Louisville’s Cup

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This afternoon the Cards sprinted toward the end zone at Commonwealth Stadium like kids at Christmas. Sitting idly on the turf was the coveted Governor’s Cup, awarded annually to the winner of the Louisville/Kentucky football game. For the fifth time in five years, the Cards laid their claws on the prize. Louisville becomes the first team to win five straight in the modern rivalry. The series between these schools now stands at 14-14, and Louisville is 14-7 since the rivalry was renewed in 1994.

The Cardinals tasted a great comeback victory, winning 38-24 on a cold, rainy, windswept afternoon in Lexington. The Governor’s Cup will now be in the Cardinal trophy case for the foreseeable future. With the Louisville football program bringing in the best recruiting class in school history and continuing to trend upward I don’t know when they’ll ever lose in this game again. Let’s just call it the Louisville Cup.

Over the last several months of the Louisville football season we had not seen any of those magical moments that we had been accustomed to. The passing game had been on idle and the offense as a whole lacked consistency. And while today wasn’t a blitzkrieg of scoring it was one that provided many of those big plays that we had all been waiting to see. It was the greatest comeback ever in this rivalry and it was the Cards who dealt the knock-out punch.

After having -1 yard on the ground in their last game the Cardinals running game with Radcliff (62 yards, 2 TD’s) and Jackson (186 yards, 2 TD’s) did its part today and kept enough pressure on Kentucky to keep the passing game open and that is where Louisville had those big play moments. Lamar Jackson was part QB and part escape artist scrambling and breaking tackles. It was Mr. Clutch, who would throw the big touchdown pass to James Quick (94 yards, 1 TD) at the end of third quarter to tie the game heading into the 4th quarter. Once in the 4th quarter Lamar Jackson did in his freshman season what Teddy Bridgewater did as a freshman in 2012 and completely took over this game. Jackson finished 8-21, 130 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and 17 carries 186 yards 2 TDs. He cemented his name in this rivalry winning the Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award.

Also have to give it up for the Louisville defense that could have just lain down after such a terrible 1st half. They finished the game very strong and dominated the trenches completely locking down the Kentucky offense holding them to three points and 143 yards over the final three quarters, 291 overall. I had looked forward to seeing him in a Cardinal uniform all summer and really wanted to see him have a great comeback story. Devonte Fields hasn’t let me down. Today Fields had 6 tackles, 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. Louisville had 15 Tackles for Loss today.

I had a great time at the game today and have had many great memories over the last five years in this rivalry. Today it was great watching an amazing comeback and watching the UK fans suffer through such a demoralizing loss especially after all of the razz they gave Louisville fans in September. I never wavered on this Louisville football team and they met all my expectations during this rebuilding season. I wanted to see just one thing from them that I hadn’t seen this year and that was heart. They left that and more on the field in Lexington today and it was awesome. Thanks guys! Go Cards!

The Battle of the Bluegrass XXVIII

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The Louisville football program has had an up and down season. The Cardinals are 5-3 this season finishing 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division, and are 6-5 overall coming off a disappointing loss to Pitt. Now it’s time for the season finale and the annual battle with in-state rival Kentucky. It will be a chance to end the regular season on a positive note. The bitter banter has had a full season to stew between UK and Louisville fans. The wait for this game has made it hotter than ever. We have had twitter wars, Facebook wars, but now it’s time for the gridiron version of “The Battle of the Bluegrass” to take center stage. Both programs will be on display for the SEC Network viewing audience at 12:00pm Saturday. This is the second season that this game will take its place at the table of rivalry weekend in college football. This game has been played 27 times over the years with UK leading the series 14-13, while Louisville has been the better team and program in the modern series leading 13-8 and winning the last four meetings. Louisville also won 4 straight in this series between the 03 and 07 seasons but have never won five straight.

Kentucky started off the season like they have for the last couple of years of the Stoops Era. They started the season winning 4 of their first five before going on a five game losing streak. They snapped that streak last week with a 58-10 win over Charlotte. The Kentucky offense is averaging 24.7 points and 379.4 yards per game with 20 turnovers. They have rushed for 1,860 yards this season with 20 touchdowns, and have passed for 2,313 yards with 10 touchdowns. Their rushing attack is ranked 89th in the country and they average 185 yards a game. Their passing attack is ranked 80th in the country and they average 210 yards a game. They are ranked 83rd in total offense. The Kentucky defense is allowing 26.5 points and 385.5 yards per game with eight interceptions, nine fumble recoveries, and 17 sacks. They are ranked 89th in the country in rushing defense allowing 185 yards per game, and ranked 35th in the country is passing yards allowed with 200 per game. They are ranked 57th in total defense.

The Wildcats started Drew Barker last week at QB and while the young guy shows promise I just don’t see him being the effective choice against Louisville. Last week Barker pretty much was able to hand the ball off to his running backs and throw easy routes. He hasn’t had enough time behind center to face the speed, and athleticism that he will see with the Louisville defense. So my guess is that we will see Patrick Towles for most of the game on Saturday. I think this guy is their best choice for this game. He has thrown for 2077 yards this season completing 60% of his passes and has 9 touchdowns. He is a quarterback that likes to play from the pocket but does a pretty good job of avoiding the rush. He has ran for 5 touchdowns this season. This guy is a gamer and he has been around long enough to know what this rivalry means. He had a helluva game against Louisville last year and he is the guy that gives them the best chance to win on Saturday.

Besides Towles coming in and having the game of his life the thing that concerns me the most on Saturday is the Kentucky running game. UK running backs Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp have each reached the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing this season. Williams has 818 yards with 5 touchdowns and Kemp has 541 yards with 6 touchdowns this season. I think the UK losing streak is a direct result of Williams getting hurt as they are a different team when he is healthy and in the backfield. This guy is a powerful runner and can cut on a dime and he is also the kind of player that can make plays develop for himself. He needs just nine yards on Saturday to equal that of Randall Cobb’s career at Kentucky and is just a sophomore. Kemp who has 1,346 yards rushing in his career and is a very good back in his own right. He is a very solid compliment to Williams and is a great north south runner. We seen the way Tyler Boyd and Qadree Ollison sliced through the Louisville defense last weekend and I think these two backs for Kentucky are just as good or better. The Louisville defensive front better come ready to play. These guys have a solid group blocking for them on the UK offensive line led by senior left tackle Jordan Swindle and junior center Jon Toth. A key element of the Kentucky’s running game is the dedication of the UK receivers in blocking. Wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord has developed a reputation as coaching units that emphasize run blocking.

