The Beak Football Breakdown: The Tigers

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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 last season and getting our butts whipped in the Bowl Game. But on Saturday September 5th Cardinal fans will get to taste the sweetness of new beginnings. That Saturday afternoon starts a new era of Louisville football, and one that will surely be full of success.

This is the first game of all first games as our Cardinals travel down into SEC country to face the #6 Auburn Tigers. I don’t know about you folks but I love getting another chance at the SEC this fast. I’ve been looking forward to this one since walking out of a bitter cold Bank of America Stadium back in December. This game like that one will be a stiff test. Much of what these teams do or how these teams will perform on Saturday is up in the air as are most of the first games of the college football season, but I will give you an assessment based on my research and observations.

Coach Petrino Auburn pre-game:

(Video Courtesy TheCrunchZone.com)

The Head Coaches: Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn are two of the best offensive minds in college football. It is going to be great watching these two great minds at work in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. Both coaches design their offenses with an up tempo pace in mind. Petrino has a tendency to be more vertical than Malzahn but both of these guys love to attack and attack some more. Both have a knack for getting the most out of their quarterbacks and keeping defenses on their heels. I doubt we’ll see a very complex play book from these coaches on Saturday and both will make things as simple as they can for their teams in the opening game. I do expect fireworks from both sides and a bit of trickery wouldn’t surprise me either. This will be one of the best coaching battles of week one.

The Auburn offense lost a lot of talent including their starting QB and their top three rushers a whopping 85% of their rushing yards is gone. They do bring back a lot of talent on this side of the ball and it all starts with the dual threat quarterback Jeremy Johnson. Johnson’s snaps have been limited but he did have 436 yards with 3 touchdowns in 7 games last season with a 75.7 completion percentage. This kid is a freak athlete with size and ability who can run it; sling it down the field, and with great intermediate accuracy. He has 3 of Auburn’s top 5 receivers from last season to pass it to. D’haquille Williams 730 yards, 5 touchdowns last season, Ricardo Louis with 261 yards and 3 touchdowns last season and Melvin Ray with 182 yards and a touchdown last season. They are also expecting big things out of Jason Smith and he could be the X-factor in this group. I expect the passing game to be a huge part of this Auburn offense in the game on Saturday.

Running Back Roc Thomas who had 43 carries, for 214 yards with 2 touchdowns last season and Jovon Robinson juco back who was #1 in the country will power what has been a powerful ground attack for the Tigers that always produces under Gus Malzahn. Auburn is known for having 1200 yard rushers every season and this group won’t be any different. Most expect this Gus Malzahn offense to look like his 2009 season where they are throwing it around a lot more. This offense will look at what the defense gives them and not so much going to try and dictate. Most expect this Auburn offense to be more reactionary. Take away the pass and these guys will try to run it down your throat and stack the box they’ll try to throw it over your head. Much like our Cardinals they have a lot of important parts to replace at the skill positions including an offensive line that is still in doubt. They will replace a starting center and have two guys in Austin Golson and Alex Kozan along the line who didn’t see the field once in 2014.

Task with stopping this Auburn offensive attack is year two of Todd Grantham’s defense. Our Cardinals secondary was gutted but we have one of the best returning defensive fronts in college football this season. Five of the Cardinals front seven returns and I’m expecting a lot out of defensive end Sheldon Rankins who had 13.5 tackles for loss last season with 8 sacks, Keith Kelsey who had 87 tackles last season and James Burgess who had 10 tackles for loss last season. Joining Burgess and Kelsey at Line-backer is the former Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields. By all accounts he has looked really good during camp and should be ready to plug some of those holes on Saturday.

I think defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown will be a huge factor along with Pio Vatuvei. And I mentioned that the secondary had been gutted but don’t worry because like every good program there is a group of guys who will be as hungry as any player on that field Saturday in Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey Clemons. I haven’t been as excited to see two guys play their first game in a Louisville uniform as I am with these guys. Along with Jermaine Reve, Trumaine Washington, and Zikiesis Cannon they will be ready to challenge that Auburn receiving corps.

The key to stopping the Auburn attack will be to get quick stops for losses on first and second downs. Get off the field on third downs and don’t let the Auburn offense gain any momentum. I really like our defense against an offense that has a lot of new parts.

The Cardinal offense remains shrouded in mystery as far as the starting quarterback is concerned, but I have said all along that it will be Reggie. I really think his ability to run or pass will be a bigger asset in this game than any other on the schedule. I watched Reggie first hand in the spring and in camp and he has become a more accurate passer while appearing to be stronger and faster. I have also said all along that we could see either Will Gardner or Kyle Bolin in some form or fashion early in the season but if I had to guess it would be Will Gardner in this game. All of these guys have big game experience and could handle the environment that day in the Georgia Dome. There has also been a lot of buzz coming out of camp about Lamar Jackson. Don’t be surprised to see him lined up in some type of Wildcat formation with Reggie. I think this kid is a super athlete and I think Bobby has already figured out a way to use him in game one.

