior Richard Leonard who has 14 tackles and 1 interception on the season.

Last weekend our Cardinals looked good on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense really struggled to get into any rhythm. They produced only 282 total yards, while allowing 285 total yards to Virginia. They converted 4 of 14 third downs, good for a 28% rate, and turned the ball over 4 times. This Bobby Petrino offense loves to attack the edges in the run and the pass. And while I don’t think it will be easy, especially early I do think the Cardinals will eventually wear down a FIU defense that doesn’t have too much depth. I look for a much improved offensive performance this weekend.

The Cardinals roster features 16 players from Miami-Dade County, one from Broward County, two from Palm Beach County and nine other players from the state of Florida. So these guys will know each other and that will make the game situation a little different. Not only will these guys be playing for Louisville and FIU pride, but they will also be playing for pride on a personal level. This game will be important from a recruiting standpoint as well.

I think the Panthers will be competitive early on, but will be worn down by a much deeper and talented Cardinal squad. This one will be a blow-out but don’t think it will be as ugly as it was last year for FIU.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 52 FIU 10

Richard Warns Gopher Nation About Ricks Sandbagging

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We have watched Coach Rick Pitino cheer for his son both at the barn in Minnesota and during post season tournaments in March. We watched Rick full of pride last March as his son Richard won the NIT. Father and son will open against each other in the upcoming college basketball season on November 14 in Puerto Rico. And there has been talk of an annual game between Minnesota and Louisville that will start in the 2015-16 season.

I knew the banter back and forth between Rick and Richard leading up to the opener would provide some great entertainment and it is Richard who has just fired the first shot. We all know that our Coach Pitino is synonymous with sandbagging his teams and also overhyping the opponent. Coach Richard Pitino who knows his father better than anyone has warned Gopher Nation not to fall for the antics.

In his Minnesota Blog Coach Richard Pitino warns Gopher fans that his father would be up to his old tricks of sandbagging and tells them not to fall for it.

“Hoops season is just around the corner and we need to be ready. Not too many programs open up their season vs. a top-five team on national TV. Gopher fans, I must warn you. Ignore anything and everything that comes out of my father’s mouth leading up to this game. He does it on the golf course all the time and will start playing mind games with all of us soon enough! Pay no attention to him. He will say they are young and inexperienced. They are talented, athletic and obviously well-coached. He will tell everyone we are the overwhelming favorite. Prepare yourselves. He tried to coach my team last year during the NIT championship. I am looking forward to watching him try to coach both teams at once on November 14th! Haha.”

Great stuff here and looking forward to that game in November to open the season. The Gophers will have a very good team and it should be a great ballgame between father and son. And I don’t think you’ve seen the last of the banter between these two.

Louisville’s men’s basketball game vs Minnesota on Nov 14 in the Armed Forces Classic in Puerto Rico will tip off at 7 pm ET on ESPN.

THE CARDINALS HEAR A HOO

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Our Cards took to the road for the first time in the ACC today, and on this day things wouldn’t go the Cardinals way. The defense played tough but the offense struggled to find their feet which ultimately lead to the Cardinals defeat. We all knew that Devante’s injury would slow the offensive yield, but today he was sorely missed because our Cards had nothing to show when throwing down field.

This game was a battle of field position all of the way with our Cards mostly starting play at the 27 while the Hoos 47. Their offensive coordinator must have thought that was heaven. With 7 balls batted down at the line of Scrimmage and 11 pass break ups in the game this Cardinal offense just didn’t look the same. Fans will complain and moan that Will has to go, but didn’t they pay attention on those comeback TD throws. Gardner would finish with 164 yards and two touchdowns in the shoot, but it was those two interceptions that got him the boot. Young Reggie came in and give it a whirl, but could only muster 39 yards to that Virginia defense that was playing all world. He got some quality minutes in Hooville today and will be ready to go again when Coach Petrino looks his way.