Speaking of the Wildcats’ receiving corps they are led by Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker. Johnson has 653 yards with 2 touchdowns and Baker has 514 yards with 3 touchdowns. Both of these guys have great size and speed and both can hurt you on the short routes or the big play. They also have a great complimentary duo of Jeff Badet 430 yards with 2 touchdowns and Blake Bone who has 210 yards with 1 touchdown. These guys are speedy and really effective in the east/west passing attack. Badet has 4 big plays this season over 40 yards. TE C.J. Conrad has also been effective for them in the passing attack and has 149 yards with a touchdown. The size and athleticism of Baker and Johnson could really pose a challenge to the Louisville corners and safeties. This week will be another big challenge for them.

The UK defense will be a big key if they are to pull the upset over the Cardinals on Saturday. This group at times has looked very good but then come out on the next series and look lost. Their defense is led up front by linebacker Josh Forrest who leads UK In tackles with 85 and Cory Johnson who has 65 tackles on the season. Johnson is a very gifted and athletic D lineman who proved it when he pulled off one of the best acrobatic interceptions last week I’ve seen all season. I think the Louisville defense will scheme to get a couple of bodies on this guy because Matt Elam and the other guys up front just aren’t getting it done for their team this season. Elam is Melvin Lewis’s replacement and this defensive unit hasn’t been the same without Lewis. Leading this unit in the defensive backfield are safeties Marcus McWilson who has 66 tackles, A.J. Stamps with 58 tackles and freshman corner Chris Westry who has 2 interceptions with 7 pass deflections. All of these guys are very athletic and rangy.

Going up against this inconsistent Kentucky defense is a Louisville offensive unit who has gradually improved over the season despite a carousel of QBs and poor offensive line production. After averaging just 24.3 points per game in the first eight contests of the season, the Cardinals have returned to the Petrino glory days when his teams lit up the scoreboard, and the Cardinals are averaging 37.6 points in the last three games. A reason for this offensive surge has been the ability of Kyle Bolin to come in and run the offense effectively. While the play of James Quick and emergence of Jamari Staples has also helped. With that being said I really don’t feel like Bolin gives the Cardinals the best chance at a victory on Saturday. We are going to need Lamar Jackson to come in with his ability to make plays with both his legs and his arm. UK has also had fits with mobile QB’s all season. Our offensive line has been horrible giving up more sacks than any group in the country this season and I just feel like Bolin would be rushed too much to be effective. Can’t negate the fact that it is expected to be a downpour for most of the game really effecting any passing. I think Lamar gets the nod but won’t be surprised to see the carousel again on Saturday.

I also hope that Staples is healthy and ready to go again this weekend because we will need him. Tight ends Cole Hikutini, Micky Crum, and Keith Towbridge have also made a big impact on this offense with 539 yards and seven touchdowns between them. I think they could also have a big impact on this game due to the lackluster play of UK’s DB’s. After registering back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances for the second time in his career Brandon Radcliff disappeared again last week and the Cardinals running game had -1 yard. I don’t think the Cardinals can win this game with another performance like this.

I really do think this game may just come down to whatever defensive group comes out and wants it more. The Cardinals are ranked 17th in total defense, allowing 24.36 points, 326.4 yards per game with 15 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries, and 29 sacks. It looked like they were on their way to dominating performances for the rest of the season. But then came out last week against Pitt and just completely laid down. It was very shocking to me to see these guys play so uninspired. I think this weekend it all starts with some solid leadership from two guys who will be playing their last regular season game. The backbone on this side of the ball has been senior linebackers Keith Kelsey and James Burgess. They will have to set the tone for the rest of front group to follow. I think another guy who will play an important role is DeVonte’ Fields. He has started to show us why he was the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and has totaled 25 tackles, five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in the last five contests. At the beginning of the season I think we were all very excited about this Louisville defensive front and now these guys along with DeAngelo Brown, and Pio Vatuvei, will play their most important game of the season. After a subpar effort last week this will also be a shot at redemption for DB’s Shaq Wiggins, Trumaine Washington, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams.

All summer long and during the spring we all talked, and wrote about the potential and talent that the 2015-16 version of the Louisville Football team would have. We knew that we would have some issues up front on the offensive line and we knew that we would have some young guys that would have to step in and fill some gaps. I think we all expected some inconsistency over-all. This is all part of growing pains. The one thing that nobody ever questioned was if this team would play with passion and intensity. Being around these guys in the spring and watching the videos of these guys during their summer weight lifting and workouts I just knew they would be hungry for every down, but last week played their most uninspired half of football of the season. That should not be happening in November. These guys have two game left this season to prove to themselves and to the fans that they can be the team we thought they could be. In the pre-season Sports Illustrated had the Cardinals picked as a sleeper for the college football playoffs? The talent and ability is there.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the game on Saturday. This time it will be different than the last four years. Kentucky is finally getting together enough speed and athleticism to be fairly competitive again and that group really wants to prove to their home crowd that they have indeed turned the corner. They are going to play their asses off to try and reach a Bowl game. The Cardinals will have to match that intensity or it will be a long rainy day in Lexington. I’ll be there cheering for our guys and hope they can get it done. Go Cards!

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 UK 28

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 Teddy did in his freshman year in the rivalry. He should be able to have his way with a very inconsistent UK defense. They’ve struggled with mobile QB’s all season and will have trouble with the speed and athleticism of Jackson.