Running back Brandon Radcliff is the most physically transformed athlete on the Louisville roster. This young man is dedicated to perfection and he will be the lead back on Saturday. I also expect to see Jeremy Smith and LJ Scott in some capacity. Radcliff could be the ultimate key as we’ll have to get our running game going to open up things for the receiving corps. Speaking of that group that will be led on Saturday by James Quick who had 36 catches last season. I think the Louisville wide receivers might be the most underrated in the country. The world will get introduced to this group on Saturday and they will be pleasantly surprised at the length, speed and agility of this bunch. There has been a lot of buzz about transfers Ja’Quay Savage and Jamari Staples during camp and I think they give this group some much needed talent after the loss of Devante. I also expect Paul Harris, and tight Ends Charles Standberry, Keith Towbridge, and Cole Hikutini to have a huge impact in the offensive game-plan Saturday. I think Cole has a huge upside and will really flourish in the Bobby Petrino system.

When talking Louisville offense there is the elephant in the room and that is the offensive line. Coach Petrino says that there are 11 guys that have been rotating on the offensive front during camp. Let’s hope that those guys have had enough reps to develop the continuity they will need on Saturday. Tobijah Hugley and Aaron Epps will anchor the reconstructed line counting on guys like Pedro Sibea, Kelby Johnson, Skylar Lacy, Lukayus McNeil and Khalil Hunter to step up.

Gus Malzahn talks about preparing for Louisville:

Will Muschamp will get his shot at redemption after the Louisville offense dismantled his Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. And he has a very talented group to do his bidding. It’s questionable how effective his defense can be after losing most of his secondary and other great defensive players to transfer. And really how much of his stuff has he had time to get in with such a short period of time. This is an Auburn defense that gave up 30 points in eight of their last 9 games.

The main piece of Muschamp’s attack will be a guy returning from injury last season Carl Lawson. This young man is a monster who is disruptive, very agile and plays with an incredible motor and toughness. He will be a nightmare for the budding Louisville offensive front. Coach Petrino will game-plan to try and get this guy double teamed while Muschamp will feature him by trying to get him in one-on-one situations. Muschamp is the kind of defensive coach known for getting his best defensive players in opportunities to succeed. Like our Cardinals he also has a very talented front group anchored by guys like Cassanova McKinzy, Kris Frost, Jonathan Ford, DaVonte Lambert, Montravious Adams and Dontavius Russell. I expect the Tigers to be tough up front with solid recruits also. It’s what’s behind this group that has the Tigers a little concerned. Their secondary lacks experience and includes at least two true freshmen in Byron Cowart and Jeffery Holland. Our Cardinals will have their hands full and I expect this to be a very formidable defense on Saturday.

A lot of the talking heads and folks who know more than I do about college football think that on this day it will be the Auburn Tigers who’ll reign victorious. But you know that’s the thing about days… They tend to have a mind of their own. We’ve all been a part of days that had a mind of their own. Let’s just hope that September 5th is one of those days.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 Auburn 31

Rivalry Renewed: Cards and Hoosiers all set

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Last season an old rivalry was renewed when the Cards and Hoosiers did battle in the Jimmy V Classic. Louisville beat Indiana 94-74 on that Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden. That game marked the 17th meeting between the two schools in history with IU holding a 10-7 advantage. The teams have met four times on the basketball court since 1990 with IU holding a 3-2 edge in those games. The two border rivals have met twice on the gridiron, with Indiana winning both games played in Bloomington. The Hoosiers won the first encounter 41-28 on Sept. 14, 1985, and came back the following year to shut out the Cardinals 21-0 on Sept. 13, 1986.

The basketball game last season was not part of an ongoing series but was instead a one-game contract between the two schools. Coach Pitino has been working hard to get a home and home series with the Hoosiers and finally his efforts were rewarded.

Cardinal fans and Hoosier fans were hoping that game on December 9th would spark up the old feud enough to make this an annual meeting. All had been quiet on that front until today. Not only will Louisville and Indiana fans get to watch their teams battle head to head on the court but the Football field as well.

A neutral site game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 31, 2016, will open the men’s basketball series in an equally divided arena. The Cardinals and Hoosiers will later play at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville as a home game for the Cardinals on Dec. 9, 2017, and the teams will match up again in Assembly Hall in Bloomington on Dec. 8, 2018.

Indiana and Louisville will kick off the football series at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sept. 16, 2023, with seating split equally between the two schools. The second football game will be played in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville on Sept. 7, 2024, and the three-game series will be completed at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Sept. 6, 2025.

This is some very exciting news for both fan bases. This is a rivalry that needed to happen and commend the leadership at Louisville and Indiana for making it a reality. I’m looking forward to some great games between these two great schools. Go Cards!