Dom Brown was effective today with 74 yards and one TD, but even he had trouble getting through that Hooville D.
Dela Cruz and Christian had about 40 yards each, but that Hoo defense closed out fast and neither could make much out of the short pass.
Like I said in the beginning the offense never got by, and it sure would have helped if Dyer hadn’t had a sore thigh. But make no mistake we got Bobby P on our team, and he’ll come back with a full head of steam.

Back to the Louisville D that brought the hammer today. And if it were up to them this would have went the Cards way. Flying all over the field tackling anything in sight Lorenzo Mauldin played with all his might. Keith Kelsey with 11 tackles, and 1 sack led the way with Gerod Holliman in toe, he had 6 tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions of his own. This defense is STRONG and they know how to play so there is a bright spot on this gloomy day.

Give all the credit to the guys in Hooville their defense was great holding our Cardinals to four of 14 on third down for a 28 percent rate was like stealing cookies off their plate. But it was a Hoo named Ian who stole the show with field goals of 35, 47 and forty two he was kicking that ball like he had lead in his shoe.
The Hoos ended an 11-game slide against FBS-level competition and stopped the Cards win streak dead in it’s tracks so they do deserve some pats on their backs.

Our guys will come back next week ready to fight again and with many ACC battles left it’s hard not to grin. It won’t be long and I’ll be celebrating another Cards win.
The Cardinals heard a Hoo today but things are still bright and there’s a lot of football left to play. Go Cards!

Russ Returns To Prep School

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Before Russ Smith was a Louisville legend and before “RUSSDICULOUS” he was up in Connecticut’s Northwest hills at the South Kent Prep School grappling with his studies, and trying to get noticed by big time college programs. He chose to go there for a year to get stronger, work on his academics and learn the point guard position.

Tonight Russ returned to his old stomping ground to give back to some of the folks and the school that helped him reach his dreams. He was the keynote speaker for the Roundball Scholarship kickoff dinner.

South Kent School’s Roundball Scholarship hosted a kickoff dinner on Friday evening. The scholarship benefits student-athletes who dream of playing basketball on the prep school level, in the NCAA and beyond. In the last 10 years, South Kent has sent 6 alumni and 8 former students to the NBA, over 60 alumni to NCAA Division I universities and numerous alumni to professional leagues overseas for basketball.- Press release

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The notable South Kent alumnus Russ Smith ‘10, who was recently drafted to the NBA team the New Orleans Pelicans, was keynote speaker and also made himself available for photos and autographs. Before Smith was part of the 2013 University of Louisville Cardinals team, who won the Division I NCAA Championship, before he was named to the 2013 All Big East First Team and a Preseason All-American he helped South Kent to a 20-12 record, averaging 19.7 points, 3.9 assists.

Russ has always been a guy that has had a clear vision about where he was going, but it’s great to also see that he is a guy that never forgot where he came from. I sure will miss seeing Russ in a Cardinal uniform this season but am glad that he is out there being a great ambassador and still making us all very proud. L1C4

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. Cavaliers

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This has been a season of first for the Louisville Football program. They played their first game with a new coach, they had their first ACC home game, and this weekend they will play their first ACC road game. This team has shown us they can win a big ACC home game and they have also shown us great maturity by executing and maintaining their focus while playing a game where they are overwhelming favorites. This weekend our Cards will have to show us and the ACC conference that they are ready to handle a hostile crowd on the road and get a win.

Miami has a solid team, but playing on the road against a solid Virginia team might be the Cardinals biggest test early on in the season. These teams have met two times on the gridiron with the series tied at 1-1. Virginia won the last meeting 16-15 back in 1989. Our Cardinals will take an eight game winning streak to Charlottesville on Saturday winning their last 16 of 17. While the Cavaliers just ended a 10 game losing streak by beating Richmond last weekend.

The Cardinals defense will be big in this game as is the case most of the time on the road. Lorenzo Mauldin, Keith Kelsey, James Burgess, James Sample and company will face a Virginia offense that hasn’t looked great in the first two weeks of the season. They were out gained in total yardage last weekend against Richmond 422-330. Their offense has produced 227 yards rushing with 3 touchdowns, and 439 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns. They are ranked 97th in the country in total offense.
Kelsey, Burgess, and Sample all have a team-high nine tackles this season and they are a big reason why UL is No. 6 nationally in run defense and 19th in total defense.