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

Cardinal Basketball 4-0 Heading Into Two Tough Games

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The Cardinals moved to 4-0 in the early season after an 85-41 victory over St. Francis last night. The Cardinals have been participating in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational. This five-team, round-robin event will conclude on Saturday night when the Cardinals face St. Louis in Brooklyn. After the Cardinals finish up with this tournament they’ll then head to East Lansing to face the #3 Michigan St. Spartans in the annual Big 10/ACC Challenge. This is the 7th consecutive season that Louisville has started a basketball season 4-0 and they’ll need the positive momentum from these early victories to help them when they face these next two opponents.

Over the last few seasons the Cardinals have had to rely on great defense to help them overcome being anemic on the offensive end of the floor. This is usually the time of year when we are all wondering where the point production is going to come from. But if these early games are any indication this year offense is not going to be a problem. The Cardinals have shot better than 50% from the field in the first 4 games. This team is getting scoring from every position on the floor and the team is shooting a blistering 52% from the field. The Cardinals have 7 players who are shooting 50% or better from the field, have 7 players who are averaging 7 points or more per game, and as a team averaging 87 points per game. This team is currently 13th in the country in field goal percentage, and have moved up to 31st in the country in scoring offense. In the current Kenpom statistics Louisville’s adjusted offensive efficiency is 108.3 ranked 47th and their effective Field goal percentage is 56.5 ranked 31st. Having a team like this with some many weapons is something worth getting very excited about.

The Cardinals may not have to rely as much on their defense this season but that doesn’t mean they aren’t performing just as well on this side of the ball. Through the first 4 games of the season they are holding their opponents to 49.8 points per game and holding them to just 29% shooting from the field. In the current Kenpom statistics Louisville’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 90.6 and ranked 3rd and their effective field goal percentage defense is 34.7 ranked 5th. It might be against teams with less talent but so far the Cardinals are really getting it done on the defensive end and they look like they enjoy it just as much as they do when they have the ball in their hands. After the game last night Coach Willard said that they weren’t completely happy with the defense yet and talked about fine tuning some things. But I know they have to at least be happy with the effort.

I know it’s early but these guys are playing some solid basketball and they look like they are having fun doing it. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do against both St. Louis and Michigan State. We will know exactly where they are after this stretch. They could come out in these next two games showing everyone that they will be a contender this season. I know they will be. Go Cards!

Louisville vs. St. Francis

North Florida Looking to be Birds of Prey on Saturday

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We all know how most of these early games go during the first stretch of the basketball season. These smaller schools are going on the road to play in big venues to get a hefty paycheck, take a loss and go home. That’s not going to be the case when North Florida comes to the Yum Center on Saturday. The Cardinals play the North Florida Ospreys in the Cards’ second game of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational, a five-team, round-robin event. Louisville beat Hartford in the first round 87-52 on Tuesday. The Cardinals are 2-0 on the early season while North Florida is 3-0 with a big in over Illinois already on the resume.

North Florida will bring one of the most high powered offenses in the country to Louisville this weekend. They lead the nation in three-pointers per game (16.0), are seventh in assists-to-turnovers ratio (2.35) and ranks eighth in three-point percentage (.480). The Ospreys are a talented and dangerous team thanks to a balanced offensive attack and a roster full of shooters. The Ospreys can shoot the basketball from all over the floor. Their system allows for anyone to pull the trigger when open, and with five players shooting over 40 percent from deep, everyone must be accounted for. They live and die by the 3-point shot and so far this season they’ve lived pretty well.

Dallas Moore (24.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG)
Trent Mackey (18.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG)
Chris Davenport (15.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
Beau Beech (14.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG)
Nick Malonga (6.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG)

Key Bench Players
Demarcus Daniels (13.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG)
Aaron Bodager (4.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
Osborn Blount (2.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

Kenpom Ranks
Overall Rank 95th
ADJ Offense Efficiency 108.7 ranked 36th
ADJ Defensive Efficiency 103.1 ranked 224th
Game Prediction: Louisville 82 North Florida 70, He gives them a 13% chance to win

Their best player is Dallas Moore. The 6-foot-1 guard can shoot it from deep (55.6 percent) or in close (56 percent). The lefty is very quick with the ball in his hands and gets to the rim with relative ease. He’s also very good in transition. Another guy who could be big for them on Saturday is Demarcus Daniels. He’s scored a combined 40 points leading up to this game on Saturday and grabbed 27 rebounds. Daniels is long, athletic and can score on the block as well as stroke it from deep (50 percent). If North Florida gets a great effort out of this guy on Saturday their chances for an upset improve drastically.

As mentioned above the Ospreys have a well balanced offensive attack, as five players average more than 13 points per game and shoot at least 50 percent from the field. North Florida plays at a quicker tempo than most (61st nationally) and will shoot early in the shot clock. The Ospreys have an equal opportunity offense that can be very hard to defend. On defense North Florida plays a traditional man-to-man defense and will switch on ball screens. Their guards play decent perimeter defense (44 percent shooting). They don’t force many turnovers, relying instead on fundamental defensive principles.

In order for Louisville to keep the upset minded Ospreys from achieving their goal they must limit them to one-and-done possessions and extend their defense. Giving a great shooting team extra possessions is alwyas a bad idea, so owning the defensive glass is the first step. Playing a traditional zone likely would be a poor decision, but a team like Louisville that plays that tough match-up zone defense and has length could pose issues for the Ospreys.