The Road was Bompy but Cards Finished Strong in Puerto Rico

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Our Cardinals close out the Puerto Rico trip with another win. These games will benefit this team greatly and in just the last two games alone the improvement has been drastic. We really did get to watch this team grow up before our eyes over the past couple of days. What we could see of it anyway. Coach Pitino said before this trip that if they could win a couple of games that he would be very pleased with the effort. The Cardinals struggled in the first games but grew from those losses and were able to get two very nice wins to wrap things up. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to watch and evaluate these guys so early. This team is still a work in progress but I think they’ll do big things this season. We’ve got scorers, legitimate big men, great wing players, and good bench play.

Here’s just a little assessment I had of some of the guys this week:

Damon Lee is going to be a good one… He had 118 points on this trip… Not too shabby! He will have to learn that he doesn’t have to shoulder all of the load like he did at Drexel. He forced some stuff this week and that will change. He will be a 20 pt. scorer this season.

Mango and Nanu have and will continue to get better. They are passing the ball much better and seem to be more active around the rim. Would like to see them be more physical and draw more fouls. Both can be very effective in the lane and this team will need that from them both.

Matz and ANAS are still works in progress. Both need to get much more physical and comfortable when they get the ball. Both still have a tendency to rush and be reluctant. They’ll get it.

Trey Lewis like Lee is going to be a scorer, but will have to learn that he isn’t a one man show any more like he was at Cleveland State. He’ll have to adjust to team ball and making the extra pass. He’ll help us win some tough ones this season.

Jaylen Johnson I didn’t really see the improvement I was hoping for out of him. He made some good plays and has worked on his mid-range shot, but is another guy that has to be more physical. Still a lot of time. I’ve got big expectations here.

Quentin Snider He was a stone cold killer in the run the Cardinals made in March. I did see flashes of that version of him tonight but overall it was a quiet trip for him. Didn’t amaze like I thought he would. May still be adjusting to his role on this team. I think he’ll start and play a lot of minutes this season. He creates plays and is a heady ball player.

Out of the new guys Mitchell, Adel, and Spalding it was Spalding that impressed me the most. He will be one of the hometown greats before his career in Louisville is over. The kid oozes big time potential. Active hands and all over the court on defense. His wing span is longer than Montrezls. And he has a soft touch around the basket and can finish with power when needed. I’m excited about him. Adel is also ready to play right now. He’s already physical and strong enough to compete in the ACC. He is a match-up problem and can post his man up or take him out to the perimeter. Shows very good skill set. Mitchell is going to be very good but out of the three he still has the most to learn IMO. He still rushes when he has the ball and that leads to poor decisions and turnovers. His potential is off the charts and he’s going to be great just needs time.

Biggest surprise for me was preferred walk-on Jay Henderson. This kid has a lot of game. He looks really comfortable and confident with the ball in his hand and really does command on the court. Really impressed with his ability and think he’ll see the court this season. Pretty cool to have another walk-on named Henderson. I think this one could be just as effective…

Here’s Coach Pitino’s Post game courtesy Eric Crawford’s Periscope:
COACH PITINO POST GAME

Open Practice Ends and Real Work Begins

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On Tuesday night the 4th and final open practice took place. You can really tell that the fans have taken their excitement to the next level and the anticipation for football to begin has never been higher. The players looked to be relaxed and very business-like as they went through their stations and you can tell these guys are ready for the season to begin also.

The QB’s didn’t seem like the buzz of their battle affected them and were throwing some very crisp passes as they went through their reps. The receivers and running backs also seemed very focused in their drills over the past couple of days. There was an extra level of intensity in the O-Line and D-Line drills as they know football is a battle of inches that starts in the trenches. The Defensive backs were also flying around the field in their reps and this group is hungry and ready.

The next chapter of the UofL football program and the Bobby Petrino era has begun. Although expectations seem to be tempered the Cardinals were picked to finish 3rd in the Atlantic Division at ACC media days and were ranked #32 in the first USA Today Coaches Poll, receiving 27 votes.

Petrino, led the Cardinals to a 41-9 record from 2003-06. He inherited a team last year that went 9-4. There is a lot of talent remaining on this team and there are a core group of guys who know what it takes to be winners. Yes they do have some questions that need to be answered in regards to the offensive line and at the depth of some positions but this is a team that could have a great run this year.

With the final open practice in the books it will be time to close the gates off to the media and the public. It is now time for the real work to begin. We are a little over 3 weeks from the kickoff of the season and Coach Petrino and his staff will start fine tuning their offense and defense in preparation for the first opponent. I know I enjoyed the chance to see the team and I can’t wait for that first Card March and game. Below is some of the photos I took of open practice #2. Enjoy! Hope to see you all in CARDLANTA…

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Cards vs Spartans Gametime Announced

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Two legendary coaches in Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo along with two elite college basketball teams in Louisville and Michigan State we’ve seen some great battles between these coaches and teams in the NCAA Tourney in recent years. With the latest coming a few months ago in the Elite 8 when Michigan State evened up the tourney series to 2-2 when they beat our Cards in overtime to advance to the Final Four.