Their top offensive guys appear to be their two QB’s Greyson Lambert who has completed 29 of 38 passes for 214 yards and 1 touchdown and Matt Johns who has completed 17 of 29 passes for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR Darius Jennings who has caught 7 balls for 118 yards and 1 touchdown, and RB Kevin Parks who has rushed 30 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. In order for the Cavaliers to even have a shot in this game this group will have to control the ball and the clock to keep the Louisville offense off the field. They currently rank 50th in the country in time of possession.

The Louisville offense has shown that they have a good mix of young and experienced players. Will Gardner has done a great job managing the offense and has shown great execution, Dom Brown has been incredible proving that he can be the go to guy with a game on the line. While our young guys Reggie Bonnafon and LJ Scott have shown they are ready when needed. The Cardinals offense ranked 45th in the country also has a pretty solid group at the WR spot.
This group will face a pretty good Virginia defense. The Cavaliers have forced 9 turnovers in the first two games and gave up less than 170 yards rushing. The have got some very good defensive ends in Eli Harold and Max Valles who love to come off the edge to create havoc. And their linebacker duo of Daquan Romero and Henry Coley are some of the best in the ACC. They lead the team with with 20 and 22 tackles, respectively. The Cavaliers had five sacks against UCLA and four versus Richmond.

This game will be the biggest challenge yet for our Cardinals but as good as this Virginia defense appears to be early on they’ll be no match in the end for a very methodical Louisville offense. Coach Petrino will find a way to crack their defensive Game Plan. And this Louisville defense gets better every week. They will get it done against a struggling Cavalier offense. A lot of folks have this game circled as a upset watch. I just don’t see it.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 31 Virginia 14

Cardinals Drop The Hammer On Murray State

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Tonight was the debut of the Cardinal sledge hammer a new symbol for this Louisville football program. Senior tackle Jamon Brown will carry it to the field for every game. They sure dropped the hammer on this Murray State team tonight. This wasn’t exactly the type of blow-out that game was back in 1932, but I’ll take it. The Cards made quick work of the Murray State Racers tonight beating them 66-21. Tonight wasn’t about winning or losing this game as there was never any doubt about the outcome. Tonight was about offensive and defensive execution, and about showing maturity. All of which our Cardinals did.

Our guys came out very business like from the beginning and did execute their offensive and defensive game plan to near perfection. In the first half the Cards only had 1 penalty for 5 yards and didn’t have any turnovers. The starting unit scored 45 points, and had 357 yards of total offense. They would score 66 points and have 603 total yards on the night.
The defensive starting unit was again stellar and flying all over the field. These guys are playing on a different level. They held the Racers to 7 points giving up only 111 yards of total offense in the first half. During the second half a lot of the second team guys got to play and ended up giving up 21 points total and 292 yards total. Coach Petrino was able to give a lot of guys some PT tonight on both sides of the ball.

Will Gardner looked very solid tonight and had a lot of zip on his balls. He made some really solid completions and paced the first unit very well. He was 13 for 22 with 133 yards and 2 touchdowns.
I knew we would see Reggie Bonnafon tonight and man did he impress the hometown crowd. He really seized his moment tonight throwing a beautiful touchdown pass to Michaelee Harris and scored two touchdowns on keeper plays. After seeing this kids composure tonight in his Cardinal debut it’s obvious that the QB position will be solid for years to come.

Dom Brown had another solid outing and was mowing over the Murray defensive players like they weren’t even there. Like Bonnafon I knew that LJ Scott would get a good number of carries tonight and he like Reggie really made the most of it. He rumbled for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon Radcliff also made the most of his extra reps with 97 yards and two touchdowns. Like the QB position the running back spot is going to be very solid for years to come.