Our Cardinals have won 36 consecutive home games in November spanning the last 24 years, including a perfect 23-0 record in the KFC Yum Center and I am confident they’ll make that 37 straight on Saturday. The Ospreys who are a bird of prey will be a great challenge to this group and one they need this early to gauge just how well they are coming along. The Cardinals rank fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.257). We’ll see how that holds up. I just think the Cardinals have too many offensive weapons themselves and are too tall and talented to lose this one. Chinanu Onuaku scored a career-high 18 points against Hartford, adding nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Jaylen Johnson also set career bests in points (nine) and rebounds (eight) vs. Hartford. I look for these guys to be big again on Saturday. Quentin Snider has also been great. His 10 assists with just one turnover this season ranks him fourth in the nation in assists-to-turnover ratio. He matched a career-high with six assists against Hartford. He will also be big on Saturday. For as good as they are on offense the Ospreys aren’t really great defensively and that will be their down fall in this one.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 80 North Florida 69

Cardinals Look to continue their winning ways against Pitt

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Our Cardinals are one of the ACC’s hottest teams, winning six of their past seven games. The Cardinals visit Pittsburgh following a 38-31 win over Virginia. This will be the first ACC meeting between these old Big East rivals. This is the 17th meeting between Pitt and Louisville in a series that dates back to 1976. The series is tied, 8-8. Pitt is 5-5 against Louisville in games played in Pittsburgh and Louisville is 3-3 in games played in Louisville. Pitt began ACC play in 2013, while the Cardinals joined the league for the 2014 season. As I mentioned above these teams were once annual foes from 2005-12 as members of the Big East. In eight league meetings, each team won four times. This will be the first meeting between the two schools since the Cardinals won 45-35 at Pittsburgh in 2012 with Teddy QB pictured above leading the way. A win over the Panthers would be the most ACC wins for the Cardinals in their two seasons in the conference. Louisville went 5-3 last season in its first season in the ACC. Coach Petrino is 2-0 against Pitt and their coach has never faced Louisville.

The Panthers are having a great season themselves. They clinched a winning regular season for the first time in five years last weekend in their win against Duke. They have their best 10-game start since the 2009 Panthers began the year with a 9-1 mark. A victory over Louisville would give the Panthers eight regular-season wins for the first time since that 2009 edition went 9-3. Pitt has a pretty balanced offensive attack with 1,799 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground ranked 57th in the nation and 1,967 yards with 15 touchdowns through the air ranked 98th in the nation. Defensively they are ranked 37th in the country allowing 139 yards per game on the ground and ranked 38th in the country allowing 200 yards per game through the air.

The Panthers have been exceptional at protecting the football this season. Pitt ranks 15th nationally and fourth in the ACC in fewest turnovers with 11. A big reason for this is having solid guys at all of their skill positions. Leading the way is QB Nate Peterman who over his past seven games has connected on 61% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and only one interception. He has thrown for 1,776 yards this season and 14 touchdowns. He is a QB that prefers to sit in the pocket and find his receivers but has the ability to avoid the rush. He has 194 yards on the ground this season. Pitt has a long history of producing some really good wide receivers and this season they have another special one in junior Tyler Boyd who has already established himself as the Panthers’ most prolific receiver ever. Boyd is Pitt’s all-time leader in career receptions with 232 and all-time leader in yards with 3,135. He has 700 yards this season with 5 touchdowns. Boyd also leads the ACC in receptions per game (7.7) and receiving yards per game (77.8). Boyd excels in more than just the passing game. He has also been a threat running the ball with 197 yards this season. This guy will be the biggest test of this season for the Louisville defensive backs.

Besides Boyd Peterman’s other favorite targets this season have been his Tight ends. They are responsible for 53% of Pitt’s touchdown catches through 10 games this season. The Panthers have thrown 15 touchdown passes thus far and tight ends Scott Orndoff (4) and J.P. Holtz (4) have caught eight of them. The other top targets in this very effective Pitt passing attack are wide receivers Dontez Ford with 421 yards and one touchdown and Zach Challingsworth with 138 yards and one touchdown. When they aren’t moving the ball through the air they are running it down your throat with tailback Qadree Ollison. Ten games into the year, the red-shirt freshman is now the Panthers’ leading rusher with 859 yards and nine touchdowns on 166 carries. He is averaging 85.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks fifth in the ACC. Behind every good offense is a great offensive line and Pitt boasts a combined 113 starts on the offensive line, led by junior tackle Adam Bisnowaty with 27 career starts.

Pat Narduzzi arrived at Pitt after establishing himself as one of college football’s top defensive coordinators during his Michigan State tenure. That has carried over to this Pitt program and they are ranked in the nation’s top 30 in four defensive categories quarterback sacks (13th, 2.90 sacks/game), fourth-down conversion defense (15th, 33.3%), fewest first downs allowed (16th, 166 total) and total defense (26th, 340.0 yards/game). Pitt has 67 tackles for loss this year and leading the way is defensive end Ejuan Price with 12. Junior linebacker Mike Caprara is second with 9.5 and linebacker Matt Galambos is third with nine. Leading the way in the Pitt secondary is freshman strong safety Jordan Whitehead who leads Pitt in tackles through 10 games with 82 total stops. Whitehead is averaging 8.2 tackles per game, which ranks eighth in the ACC. He is the only freshman among the league’s top 20 tacklers.

Saturday this Pitt team will pose a great challenge to both the Louisville offense and defense. But our Cardinals are heading into this tough road game trending upward on both sides of the ball. After averaging just 24.3 points per game in the first eight contests of the season, the Cardinals have returned to the Petrino glory days when his teams lit up the scoreboard. In a pair of wins over Syracuse (41-17) and Virginia (38-31), the Cardinals are averaging 39.5 points per game in the last two games. A reason for this offensive surge has been the ability of Kyle Bolin to come in and run the offense effectively. He has completed almost 60% of his passes throwing for 934 yards and 5 touchdowns. The return of James Quick and emergence of Jamari Staples has also helped. These guys have combined for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight ends Cole Hikutini, Micky Crum, and Keith Towbridge have also made a big impact on this offense with 354 yards and five touchdowns between them. And finally the Brandon Radcliff we all have been waiting for has returned. He led the rushing attack tallying a career-high 146 yards on 21 carries and equaled a career-best with two touchdowns in the last game, and has registered back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances for the second time in his career.