We have grown accustomed to the possibility of these teams facing off in the NCAA Tournament every year, but now these teams are headed for an early match-up in the 2015 season. Several months ago it was reported that we could see a Louisville vs Michigan State match-up in this coming season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Then not too much later it was made official and today the Gametime has been announced.

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The Louisville vs Michigan State head to head record stands at 5-4. These teams first met in 1959 in the Mideast Regional final with the Cards winning that game 88-81 with the most recent game back on March 29th in the Regional Finals where Michigan State prevailed in Overtime 76-70 against the Cards.

Now these teams are set to face off on December 2nd in East Lansing. Tipoff for this game will be at 7:15pm on ESPN. It will top off one of the best and toughest road game seasons in the history of Louisville basketball. That would mean Louisville has games at UK, at Michigan State, at Duke, at UVA, at UNC, at Pitt, at Notre Dame, at Miami, and at NC State. That is some great basketball indeed. Go Cards!

QB Conversation Takes Center Stage at Media Day

Today was Media Day for the Louisville football program. There was a common theme amongst those in attendance asking the questions. Everyone wants to know how the offensive linemen are progressing and it is an area that will be closely watched during fall camp.

Folks are also very interested in how the new guys will fit into the system and how quickly it will take the guys who sit out last year to make an impact. I also heard a lot of questions asked about the defense. It will again be pivotal in the success of this season and everyone wants to know what we will look like on this side of the ball.

The thing drawing the most attention at media day was the battle that is playing out for the starting QB spot. This has been a hot topic all summer and today we got the chance to ask some direct questions to Coach McGee and the guys involved in this position battle.

I think Reggie Bonnafon will be the starter when Cardinals take the field on September 5th at the Georgia Dome. He has the slight edge in my opinion due to his competitive nature and ability to make plays when needed in big game situations. He showed this several times last season.

Coach Petrino mentioned today that his arm strength has improved and that he feels like Reggie will be more comfortable running the offense. Last season he had a tendency rush through his reads and bail out too early with the run.

Reggie seemed very encouraged today while speaking with the media and also seems confident about his potential to have a great season.

I think we will see Will Gardner end fall camp in the #2 QB spot. He actually knows the offense better than all of the QB’s and has a very good delivery. Coaches raved today about his recovery and how quickly he has bounced back.

He is a very mature guy and I’m very impressed with the humility he shows. The one area where he lacks some ability is in lateral quickness. I think coach Petrino likes the idea of having a mobile quarterback and this is where Will falls off a little.

Kyle Bolin will end fall camp in the #3 QB spot. Yes he had that big game moment against UK in the final game last season and is a very competent QB. I think his lack of mobility and arm strength are what puts him in the third spot. Kyle is a great kid and also speaks with a lot of humility. He like the rest of these guys is very selfless.

All three of these guys are very capable QBs and I think all of them will get a chance to see some field time in the early part of the season. They all have big game experience and all have shown that they can make plays.

A guy not at Media Day but whose name was brought up a lot was Lamar Jackson. The coaching staff lights up when you mention this kids name and the players already have a lot of respect for the young QBs abilities. I went on with the Afternoon Underdogs this past week and told them that I expected Jackson to be a part of the offense this season. And after hearing Coach McGee talk about him at Media Day I’m even more certain of that now.

I do think they will bring him along slow and that we will see him in some 4th quarter clean up duties. This will give him a chance to get comfortable running the huddle and operating the offense. He will also have to learn to read a defense and to learn the right check downs. The coaches will evaluate him in these situations and if he starts moving the chains who knows.

I think by seasons end we could see him used similar to the way Urban Meyer used Tim Tebow with Chris Leak when he won that first title at Florida. But unlike Tebow the Jackson kid has a rocket for an arm. Can you imagine Coach Petrino coming out on a series with a formation that has two guys who can run and throw a pass? The possibilities are unlimited. I get really excited just thinking about it.

It was good to hear from McGee and his QBs this morning and this will be an exciting development to follow all through the fall camp and into the season. You can’t have too much talent and depth especially at the most important position on the football field. Louisville is in good shape.

The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip Features Past, Future & Present

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As I am typing this we are a little over 30 days from the start of another Cardinals football season. Just 4 more Saturdays without the pig skin folks. The kick-off this season is going to be one of the best ever. We get to open our season against one of the SEC Powers and pre-season top 10 Auburn Tigers. This game is already being billed as the must see college football game that day and will be carried nationwide on CBS.

This game will not only provide a great atmosphere for fans but will be a great chance to showcase our football program. When the national spotlight is shining that means a lot of eyes are watching. Recruiting in the south has been great for the Cardinals especially in the 2016 class and games like this will only improve our standing.

I think we all know that this game is going to be awesome, but before we get to that Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome Cardinal Fans will have the chance to go on what could be the best road trip in the history of Cardinal Football. They always say it’s all about the journey and the journey to the Chick-fil-A Kick-off game will be awesome.

