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Game of Two Halves


It really was a game of two halves tonight in the Yum Center. The Cardinals couldn’t find any answers on the offensive end of the floor during the first half and were out-rebounded by a much smaller Siena team. At times they just out-hustled the home team.

Give Coach Padgett an A tonight on his half time adjustments. Don’t know what he said to the guys, but they came back out for the second half playing with more intensity on both ends of the floor. The shots started falling and the Cardinals started taking the ball to the basket with some authority. They started using their size and athleticism to overpower the saints out-scoring them 47-24.

Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos is a character… he used a horse racing analogy to describe his team’s effort during the post-game. And he praised the Louisville team saying that their defense was a lot better than he thought coming in. Coach Patsos also said something about how every team builds towards the post season. Truth…

This Louisville team is a long way from reaching their true potential. They are going to lose games and have horrible halves of basketball like they did tonight. It’s the process. I believe in Coach Padgett and I believe in these players. I’m going to support them win or lose. It’s time to FAN UP.

Ray and Anas played in another gear tonight. Ray had a great stat line with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals. That’s hustle. Anas was one block from a triple-double. He had 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 blocks. Going to need this kind of effort out of these guys every night. Especially in ACC play.

At this point in the early season the player that has me the most excited is Jordan Nwora. This kid is going to be a beast. You really must see him in person to appreciate his size. With that size and agility, he is a real weapon. He provided a spark tonight with 11 points.

It was hard to watch at times, but it was nice to see the Cardinals get back in the win column. Hopefully they will carry some of that momentum from the second half tonight into the game on Saturday against Hoosiers.

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Coach Padgett Post Game:

Deng Adel Post Game:

Anas Mahmoud Post Game:

Dwayne Sutton Post Game:

The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs Cats “I want to kick their ass”


The Thanksgiving Day feast is over but the real treat for football fans in the state of Kentucky will happen on Saturday. The Governor’s Cup Battle was moved to November back in 2014 and has now established itself among some of college football’s best rivalries during this time of the year. This will be the 30th time the Cardinals and Cats meet on the gridiron with Kentucky holding the 15-14 advantage. The Cards have won the last 5 out of 6 and three straight at Kroger Field.

The series may be a little lopsided in recent history but the Rivalry between fans is just as fierce as it ever was. Interim AD Vince Tyra said earlier this week that he wanted to “Kick Their ass” when ask about the game on Saturday. I think that every Louisville fan would echo that sentiment. Especially the fans on social media who have had to endure an onslaught of insults towards our athletic department over the last few months. Kentucky fans have shown no mercy. I’m hoping for a big win in Lexington and I won’t show any mercy celebrating as those fans exit their stadium.

Winning a game in Lexington is getting harder to do these days. Coach Mark Stoops is recruiting decent talent now and has some guys with a winning attitude in that program. One of those guys is Senior QB Stephen Johnson. The Wildcats are 12-8 with him as a starter. This guy isn’t going to wow you with his ability, but he does know how to win and has five game winning drives during his career in Lexington. I watched that game against Tennessee and was really impressed by his will to win. He’s a gamer and has helped this Kentucky program take another step. His versatility will keep the Cardinals defense on their toes. He has 352 yards with 3 touchdowns on the ground and 1938 yards with 10 touchdowns thru the air. Johnson is a kid that won’t lay down on Senior Day.

Kentucky has a balanced attack overall with 2087 yards on the ground and 2063 yards thru the air. But the heart of their offense is the running game with Benny Snell. He is second in the SEC with 1107 yards on the ground this season and is seventh in the nation with 16 touchdowns. He is a beast averaging 5 yards a carry. Talk about a gamer… There is no quit in Benny Snell. Point of impact will be crucial for the Louisville defensive front on Saturday. You won’t stop Snell, but you can slow him down. The Cardinals will have to slow him down if they want to bring the Cup home.

I’m not as concerned with the Wildcats Receiving corps… There is some talent there, but they are very inconsistent. Senior WR Garrett Johnson is the heart of this group with 2050 yards receiving on the season. He is the biggest deep threat receiver with six catches of +40 in his career while averaging about 14 yards a play. He and Senior WR Blake Bone will be the biggest challenge for the Louisville secondary. Bone has 234 yards on the season with two touchdown grabs. He averages almost 20 yards a catch. If the Louisville secondary plays like they have been they shouldn’t have a problem with the Kentucky air attack.

The Louisville defense shouldn’t see anything that surprises them on Saturday. Over the last couple of weeks, the Louisville defense has come to life allowing just 130 rushing and 176 yards receiving over the last two games. I think the return of Jaire Alexander and a better understanding of what their coach wants them to do is the reason for this end of the season surge. Point of impact will be a big key in stopping the Kentucky offense. D-lineman Trevon Young, James Hearns, and Johnathan Greenard will be the guys for that task. This trio has combined for 35 tackles for loss and 15 sacks this season.