The Cardinals defense held things together for this team while the offense was finding its way. And this unit is now one of the best in the country. They are ranked 14th in the country in total defense, 11th in the country in rushing defense, and 7th in the nation with 15 interceptions. The Cardinals have totaled 40.0 tackles for loss in the last four wins, moving up to 17th nationally with 7.6 per game. The backbone on this side of the ball has been senior linebackers Keith Kelsey and James Burgess. The bash brothers have lived up to their nicknames this season… Kelsey has 86 tackles, which is just one shy of his career-high of 87 set last season, and Burgess has posted a career-best 76 tackles this season. Trumaine Washington has also been a big help. He is sixth on the team in tackles and is leading the squad with four interceptions, which also ranks second in the ACC. His three forced fumbles also ties him for third in the league and his nine passes defended ties him for eighth in the ACC. Trevon Young has been dominating over the last five games, recording 8.5 sacks. Shaq Wiggins, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams entered this season without ever starting a game in the Louisville secondary. They have really made their presence felt and the three players have totaled 7 interceptions. DeVonte’ Fields is also starting to show why he was the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and has totaled 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in the last four games. If this group finishes strong the Cards might not lose another game.

The Cardinals will have to play really good football on both sides of the football on Saturday afternoon to come away with their 7th win of the season and it’s important to carry some momentum into the season finally against arch rival Kentucky next week. I think this group is finally firing on all fronts and have that cohesiveness that had been missing. The offense and defense are feeding off each other and are peaking at the right time. There is a lot of brotherhood in that locker-room. It won’t be easy but our guys will get the win in the Steele city.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 Pitt 24

The Home Football Season Will End on Saturday with the Cavaliers

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It seems like we were just talking about opening up the football season in Georgia against Auburn and now here we are heading into the last home game of the season. This has been a frustrating season at times but I’ve had just as much fun following a cheering for this group as any I’ve covered so far. We will say goodbye to a 13-person senior class that has been one of the best in school history posting a record of 37-11. With a win on Saturday they’ll have a chance to extend their streak to six-straight bowl appearances. Louisville and Virginia will meet for the fourth time in school history when the two teams face off Saturday. Virginia owns a 2-1 series advantage after last season’s 23-21 win over the Cardinals in Charlottesville. They booted a go-ahead field goal with 3:42 left in the game to hand the Cardinals their first loss of the season. This will be the first meeting between the two schools in Louisville since 1988 when the Cardinals defeated the Cavaliers 30-28. Coach Petrino is a perfect 10-0 on Senior Day during his collegiate coaching career, including a perfect 5-0 as head coach of the Cardinals.

The Virginia Cavaliers are 3-6 on the season and 2-3 in the ACC, with losses on the road to Pitt, North Carolina and Miami. Five of the six teams that have beaten UVA in 2015 are all currently ranked. This has probably been one of the most inconsistent teams in college football this season. At times they have looked like they could’ve beat anybody in the country and then look the complete opposite the next quarter. They have rushed for 1,238 yards this season with 9 touchdowns, and passed for 2,069 yards with 13 touchdowns. They are ranked 90th in the country in total offense. Their passing offense is ranked 61st in the country and their rushing offense is ranked 104th in the country. On the defensive side of the ball they are ranked 81st in total defense. They are ranked 93rd in passing yards allowed and ranked 57th in rushing yards allowed.

Their offensive Coordinator Steve Fairchild learned his play-calling skills from Mike Martz the guy who created “The Greatest Show on Turf”. The Cavaliers are far from the greatest show on turf but they do a pretty good job at tossing the ball around. QB Matt Johns has thrown for 2035 yards and 13 touchdowns. Johns has thrown two passes this season that have gone for at least 75 yards. It marks only the third time UVA has completed two passes of 75 yards or longer in the same season. John’s favorite target this season has been WR Canaan Severin. He has 41 receptions with 583 yards in 2015 and 31 of them have gone for either a first down and/or a touchdown. That comes out to a 75.6 percent rate. WR T.J. Thorpe has 226 yards with 1 touchdown. The Cardinal defense will have their hands full with running back Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell. He is in the midst of a breakout season. Not only does he lead the Cavaliers rushing attack with 537 yards he leads the nation’s running backs with 539 receiving yards and with 54 receptions. Mizzell is the only running back in the nation with two 100-yard receiving games in 2015.

Virginia’s defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is a UVA alum and has brought an aggressive makeover to the Cavaliers. At times they have shown they can be very good on the defensive side of the ball and have some defensive guys that have stood out for them. Line Backer Micah Kiser is No. 1 in the ACC in tackles (9.4 per game), while Safety Quin Blanding is No. 2 in the ACC in stops (8.9 per game). The duo is the only defensive pairing from the same school that rank No. 1 and No. 2 in tackles over the 10 FBS conferences. CB Demetrious Nicholson is tied for No. 6 in the nation (No. 1 in the ACC) among active players with 36 passes defended. And up front DE Trent Corney has picked up his production the past two weeks, tallying a combined 11 tackles and 4.5 tackles.

The Louisville offense has now found some consistency with Kyle Bolin at the quarterback position and that has earned him the start on Saturday. In only his second year receiving playing time, Bolin has thrown for 1,511 yards and eight touchdowns, while completing 101-169 (59.8) passes with six interceptions. . He threw two touchdown passes to tight end Cole Hikutini of 13 and 10 yards and also hit Keith Towbridge with a 12-yarder last weekend and I look for the big tight ends to be a part of the offense again on Saturday. James Quick has been a big lift to the offense since returning to the lineup. In five games since his return, Quick has caught 25 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns. Another weapon that has emerged is Jamari Staples who is second on the team with 24 receptions for 386 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brandon Radcliff rushed for 117 yards on 10 carries last weekend and I hope that he keeps trending in the right direction. If this group can get that running game finally established then they have a good shot at winning out the rest of the way.