STOP #1 TEDDY TRIBUTE NIGHT IN NASHVILLE
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On Thursday September 3rd the Minnesota Vikings will play the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. I don’t have to tell you why this game being on the road to Atlanta is so special, but I will.

I was talking with the guys of the Main Event Sports Show (Raashaan Myers and Haven Harrington) recently at the AAU event in Louisville. Teddy Bridgewater was the topic of this discussion and we came to the conclusion that he is probably the most significant player to ever wear a Cardinal uniform in any sport. What he meant to the University of Louisville is monumental and could be the reason for us being in the ACC and even being in a position to play in a game like September 5th.

Teddy epitomizes the University of Louisville. Both he and the University of Louisville football program had to battle long odds, tough times, and humble beginnings to get where they are today. Now both are poised to take their games to the next level. Nothing would be a more fitting tribute to Teddy than filling Nissan Stadium in Nashville on that Thursday night with Cardinal Red. He might not take a snap but I’ll be there chanting Teddy.. Teddy… Teddy…! He doesn’t have to play for me to say thank you. Here’s the info on how you can be a part of the first leg of The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip:

-It is a 2 hour and 43 minute drive from Louisville to Nashville
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Tickets to this game are very cheap because it is an exhibition: Tickets for this game start out at 9 Bucks.. Folks you can’t beat that
BUY TICKETS:

Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans STUBHUB

During the month of September Hotel rates are about as good as you can get because it’s the end of summer vacation season and they want to lure customers in. Some hotel have marked their prices down over 200.00 a night in Nashville for September 3rd.
BOOK YOUR ROOM:

There are some good rates at Expedia.com: Hotel avg $161, 3 star avg $171, 4 star avg $243

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STOP #2 WELCOME THE PUMA TO THE CARDINAL NATION:
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In a little over 30 days from now our Cardinals will get the chance to knock of the Auburn Tigers in the opening game of the college football season. A few weeks ago they got a huge win off the field when they beat both Auburn and Alabama for one of the best young quarterback prospects in the country Jawon Pass. Ranked the 186th overall best football player in the country by ESPN, 208th by Scout, and 179th by 247Sports this guy had every major football program in the country on his trail. But it all came down to what most believed was a race between Bama and Louisville.

This is the biggest QB prospect the Cardinals have landed since Teddy Bridgewater, and his impact on the football program like Teddy’s could be very significant. Of course he has a lot of work to do to be worthy of such a comparison but the ability and physical gifts are in place. This kid turned away Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide to wear the Cardinal Red. I think that in itself deserves us packing into the football stadium at Creekside High School on Friday September 4th to show this kid what the Cardinal Nation is all about and to welcome him to our family. Here’s the info on how you can be a part of the second leg of The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip:

-Since most will have hotels near the Georgia Dome I tracked the time it takes to get from there to Creekside High School. It’s about a 30 minute drive from downtown Atlanta, but be advised that traffic is very heavy. The game starts at 7:30pm so that should make it a little better. I intentionally map-quested in around 6pm and it says light traffic.
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Here is some more information about the Creekside High School vs. Carver High School game. This will be a great game and feature some very good high school athletes. They had 10 players sign to play college ball including the Berry Twins who signed at Tennessee. Creekside won the 5-A Georgia State Championship last season and they have a big-time football program with some pretty nice facilities. You might remember their football program being in the national news last fall after one of their players suffered a broken neck in a pre-season scrimmage and tragically passed away from that injury.

I reached out to their Athletic Director Troy Mekia and told him to prepare for a Red-Out at his football stadium on September 4th. Still waiting to hear back from him about admission prices, stadium capacity, parking, ect. I will update this info when I get it. My guess is tickets are same as all high school games and their football venue looks pretty big.

Here’s the link for a guy who has all of the ticket stuff worked out for ya and then some:
Go get your Caver vs Creekside Tickets plus more:

Here is a link to the Creekside High School Website:

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STOP #3 FOOTBALL SEASON KICK-OFF IN CARDLANTA:
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Before we even get to Saturday our football plates will be running over. This is the last leg of The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip and it stops in the Georgia Dome. We have all been talking about this one since it was announced. Like I mentioned in the opening of this article this game will pay off big time for the Louisville Football program win or lose. The exposure gained on this Saturday afternoon will be immeasurable. I couldn’t think of a better way to start off a football season than in the south where football is king.