The Cardinals have some freshman standouts who have helped turn things around on the defense. LB Dorian Etheridge leads the team with 69 tackles, and Russ Yeast son of Kentucky legend Craig Yeast has 20 tackles this season. I think he’ll have some extra incentive on Saturday. This Louisville defense has been getting off the field on third downs. It will be important to do that early in this game to negate the home field momentum. I like where this defense is and a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have said that. I also think they are much better than they were a year ago.

Talk about better than they were a year ago the Louisville offense is firing on all cylinders. Lamar Jackson has evolved, and I don’t think the Kentucky defense will see many ill-advised decisions with the ball or any last-minute fumbles from Jackson on Saturday. Last season at this point the Louisville offense had become so one dimensional that it didn’t take much to figure it out. That led to Jackson trying to do too much and an upset. The Kentucky defense will face a better Lamar Jackson and a multi-level attack that features some very good players.

The Cardinals have been an offensive unit by committee this season with 12 different players scoring at least one touchdown. Including seven different players with a receiving touchdown. It’s hard to beat Bobby Petrino but becomes really hard when he can run the ball. He will come to Lexington with a healthy group. Malik Williams and Dae Williams have been game changers. Dae has been brought in to get those tough yards and Malik had a career high 180 yards his last time out. I think both guys will be key Saturday along with the Louisville wide receivers.

The Louisville defense is playing their best ball of the season while the Kentucky defensive unit seems to be heading in the other direction. They are ranked 76th in 3rd down conversion defense and have had trouble getting off the field especially in late game situations. This is where I think having guys like Dae Williams and Malik Williams will be effective for our Cardinals. The strength of the Kentucky defense is in their defensive backfield with Safety Mike Edwards who leads them with 84 tackles this season and their DE/LB duo of Josh Allen and Denzil Ware. Allen and Ware have combined for 223 tackles, 36 tackles for loss and 24 sacks. Balancing the run and pass attack will be important in this game. The Cardinals offensive line will have to neutralize these guys for that to happen.

These rivalry games are always hard to predict but I do like the Cardinals chances heading into this one. The Cardinals are playing their best football of the season while this Kentucky team seems to have peaked early. Kentucky will see a better offense this season and in the end I don’t think they have an answer for that. But they do have enough offense to keep up if the Louisville defense doesn’t show up. It will take a total team effort, but I think the Cardinals pull out the win. My Turkey Holiday has been great but will be a lot better if Louisville can get the Cup back. I want to kick their ass… Enjoy the game folks! Go Cards!

Louisville Football feels fun again


This picture from the Courier-Journal over the weekend sums up what kind of weekend it was for the Louisville football program. A now healthy Malik Williams celebrating one of his two touchdowns with leaping Louie… He led the team in rushing with 180 yards. I can only imagine what could have been if he and Dae Williams had been healthy all season. This is a different offense with a solid ground attack. But better to have it now as not have it at all. This team is rolling…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and it would probably take a thousand words to explain what having a player like Lamar Jackson has meant for the Louisville Program. He might be the most talented and gifted college football player of our time. And is a great young man to go along with all of that. Louisville fans have sure been spoiled. We went from having a player like Teddy who will forever be known and admired for how he won big games to Lamar who will always be known for and admired for how well he plays the game. And both are great people. He might not win the Heisman but we all know who the best player is.

It hasn’t been the season that we all expected but we are finally seeing the Louisville Football team that most of us expected this season. Over the last two games the offense has looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense is making the plays they were missing just a few weeks ago. Coach Sirmon was running the side-line yesterday like his pants were on fire and his defense is finally responding. It was tough to watch these guys lose those games while giving up all those points. But it sure has been fun watching them turn things around.

And talk about turning things around Coach Summers has transformed the Louisville offensive line. There was a picture floating around Social Media over the weekend titled “4 up and 4 down”. It showed the Louisville O-Line standing over 4 Syracuse defense Line-men as they lay helpless on the ground watching Lamar Jackson trot for one of his touchdowns. Last year year at this time that photo would have looked a lot different. This group went from giving up around 39 sacks this time last season to around 27 this season. That’s a big improvement. When interviewed at Media Day Coach Summers talked about his guys winning the battle zone. It’s obvious this unit is winning more of those battles now.

Everybody is healthy, and everything is clicking at the right time. The Cardinals will now head to Lexington seeking their 4th Straight Win on that field. I was on the field at the Georgia Dome when Lamar made his College debut and will be at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday when he plays his last regular season college football game. There are plenty of seats available on StubHub for all of you to join me.