Several of the Cardinal wide receivers also got in on the action tonight with Kai Dela Cruz leading the way with 53 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Christian, and Michaelee Harris also had touchdown grabs. Eli Rodgers had a solid performance with 5 grabs for 45 yards. I was really glad to see Harris get a touchdown catch. For all that he’s been through with his injury problems he deserves his moments.

As I mentioned above this Louisville defense has really been a joy to watch during the last two games. They are playing with a lot of passion. Their close out speed and hard hitting is unreal. Taking into account these guys are still learning a new system I get giddy thinking about just how good they will be. Keith Kelsey and Devontre Parnell led the way for this group tonight each with 4 tackles. Lorenzo was also very disruptive to the Murray State offense. They avoided him as much as they could.

It was another great night of football in Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals are now 24-1 at home with Coach Petrino at the helm and have the second longest winning streak in the country with 8. These first two games have Cardinal fans thinking big. And I really believe these guys can deliver.

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. Racers

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We are headed into one of the most hopeful and exciting eras in the history of Louisville football. A program that has had many ups and downs and one that had very humble beginnings. Due to financial difficulty Louisville did not participate in the 1917-1921 seasons. When they did return to football they were members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Cardinals would be competing against all the smaller state schools. By smaller I mean what are NAIA and FCS level today.

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One of those schools was Murray State. The Cardinals won their very first match-up against the Racers 14-0 in 1927, but they would come back with a vengeance 5 years later in 1932. The Cardinals would travel to Murray and suffer what is the worst defeat in school history losing to the Racers 105-0. And the Racers would beat up on our Cardinals the following year 54-6.

They have laid claim to four other victories over the Cardinals in the last 81 years with their last win 26-23 coming back in 1984 in Louisville. Since that loss to the Racers the Cardinals have won four straight against the in-state foe. The last time these teams met was in 2011 with the Cards winning that one 21-9. Louisville leads the all-time series 12-6.

The Murray State Racers haven’t had much success over the FBS opponents and their last win against an FBS program was that win against the Cards in 1984. The following year they were able to tie Memphis and since have lost 22 straight games to FBS teams.

The Murray State program has a lot of pride winning eight conference titles and ranks 4th in total conference championships among OVC schools. They are a program that is used to winning not surprising when you look at some of their former head coaches. Mike Gottfried, Ron Zook, Frank Beamer, Ralph Friedgen and Houston Nutt all got their starts in Murray Kentucky. Like I said above the Racers have a lot of pride and you best believe that they are coming into Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium on Saturday evening thinking they have a chance to knock off the Cardinals. Last weekend they beat Union 73-26 and are receiving votes in the Sports Network Top 25 Poll.

They run a spread offense called the “Hatch Attack” after their head coach Chris Hatcher and love to throw the football around. Their guy under center is South Alabama transfer CJ Bennett. He was 13-22 for 167 yards and five touchdowns last weekend. By all accounts he is a heady QB that fits well into that system. His favorite target is talented WR Janawski Davis. He caught three of those touchdown passes last weekend. This guy also added a 62 yard punt return for a touchdown and finished with 135 all purpose yards.
They have a very balanced rush attack and had four players rush for more than 50 yards last weekend. Nick Taylor is the guy the Louisville D will need to stop here rushing for 82 yards last weekend.
On special teams it appears that they have a guy who is going to be big for them. First time junior newcomer Shaun Samuels-Connell returned two punts for TD’s last weekend one for 68 yards and another for 13 yards. He averaged 17.5 yards on two kickoff returns.
Defensively they have a great sophomore linebacker Jonathan Jackson who last weekend recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown, blocked an extra point and ran back 98 yards for 2 points, added seven tackles and a sack. Not too shabby.