The Auburn faithful have already swallowed up their allotment of 31,000 tickets and the latest info I’ve been able to track down is that Louisville had about 3000 tickets left of their 31,000 allotment. Don’t be left out Cardinal fans and don’t miss out on this once and a lifetime chance at a road trip like this. I can’t wait to take my family on this glorious Cardinal Journey. Experiences are the foundation of dreams and I want my son to never forget this one. Here’s some ticket, travel and hotel information so you can be a part of this last leg of The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip:

-It is about a 4 hour trip from Nashville to Atlanta so you’ll want to check out early on Friday morning so you can get to your hotel.
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Tickets to this game aren’t cheap but there are still some reasonable prices over at StubHub. Tickets for this game start out at around 90 Bucks.
BUY TICKETS:

Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic – Louisville Cardinals vs. Auburn Tigers Football Tickets

Last I heard there were about 3000 tickets left of Louisville’s allotment. Those Tickets are available by calling (502) 462-2737 or by visiting the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Ticket Office Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The hotel rates in Atlanta are pretty pricey as they are cashing in on over 70,000 crazy college football fans filling the city that weekend. But there are still some bargains to be had but don’t wait around too long.
BOOK YOUR ROOM:

There are still some good rates at Expedia.com: Hotel avg $187, 3 star avg $164, 4 star avg $276, 5 star avg $498

After reading this maybe I helped encourage some of you in Cardinal Nation in taking The Ultimate Cardinal Road Trip. Maybe this information will help and I really hope to see all of you on this journey with me. I really do think it’s going to be an amazing three nights, and I would love to see it end in a big opening win. I’m so ready…. GO CARDS!

The Beak’s Top 5 Moments of 2014-15

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The month of August has arrived and we are staring down the start of a new sports season for our beloved Cardinals. Fall football camp will start on August 6th and the basketball team has a big trip to Puerto Rico August 11th through 16th where they will play 9 games in 6 days. As we look towards another exciting year I will take a moment to look back and reflect on some special moments that will surely live forever in the memories of Cardinal fans. Here are The Beak’s Top 5 Moments of the 2014-15 Louisville Sports season:

#5 Cardinal Baseball has Arrived

Since its inception in 1909, the Louisville baseball program had been a 96-year see-saw session in which the Cardinals would contend for a few conference titles and fifth-place finishes with equal frequency. That all changed when Dan McDonnell took over as coach in 2007 and he has built Louisville into a consistent winner that now must be considered among the nation’s top powers. The month of June in Louisville has now become a yearly celebration of the Cardinal Nine. They rolled through their first season in a very competitive ACC winning 25 of their 30 regular season conference games, setting a conference record on the way to a 43-16 overall record and winning the ACC regular season Title. This past June the Cardinals hosted a College World Series regional for the third year in a row, the fifth time in program history. To add to that they were selected as a No. 3 seed in the tournament, marking only the second time the baseball team has been ranked in program history. I have really enjoyed watching this program elevate and being at Jim Patterson stadium during the regionals you could tell that Cardinal Fans have embraced the baseball program. We didn’t make it to the College World Series but just being able to make another great run was special and a top 5 moment for sure.

#4 Cards officially join the ACC

Last summer there was a lot of buzz in the air and the excitement was at an all-time high as the Cardinals were officially added to one of the premier conferences in the country. We had watched our sports teams be journeymen for years bouncing from one conference to the next and had to even endure a season in the makeshift AAC. Finally we would get the chance to be in a conference rooted as deep in their traditions as we were ours. The atmosphere was incredible at the ACC Celebration and 4th street live was filled with Cardinal Pride. It was great to be a part of that transformational moment and definitely a top 5 moment.

#3 The Cardinals Touchdown in the ACC

All that anticipation that had built up through the summer came to a head on September 2nd of last year when the Cardinals Football team took the field for the first time in ACC competition. The blacked out crowd, the pageantry, and the emotion that night was just incredible. Out of all of the sports programs at the University of Louisville I think that football will benefit the most from the move to the ACC and in their debut they did not disappoint taking down Miami. When the Cardinals scored that first ACC touchdown it made it official and after a long journey from very humble beginnings made that a top 5 moment for sure.

#2 MANGO for the Win

The 2014-15 Cardinals basketball team faced a lot of adversity on and off the court last season. They battled through that adversity, took their lumps and headed into the post season with a new found energy after beating the then #2 team in the country Virginia on senior day. I love big moments especially when it’s a big moment from guys who typically are in the background. That was the case on Senior Day. I don’t think anyone in the Yum Center expected Mango to do much that day and he had been criticized by the fans for most of the season for his lack of production. But as the seconds wound off the clock he would hit the biggest shot of the regular season. Mango pretty much epitomized what that team was about. He had his struggles with many ups and downs but continued to work and practice hard and that day it paid off. It was a great game and the Yum Center was as loud as I’ve heard it. A moment worthy of the top 5.

#1 A Golden moment a Golden Dome

There are several sports venues in the country that make it onto every avid fans bucket list. Ever since watching the movie Rudy I had wanted to make the trip to South Bend to watch a game. I finally got that opportunity last season. When I arrived on the campus of Notre Dame I took in all of the great sights and sounds. It was The Golden Dome, the Grotto, and Touchdown Jesus. The whole day leading up to the game was incredible and that whole place just oozes history. Then was the pre-game pageantry in Notre Dame Stadium. From the band taking the field to the raising of the American flag it was all pretty great. And seeing my Cardinals come out of that legendary tunnel and take that field sent cold chills down my spine. I was just so happy to be in that moment and to have had the experience up to that point and we hadn’t even played the game yet. There are program defining moments and going into Notre Dame Stadium for the first time on their senior day and getting a win is program defining. Cardinal Nation had a lot of great moments last year but this one had to be the best.