The Louisville defense continues to get better and better. They have held six of their nine opponents to 20 points or less, and have allowed just 20 touchdown this season, giving up seven on the ground and 13 through the air, which is tied for 20th nationally. Opponents have had five scoring drives that were 30 or less yards in distance. Louisville has registered a total of 41 interceptions over the last two seasons after securing two more in the win over Syracuse last Saturday. It’s the most interceptions in the nation over the last two seasons. The Cardinals have had interceptions from eight different players this season. Look for that number to improve with a Virginia team who will look to pass most of the day. The Cardinals have totaled 30.0 tackles for loss in the last three wins, moving up to 25th nationally with 7.3 per game. A big reason why is guys like Keith Kelsey (Kelsey leads the team in tackles with 72 and ranks 81st in the nation and is ninth in the ACC), James Burgess (second on the team with 70 tackles after the first eight games of the season and ranks eighth in the ACC with 8.1 tackles per game), Sheldon Rankins (Rankins is fourth on the team in tackles with 37 and is fourth with 8.0 tackles for loss) and Trevon Young (Young is second in the ACC and is eighth nationally with 0.94 sacks per game).

Saturday the Cardinal football program will say good-bye to Corvin Lamb, James Burgess, Jermaine Reve, Darius Skinner, George Clements, Josh Appleby, John Wallace, Aaron Ahner, Kelby Johnson, Aaron Epps, Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei and Jon Brown. The senior class owns a combined record of 37-11 during their time at Louisville with three-straight bowl appearances. They will lace em up and run out of that tunnel to the Alma mater for the last time. Louisville fans will celebrate the contributions of each of these young men recognizing the significant role they have played in the program. There is no way this group walks off of that field on Saturday with a loss. Get out and show these guys some love and watch the Cards win big.

Louisville 37 Virginia 17

Cardinals Open 102nd Basketball Season on Friday 13th

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It’s poetic justice that our Louisville Basketball team will start their 2015-16 campaign on Friday the 13th. There have been a lot of nightmarish distractions off of the court over the past month but that hasn’t slowed down this group of young Cardinals. They have stayed the course and Coach Pitino has placed his focus squarely on getting these guys ready for their tough slate ahead. The Cardinals will play 11 games this season against teams ranked among the nation’s top 25 or are receiving votes in the preseason USA Today coach’s poll, including six games among teams in the top six. They’ll also have trips to some very historically tough venues. This will be a fun ride that will have some bumps along the way but I think we’ve got another group that won’t let us down.

There is still a lot of mystery as to how this group will come together and evolve over the next five months. Louisville has just two players on its roster junior center Mango Mathiang and walk-on junior guard David Levitch that have played with the Cardinals more than a year. The Cards return just 17 percent of their scoring and a quarter of their assists from last season but I’m very optimistic that we could potentially have a decent run. This appears to be a very close group, we have some great size, length, athleticism and these guys are very versatile. We also have a very good freshmen class that will be able to make a solid contribution this season. I also think Coach Pitino may be as motivated as he’s ever been to get this group to reach their full potential.

You can’t really read that much into the exhibitions but these guys are going to be fun to watch. On the defensive side of the ball this group is going to give opponents fits this year. Deflections, Defensive rebounding, hustle and shot blocking are abundant. They pretty much limited Bellarmine to one shot and out for the entire game, and they are a team very fundamentally sound on the offensive end of the floor. They didn’t really ever allow them to have a clean look. On the offensive end of the court this group has size and skill everywhere. They all hit the offensive glass, all can play out on the perimeter and all of these guys are very good passers. I think you’ll see a lot of activity and movement this year. Get ready for the pick and roll and the give and go.

-Jaylen Johnson is a guy that really didn’t show me much during the Puerto Rico trip but in the exhibition games looked like a man on a mission. I do think he has made a lot of progress since seeing him this summer. The kid has cut his weight and body fat and that has resulted in a faster more versatile player on the floor. He was much more active around the basket and has developed into a player that can score facing the basket or with his back to the basket. And he can create his own scoring opportunities. If he continues down this improvement path he will be a beast this season.

-Quentin Snider made his impact felt immediately when he hit the floor in the exhibition games. His ability to run smooth offensive sets is unmatched by any guard on the team. He is the best guard on the team getting the offense into a good rhythm by finding open guys for open shots. The kid is a silent general on the basketball court. That experience he had in the Tourney last year has carried over and he is going to be big for us.

-Damion Lee will be the foundation of this group off of the court and he will keep them focused on their task ahead, and he is another smooth operator when he gets on the floor. He is a very good ball handler that has the ability to blow past his guy on the perimeter or to stop and pop on a dime for the bucket. He can also get hit the three point shot with consistency. I think he will give us our most consistent three point threat we’ve had in a while.

-Trey Lewis is another guy much like Quentin Snider who has that great court awareness and can find the open man. He threaded the needle many times on Sunday. He is also a great stop and pop shooter who really doesn’t have to have his set shot for it to go down with consistency. Once he fully feels at home he will be a solid floor general for this group.

-Magok Mathiang will also be a big part of everything this team does on the offensive and defensive side of the floor. When he played in the World Games this summer he rebounded the ball very well. That has carried over and he has rebounded well both on the Puerto Rico trip, the scrimmages and will hopefully continue through the season. Mango has improved every year and this season will be big for him.

-Chinanu Onuaku is another very important part of this team. He was very active around the basket in both of the exhibition games and really defended well. Most think he will end up being the most important part of this team and I think he’ll have a big season with hopes of getting to the next level after it’s over.

-Matz Stockman and Anas Mahmoud are more confident and have also transformed themselves physically. Anas showed off his athleticism and ability to make big plays in the scrimmages. Matz attempted a dunk from the free-throw line over three Bellarmine players. Talk about confidence. Looking forward to seeing these guys continue to improve and I think they’ll help out a lot this season.

-As I mentioned above I think a few of the freshman can really contribute some valuable minutes this season, but believe that Deng Adel will see significant time. He is slated for the start in the season opener on Friday night. He already has the strength and size to compete on the college level. He is a match-up nightmare and can score in a lot of ways. He can come at you off of the dribble or take it to the rack with power. He is going to be a fun one to watch.

We might not contend for a title and I’m not ready to even think about that at this point. I do think this group could be top 10ish and make a deep tourney run. We have one of the tallest and athletic teams in school history it just all has to come together. I know I’m really excited and ready for the season to start. GO CARDS!