For our Cardinals it is all about execution this week. Staying disciplined at each position and going through their reps trying to be perfect. I expect to see Reggie Bonnafon get some reps after Will Gardner has done his part to put the game away. I also expect to see more of LJ Scott at running back after Dom Brown gets enough reps. This will be a good game for the QB and Wide Receivers to get more comfortable with each other in a game environment. I expect to see a healthy dose of passing to multiple guys. On the defensive side of the ball this will be a good week to get some practice against a team that likes to play fast and throw the ball all over the field. It will give our line backers a chance to get more comfortable with the 3-4 and their reads. Our secondary should get a good workout also. Execution…. Execution…. Execution this weekend is the name of the game on both sides of the ball.

Murray State won’t back down, but this one will be a game situation walk through for the Cardinals. Great weekend for the guys with nagging injuries to get better, and a great weekend for guys to get more comfortable in their roles. I’d love to see us redeem ourselves from that 105 point ass whipping of 81 years ago by getting a 112 point win Saturday. Don’t think that’ll happen but should be a lot of touchdowns.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 69 Murray State 3

Cardinal Football Is bACCk!

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Last night our Cardinals didn’t disappoint in what was one of the most anticipated games in the history of the football program. A record crowd of 55,428 watched as the Cardinals won their fourth straight season opener 31-13, win their first ACC game, win their sixth game straight and beat Miami for the second time in 10 months.

“I thought it would be a real battle and we would have to work extremely hard,” said Petrino, who returned in January to the program he led to a 41-9 record from 2003 to ’06. “Obviously, we made some mistakes on offense and on special teams. I thought the defense really did a great job all night long, especially on third down.”

“We found a way to win the game.”

We didn’t see the high octane Bobby Petrino offense we had became accustom to during his previous coaching stop in Louisville, but we did see a very efficient and methodical performance. Will Gardner did a very good job in my opinion of managing the game. He didn’t put up gaudy numbers throwing for 206 yards with 2 touchdowns, but he did maintain his composure after a few turnovers and led his unit. There will be a few arm chair QB’s who criticize Will this week, but making mistakes is part of the game. It’s how you respond to those mistakes that define the type of player you are. I thought Gardner responded well.

I can’t say enough about the admiration I have for Dominique Brown. His physical sacrifice for his unit last night was really something. A career high 33 carries in his first outing of the season, 143 yards and a touchdown laying his body on the line with every play. He set the tone for our offense last night and is the workhorse of this team.

That Corvin Lamb score was probably the best and my favorite play of the game. The claim is that he’s the fastest guy on the team and last night he backed up that claim with a 97 yard kick-off return. It was the fifth longest in school history and was a big momentum boost when the Cardinals needed it the most.

At the end of the night the crowd was chanting Bobby… Bobby… And while I’m grateful to have him as our new head coach part of me was thinking about Coach Strong and how the discipline he instilled in the Louisville defense was still very present. They haven’t missed a beat. The Cards held Miami to 1 for 13 on third down conversions. The ball pursuit, close outs, tackling, and hard hitting was very impressive last night. These guys were flying all over the field and it was very apparent that the great defense we had enjoyed under the previous regime was just as good as ever. There is nothing more important on a football field than playing fast and physical and the Louisville defense did that and then some last night. James Sample was the standout of the group with 8 tackles and an interception, but Gerod Holliman also deserves a lot of kudos with five tackles, an interceptions, and a few big stops on Duke Johnson.

It really was a great evening and I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent this holiday. It has been a great summer and last night our Cardinals sent it out with a bang. They also give us a lot to look forward to going into this Fall. I hope the ACC is ready because last night the Cardinals arrived in town and they are taking names.

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The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. Canes

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As I grow older I have come to realize that life is a series of beginnings and endings. I believe that much of this is to prepare us for some of life’s greatest challenges. We tasted the bitterness that came along with saying good-bye to some great players and a great coaching staff during the off season. But on Monday night Cardinal fans will get to taste the sweetness of new beginnings. Monday night starts a new era of Louisville football, and one that will surely be full of success.

So here we are Cardinal fans heading into a new season. We made it through our transition year and now will embark on what will be a game changer for the Louisville football program. We won’t have to wait weeks to play our first ACC opponent. The Cards will play Miami on Monday to kick off what will surely be the first of many battles between these teams. This game has so many story-lines. From the Godfather of both programs Howard Schnellenberger who went 41-16 at Miami, winning the ’83 national title and went 54-56-2 at Louisville, winning the ’91 Fiesta Bowl.