I hope you enjoyed taking this little trip down memory lane and I hope that it helped you relive some of those great times from last year. As we head into a new one I’m excited and very optimistic that there will be just as many of those moments ahead. Go Cards!

26 Courts and 26 Top Moments at 2015 AAU Nationals

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Another AAU Nationals event is in the books. Over 450 teams made their way to the basketball capital of the world for the five day event. The fairgrounds is a perfect setting for this event and I’d love to see more grassroots events held in the city of Louisville. The event featured 26 basketball courts and on each court there were kids from all over the country chasing their dreams. I enjoyed this event and below is my top 26 moments from the 2015 AAU Nationals.

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#26 My 26th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was just getting the chance to watch some basketball: This July has been a hot one in Kentucky. And for avid sports fans it is a hot and dry time for action involving sporting events. However, for the last two years the AAU Nationals in Louisville has provided a thirst quenching event for my sports craving.

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#25 My 25th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing all of the different Uniform Combinations the good and bad: I can tell you that Nike had some of the best this past week and they provide some great uniforms for their teams. I can tell you that a team from Canada had the worst of the week. They ironed on the numbers the night before and they were falling off of the players during a game. Come on Canada…

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#24 My 24th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was eating at the Pork Producers booth: The opening day of AAU Nationals was on July 22nd. This was my late father’s birthday. My father and I always went to the Farm Machinery shows every year and we would always eat one of those great pork chop sandwiches. On Wednesday I had the chance to eat a pork chop sandwich at the AAU event and thought about my dad the whole time. Thanks Pork Producers of Kentucky!

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#23 My 23rd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was being able to drive to the event in less than an hour. It’s great to be able to get to one of the biggest grassroots events of the summer without having to drive so far especially with the summer time gas prices. Please AAU come back next year!

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#22 My 22nd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was all of those basketball courts in one building: There’s just something great about going into a gym and hearing those sneakers squeaking on the court. But hearing all of those sneakers on all of those courts is really awesome. Music to my ears…

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#21 My 21st favorite moment at AAU Nationals is seeing all the different coaches and scouts: I watch all those college teams on TV all season and read and follow all of the news from all of the scouting services all season. Getting to meet and see some of these folks in person at a grassroots event is pretty neat. There is always knowledge to be gained by talking with some of the best in the business.

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#20 My 20th favorite moment at AAU Nationals is people watching: This event brings in folks from all over the country and all walks of life. It’s always great to meet and greet different people. This event offers that and more.

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#19 My 19th favorite moment at AAU Nationals is the Merch: I always love the chance to add to the T-shirt collection and this week I got to buy a cool AAU shirt and a pair of shorts. I also have a great new pair of sunglasses thanks to Eastbay…

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#18 My 18th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was the dunks: I got to see dunks off of the alleyoop, the give and go, and the pick and roll. A rim shaking, boom shaka laka spectacle. Kids nowadays have a lot of ups. Just go to MyVert.com and see some results from their booth this week. Unreal!

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#17 My 17th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing all the Beats and Sneak combinations: I’m a sucker for swag. It seems like every kid at a grassroots event has on a pair of Beats headphones and they also bust out some pretty sweet sneakers. I got to see a lot of cool combinations this week.

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#16 My 16th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to share a day with my son: He’s only 3 years old but he already loves the game of basketball. I look forward to the day when I can start him in a grassroots organization.

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#15 My 15th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was the chance to feed off the positive energy: There’s just something very reviving and refreshing to see young people having a great time. Having over 3000 basketball players inside one building you could cut the energy with a knife.

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#14 My 14th favorite moment was seeing some great shooters: Some folks in the industry think that the jump shot is a lost art. After watching hours and hours of grassroots basketball this past week I can tell you it isn’t. I had the chance to see some very fundamentally sound shooters.

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#13 My 13th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was watching ball in The Hall: I love the KFC Yum Center but there’s nothing like going back to that hallowed ground known as Freedom Hall. I cut my teeth on Louisville Basketball in that building and it was great getting a chance to see some basketball there again this past week. Freedom Hall always had that distinct smell about it also. Nothing like that aroma…

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#12 My 12th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was watching the coaches interact with their players: There are many different coaching styles and at this grassroots event they were all on display. Watching the pride and love some of the coaches this past week showed to their teams was inspirational. Grassroots coaches sometimes get a bad rap, but there are guys who do genuinely care for those kids. I watched the Travelers coaches cry on Sunday as they told a group of their player’s good-bye. Good stuff!

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#11 My 11th favorite moment at AAU Nationals finding that diamond in the ruff: Attending one of these events can be overwhelming. There are so many teams and so many players. It’s great when you pick a random court, sit down and see some unknown player lighting it up. That happened a few times this past week.