Here’s a direct link to the Game Notes for Friday’s home opener against Samford:

Louisville Basketball Officially Signs Two More “Louisville Men”

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Both Frankie Hughes and VJ King have signed their paper work and are officially part of the Cardinal Nation. These two young men have yet to make a basket or win a game in a Louisville uniform but both have quickly become fan favorites.

Amidst the recent scandal that rocked the Louisville basketball program Frankie Hughes came out of nowhere to pledge his loyalty to Coach Pitino and the Cardinals. Hughes said after his commitment to Louisville “its two sides to every story. I want to go to Louisville and play for Coach Pitino and I believe in Coach Pitino.’” “I told him (Pitino) that I had his back,” Hughes said. “I said, ‘I’m a loyal guy, I’ll stay loyal to you.’” The commitment by this young man was very encouraging and come at a time when most were questioning if Coach Pitino would have any problems on the recruiting trail.

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VJ King has been committed to Coach Pitino and the Cardinals since back in June, but with the recent dark cloud over the basketball program some have worried about King who is one of the top players in the country in the class of 2016. Tonight VJ put those worries to rest saying in the below tweet tonight that “People may have questioned, but I never wavered. I believe in the Louisville family!” Again this is a very positive sign moving forward and will no doubt have an impact as coach Pitino moves forward in his recruiting efforts of 2016 and beyond.

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In successful programs like the University of Louisville tradition never graduates. The program is rich and vibrant because many great young men have come in and cared enough to give their very best. Many chapters have yet to be written, and there is not a doubt in my mind that Frankie and VJ are going to add to that outstanding tradition. These two young men have already proved their loyalty and in today’s world that means a whole lot. Welcome to the Cardinal Family guys and thank you for wanting to be a part of something special. Go Cards!

Cardinals Play the Orange on Saturday with another Bowl Game in Sight

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It’s been a football season that was filled with anticipation, had some disappointment and now Cardinal fans are just looking for some satisfaction. Louisville’s schedule is rated the 12th-most difficult in the country by Sagarin and with the win over Wake Forest, the Cardinals are just two wins away from qualifying for a post-season appearance, extending their streak to six-straight bowl appearances. The Cardinals will attempt to get one of those wins this weekend with the Orange coming to town. Louisville and Syracuse, former members of the Big East, will meet for the 14th time in school history, with the Cardinals owning a 7-6 advantage. Louisville won last year’s meeting 28-6 in the Carrier Dome and has been victorious in four of the last five meetings.

Syracuse has now lost 5 games in a row their latest being a 45-21 loss to Florida State. Syracuse has been struggling and their record has fallen to 3-5. The Orange is a young bunch in 2015. In the squad’s last contest at Florida State 19 of its 22 starters were underclassmen. 27 underclassmen have made at least one start this season. True freshmen have seen plenty of action on offense in 2015 for Syracuse. Through eight games, SU has accumulated 2,698 yards of total offense. True freshmen have accounted for 1,983 of those yards (73.5 percent). On the defensive side of the ball, more than half of the Syracuse starters have been freshmen or sophomores this year. At least seven starters have been freshmen or sophomores on defense in every contest this season. As a team, the Orange has registered 503 tackles in 2015. 344 of those tackles (68.4 percent) have been made by freshmen and sophomores. In addition, 443 of those stops (88.1 percent) have been made by underclassmen. Syracuse is ranked 115th in total offense with 2698 yards this season and 24 touchdowns. They are ranked 86th in total defense allowing 3363 yards of offense and 27 touchdowns.

Cuse has a pretty balanced scoring attack with 1319 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground and 1379 yards through the air with 15 touchdowns. Leading the Cuse offensive attack QB Eric Dungey is 90 of 146 passing for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns, thus far this year. He currently ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ranks 33rd in the nation in passing efficiency (148.0). Dungey has thrown for 11 touchdowns and ran for five scores. He is two touchdowns shy of breaking the Syracuse freshman record for touchdowns in a single season. Sophomore wide receiver Steve Ishmael has picked up right where he left off last season. Ishmael leads Syracuse with 26 receptions and 397 receiving yards on the year. He also has hauled in four touchdowns. Ishmael has been one of Syracuse’s top scoring threats, as of late. He has scored a touchdown in four of the team’s past six games. In addition, he has caught a pass in all eight games for the Orange in 2015. Wide receiver Brisly Estime has been one of the Orange’s top all-around threats on offense. Estime ranks sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 113.75 all-purpose yards. He the second leading receiver on the team with 233 yards and has 14 receptions with 2 touchdowns.

Syracuse’s hybrid backs and running backs have accounted for 514 receiving yards, more than a third of the team’s total. Ervin Philips with 198 receiving yards, while Ben Lewis has 129 receiving yards. Eight of the team’s 15 touchdown receptions have been hauled in by hybrid backs and running backs. Freshman running back Jordan Fredericks has made a name for himself through Cuse’s first seven games this season. Fredericks currently leads the Orange with 397 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns. The second leading rusher on the team is QB Dungey with 306 yards and 5 touchdowns. Syracuse offensive coordinator Tim Lester likes to spread the ball around and he will use his backs in the passing game. Don’t let their record fool you this Cuse offense is very solid. And it all starts up front where senior offensive lineman Ivan Foy, Nick Robinson, and Rob Trudo are Syracuse’s three most experienced players. Between the three of them, they have started 100 contests for the Orange.