To what has previously been named one of the top recruiting battles in the country, and with the current coaching/player’s connection between these schools this one has got it all. There will be 14 Louisville players from the Miami-Dade county area featured in this game, and 30 Louisville players from the sunshine state all together. Some of these guys have played against each other since they were little kids. This just adds extra fuel to an already heated rivalry that has developed between these teams.

Our Cardinals have walked away with a win the last two times out against the Hurricanes. A win in 2006, when the Cards beat the visiting Canes 31-7, and a win just a few months ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl 36-9. Miami leads the all-time series, 9-2-1.

This game is really a tough one to break down as both of these teams have several new variables to consider. Both of these teams lost some very good players but also have some great ones back. Something that may come into play though is how well the Cardinals have learned the new offensive and defensive schemes. Mind you we do have an offensive genius on our sideline.

Photobucket-At the QB spot both teams have a question mark. I do think Gardner has the edge even though he’s learning a new offensive scheme. Brad Kaaya by all accounts is a very good player, but starting a true freshman on the road in what will be a very hostile crowd will be tough.

Photobucket-Both QB’s will have the luxury of handing the ball off to some very talented running backs. I think this part of the game gives a slight edge to Miami. With Dyer not 100% Dom Brown and LJ Scott will have to carry more of the load. Miami has Joe Yearby, powerful sophomore Gus Edwards, and Duke Johnson who will return for another year. Johnson has rushed for 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons, despite missing the last five games of the year in 2013. Cards defense will have their hands full with this group.

Photobucket-Both QB’s will also have some great talent to throw it to as well. Listed by ESPN as the potential #1 and #2 WR units in the ACC. Both teams lost their leading receiver from last season. Our Cardinals return four of their top five leading receivers when factoring in TE Gerald Christian. Even with Parker out we still have plenty of weapons. Look for Eli Rodgers, Matt Milton, Kai De La Cruz and James Quick to fill the void.
The Hurricanes return five of their top six receivers from 2013. Stacy Coley will be their top guy, Clive Walford a very good tight end, Phillip Dorsett, Herb Waters and Beau Sandland will be among some players the Cardinals secondary will have to stop.

Photobucket-One of the biggest keys to a football game is what happens in the trenches especially on the O-Line. We’ll have to see what unit wants it more Monday night, but I like our group with veterans John Miller and Jake Smith leading the way. Miami lost a few of their O-Linemen but they still have a very talented group also. Left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott will hold down their side.

Photobucket-On defense the Cardinals will have to adjust to life without some very good players especially in the secondary. And had to learn a whole new system. The Cards return 5 starters from the 2013 defense. Specifically, the defensive line has only 1 returning starter, Lorenzo Mauldin, who finished with 9.5 sacks last year. Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd are back in the secondary, the duo combined for 9 interceptions in 2013. The defensive newcomers will need to step up.
The Miami defense has the athletes but have lacked discipline on this side of the ball. Denzel Perryman, the leading tackler from last year, will return along with CB Tracy Howard, Anthony Chickillo and Al-Quadin Muhammad. The Hurricanes hope to create some pressure up front as 7 of their top 8 sack leaders from 2013 return.

Photobucket-Special teams could also play a big role in this game if things play out evenly in the other aspects. And I really like our kick and punt return guys Charles Gaines, Corvin Lamb James Quick, Kai De La Cruz and Eli Rogers. Turnovers could also decide a game that is even all the way around.

I’d be a blind homer if I were to say definitively that Louisville was going to win this game. It really is a close match-up when looking at it from a unbiased perspective. I do know definitively that it is one of the most anticipated opening games in Louisville’s football history, and maybe the most. And I do think the home crowd will help our Cards. I think that the home field advantage may be what determines a close one. I know I’m looking forward to it.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 31 Miami 28
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