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#10 My 10th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to see some of our Louisville Basketball Players: It’s great seeing our Cardinals hanging out together and watching events in Louisville. And to respect where you are you have to respect where you’ve been. Several guys were at AAU National supporting the same teams they played for at the grassroots level.

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#9 My 9th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing and saying hi to a legendary coach: Coach Denny Crum made his way out to the AAU events this past week. It’s always great to see the Hall of Fame coach out and about. I guess he couldn’t pass up the chance to see a game of basketball on the old court either. Coach still looks good and I think he has a few games left in him.

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#8 My 8th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was another year of experience covering grassroots basketball: I have had two occasions this summer to cover AAU basketball in person. I don’t think I’ll ever be an expert like Dave Telep or Evan Daniels but every year these events are close enough to make the trip the more I learn. Knowledge is power…

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#7 My 7th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing teams playing we basketball instead of me basketball: Sure AAU Basketball is filled with a lot of razzle dazzle and helter skelter type basketball and I enjoy seeing some of that great one-on-one action. But I really enjoyed seeing a few teams who focused on good shot selection and team defense. Passing, screening and cutting are not completely missing from grassroots basketball and I witnessed that with my own eyes this past week.

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#6 My 6th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to use my camera: I have no trouble taking great photos when I cover football games but basketball poses more of a challenge. This week I got to practice that skill. There is still room for a lot of improvement.

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#5 My 5th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to watch a 2017 Louisville target: There was only one guy at AAU Nationals with a UofL offer and that was 2017 David Sloan. He could potentially be the best player in the state of Kentucky in his class. I only got to catch him in action briefly with his Louisville Magic squad but he seems like a very poised and confident player. It made me think in comparison to Quentin Snider.

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#4 My 4th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to see my favorite 2016 recruit finish his grassroots career in Freedom Hall: In my short time of covering high school recruiting I’ve had the pleasure to follow Carson Williams a guy who plays for my hometown Alma Mater. This is a young man who is a perfect example of why AAU works. It’s unfortunate but often times you got to play on the right team, play on the right court, and play in the right organization. Exposure is the key and for a young man like Carson who plays high school ball in a rural area the exposure he’s gained through AAU basketball has been critical. In this past week alone he got to play in front of several big names in college basketball. I have really enjoyed following the last two years of his grassroots career and am glad the AAU Nationals returned to Louisville so I could watch him finish it.

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#3 My 3rd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to see some of my favorite Cardinals from the past: There were several former Louisville players participating in or walking around watching the action this past week. I got to say hi and shake hands with a few of these guys I grew up watching. That’s always cool…

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#2 My 2nd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting credentials to cover the event: I’m not a professional member of the media and have been running my own website now for about three years. I put a lot of effort and hard work into this and it always makes me feel rewarded when I’m acknowledged for that. I’m very appreciative when I can get credentialed to cover an event. Thank you AAU for a great week…

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#1 My top moment at AAU Nationals was getting to watch thousands of kids chase their dreams and play a sport that they love for five days: There are always mixed opinions when it comes to grassroots basketball and it like everything else in life has its good and bad aspects. I can tell you that I got to see nothing but good this past week at AAU Nationals. Watching all these young men gaining life experience and learning lessons that only playing team sports can provide I found myself thinking about what all of them would be doing if not playing in this event. Getting some of these kids off the streets and involved in a positive environment is huge. And the opportunity for all of these young men to get college scholarships is immeasurable. AAU basketball is important and there are still coaches, parents and folks involved in the organization who have nothing but great intentions. There is nothing more important than having a meaningful impact on a young person’s life. Many lives were impacted over the last five days. Kudos AAU… Kudos!

AAU Nationals Photo Album

En PASSant

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College recruiting is a lot like a chess match between coaches. Each one makes their strategic moves throughout the process trying to one up the other. Today it looks like Coach Petrino and his staff made all the right moves and got the checkmate over two of the biggest programs in the SEC.

In a little over a month from now our Cardinals will get the chance to knock of the Auburn Tigers in the opening game of the college football season. Today they got a huge win off the field when they beat both Auburn and Alabama for one of the best young quarterback prospects in the country Jawon Pass. Ranked the 186th overall best football player in the country by ESPN, 208th by Scout, and 179th by 247Sports this guy had every major football program in the country on his trail. But it all came down to what most believed was a race between Bama and Louisville.

Anytime you can go into SEC country and grab a big time prospect it’s a bonus, but when you beat out the premier football program in the south that’s a huge statement for any program. This week at SEC media days Auburn’s head coach Guss Malzahn and Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt had nothing but great things to say about where the Louisville program is and where it is headed. I can tell you right now that with a guy like Jawon Pass on the roster along with the other great athletes this staff is landing the future is bright and we will be National Title contenders sooner than later.

This is just an incredible victory for Coach Petrino and his staff and for the University of Louisville. Another great day to be a Louisville Cardinal.

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