Task with stopping this Orange attack is a Louisville defense that keeps trending upward. The Louisville defense is currently ranked 16th in the country allowing just 309.3 yards a game. They are ranked 7th in the country in interceptions with 13 this season. With the way Cuse likes to sling it around they’ll have their chance to improve on this number Saturday. The Cardinals have had 12 sacks over the last two games and are currently ranked 15th in the country with 24 sacks on the season. Junior Trevon Young has been a bright spot for this defense and he has 6 sacks in the last two games and 9 for the year, which is tied for seventh in the country. The Cardinals have held five of their eight opponents to 20 points or less and guys like James Burgess and Keith Kelsey are a big reason why. Burgess is second on the team with 65 tackles after the first eight games of the season and ranks eighth in the ACC with 8.1 tackles per game. Kelsey leads the team in tackles with 68 and ranks 48th in the nation and is sixth in the ACC. DeAngelo Brown has also emerged as a big-time run stopper this season and has been a leader up front on the Cardinal defense. He has recorded a career-high 30 tackles this season. And I have loved the progress of Devonte Fields who had 8 tackles and 1 sack in the last game. He now has 35 tackles on the season and keeps coming up big for this group. Shaq Wiggins and Trumaine Washington at cornerback, while Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams have started at safety in each of the eight games this season. The four players have totaled 10 interceptions. Cuse will keep this unit on their toes but they are the glue holding this Louisville season together and that will continue Saturday.

The Louisville offense has been anything but consistent this season but there have been some bright spots. Superstar freshman Lamar Jackson has accounted for 14 touchdowns this season with six rushing and eight passing. James Quick leads the team with four receiving touchdowns in only six games played. While Jamari Staples is averaging 5.0 receptions and 76.8 yards receiving per game since entering the lineup after missing the first four Games. The Louisville rushing attack has struggled this season behind an offensive line that just hasn’t got it done. In picking up a pair of wins in the last two weeks, the Cardinals are averaging just 2.3 yards per carry in those wins. Watching him during the spring and seeing how much he had transformed his body I thought Brandon Radcliff would be a sure in for 1000 yards this season but that won’t happen. Now I’m just hoping to see him reach the 500 mark. Losing offensive linemen John Miller, Jamon Brown and Jake Smith have probably had the most negative effect on this year’s group. The guys up front have just been struggling. I have hopes that they can continue to get better but at this point in the season I think we have what we have. It’s an area that will need to be addressed in the off season. I do think this offense has enough fire power and weapons to win three of the last four games and contend against a good Bowl Opponent.

The Cardinals offense will face a Cuse defense that is ranked 86th in the nation, but they do have some very solid personnel on this side of the ball. Linebacker Zaire Franklin is the man in the middle for the Syracuse defense and leads with 52 tackles on the year. He has 7.0 tackles for a loss, which ranks third on the club, and has accumulated 3.0 sacks. Linebacker Parris Bennett is one of the many first-time starters on the Syracuse defense, but currently ranks second on the club with 44 tackles on the year. Senior Donnie Simmons has started all but one contest at defensive end for the Orange and he leads all Syracuse defensive linemen with 24 tackles on the year. In addition, he ranks sixth on the club with 4.0 tackles for a loss. In their secondary safety Antwan Cordy has certainly made his presence felt and ranks third on the squad in total tackles, with 43 stops. He had eight tackles against a very good LSU team. They have speed and talent all over the field with this group but I think the strength of this Cuse defense is up front. So the Louisville’s passing attack could once again pay off big this week.

This is one of two home games left on the schedule for a 2015 season that is down to the nitty gritty. Our Cardinals know they have to capitalize on these remaining home games and it is important to get these wins. Win these home games and we are going back to a bowl game. The Cardinals will also honor Elvis Dumervil’s No. 58 jersey during the game on Saturday. It will be fitting honoring a former defensive standout because like they have all year it will be the Cardinal’s defense that is the difference in this game. They’ll be too much for the Orange. Cards on their way to win number five on the season and will finally get over that .500 mark.

Louisville 27 Syracuse 17

King Kyle Kuric Needs Our Support

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Hearing the news yesterday about one of my favorite Cardinals was shocking and my heart goes out to him, his wife and his family. Kyle Kuric is a “Louisville Man” and gave it his very best every time he put on the uniform. He was a big reason for an impromptu Final Four in 2012 and had one moment that will cement him forever in the Cardinal history books.

Freedom Hall was the home of the Louisville Cardinals for 54 years. If the walls could talk they would tell stories about the six national title games and regional titles that where held there. They would also have some great stories about the 683 victories that our Cardinals had while calling the place home. In those 683 victories there are some very memorable moments but the one that happened on March 6th 2010 might just be one of the best of them all.

#1 Syracuse would be the final opponent to visit the hallowed Hall. The moment for a big game like this couldn’t have been more fitting. The stage was set and it was time for the show to begin. The Syracuse stars lived up to their ranking in the first half dominating the Cardinals inside the paint 26 to 12. At one point in the first half Cuse would stretch the lead to 8 but a shot by Edgar Sosa would cut the lead to 5 to end the half at 35-30.

With things looking much the same early in the second half with the score 42-39 the Cardinals found their inside game and an unlikely hero would emerge from the bench. Then reserve Kyle Kuric would put his stamp on the Louisville program with a second half performance that will live forever in Cardinal lore. Kuric was described as a one man wrecking crew by all publications as he made 9 of 11 shots from the field with four of those being 3 pointers.

The Cardinals would take the lead in the second half and never look back. With 4 minutes left king Kyle would put a bow on his performance with a dunk that would put the Cardinals up 10. The final score would be 78-68 beating #1 Syracuse and adding one last highlight to their 54 year old home.

This game had all the pageantry for a final home game in one of the most storied venues in all of college sports. “It’s an unbelievable moment,” Kuric said. “It’s what every kid dreams of.” Rick Pitino would say of the moment “this building will close, but what our legends have done for our university will never pass and close.”

When you hear that a guy who brought you so much excitement is ill it makes you wish you could do something to give back to him. Besides your thoughts and prayers there is something else Cardinal Nation can do. You can send Kyle Kuric a message of support to the below address.

Fans can send cards/letter for Kyle Kuric to this address:
Kyle Kuric
c/o Dr. Kuric
4001 Kresge Way, Suite 238
Louisville KY 40207

I know Kyle is getting the best medical help and I know that his courage and drive will get him through this challenging time. Be sure to send him your support letter. He will have his brain surgery on Thursday so keep those prayers going up as well.