Here is the link: Louisville vs Kentucky for The Governor’s Cup

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate the Red in the city of Blue. The Cup is coming home…

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Virginia Will there be any Defense?


The last time we were all gathered together at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium we left a little stunned as the Cardinals were 45-42 losers to Boston College on Homecoming. After a bye week the Cardinals return to their home turf in another important ACC match-up against Virginia. Important because the Cardinals could become bowl eligible and important to re-gain any type of momentum heading into the final two games of the season. Louisville and Virginia meet for the sixth time in school history on Saturday, with the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage. The series began in 1988 when the Cardinals defeated the Cavaliers 30-20 in Louisville.

Both teams have had their struggles on the defensive side of the football this season. Virginia is an all-around solid football team, but looked bad against Boston College and Pitt. The Cavaliers put up just 24 combined points in those two, and gave up 72 points in total on defense. Virginia’s wins haven’t been very impressive. They haven’t won by more than a TD in their last five games. As for our Cardinals, they’re getting blown out on defense and the offense just hasn’t been able to keep up—talented as it is. The Cards have given up at least 28 points in each of their last four games on the defensive side of the football. The question on Saturday afternoon is will either of these teams be able to stop the other. The last team with the football might be the winner in this one.

As I mentioned above even in their wins Virginia hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. They are ranked #92 in the nation in total offense with 374.1 yards a game and ranked #78 in scoring offense with 26.3 points a game. Leading the charge for this Virginia offense is QB Kurt Benkert. On the season, Benkert has 2278 yards, 20 touchdowns and six picks. He is a big pro-style QB who has NFL size, athleticism, and arm. I’ve watched a few of their games this season and he sometimes tends to telegraph his passes from the shotgun especially when pressured.

Jordan Ellis leads the Cavaliers rush attack with 708 yards and five touchdowns on 170 carries. I look for Virginia to try and grind out their possessions, so they can keep the Louisville offense off the field. There isn’t a better grind it out back in the ACC than Ellis. He has been a workhorse in short yardage on 3rd and 4th down for the Cavaliers. He has rushed seven times for four first downs on an average of 1.7 yards per carry and on third down, has 18 first downs, four touchdowns on 36 rushes. Ellis helped eat clock and secure a victory against Duke five weeks ago.

Tops in receiving for Virginia is Olamide Zaccheaus, with 66 catches for 683 yards and four touchdowns. His 66 receptions are tied for 5th in Virginia’s record book for single-season catches. This guy is a pretty big offensive weapon for his team. In Virginia’s five wins in 2017, Zaccheaus has caught 31 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing 13 times for 130 yards and one more score. Senior WR Andre Levrone has six touchdown catches for 262 yards, or 43.7 yards per scoring reception. Overall, Levrone is No. 1 in the ACC and No. 6 in the nation with 22.57 yards per reception. These guys should keep a struggling Louisville secondary busy all-day Saturday.

Trying to stop this group is a Louisville defense that is ranked 83rd in the country. As a group they have been dreadful this season giving up 410 yards a game. Individually there have been some guys standing out. Jonathan Greenard is becoming a force off the bench for the Cardinals’ defense. Greenard has caused havoc in the opposition’s backfield and has been credited with 11.5 tackles for loss which is seventh in the ACC and 31st nationally. The Cardinals have a trio of dominating edge rushers with Greenard, Trevon Young and James Hearns. The three standouts have combined for 27.0 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this season to pace this defense.

The Cardinals have three rookies who have stepped up and playing in a starting role in linebacker Dorian Etheridge, cornerback Russ Yeast and safety TreSean Smith. Etheridge is second on the team with 54 tackles. The coaching of this group has also come into question this season. Coach Sirmon was supposed to simplify things to make them more effective but instead they have seemed lost at times. Hopefully the bye week with solve some of the problems and the news that All-American Jaire Alexander might return could help also. I’m still holding on to hope.

For the Louisville offense things have been right on track. The Cardinals are #3 in the country in total offense with 549 yards a game this season. Lamar Jackson in my opinion is once again the best player in the country by big margin. So far, this year, Jackson has put up 2808 pass yards with 18 TDs and six picks, and is tops in Louisville rushing as well with 1029 yards and 14 TDs off 163 carries. It’s unreal what this kid has been able to accomplish is two season of college football. I just hate that he is not getting the recognition he deserves this season due to the team’s overall less than stellar performance.

There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball and it has been an offensive unit by committee this season, with 12 different players scoring at least one touchdown, including seven different players with a receiving touchdown. Jaylen Smith is the lead Cardinals receiver with 619 yards and two scores off 39 catches. Due to injury and misfortune the Cardinals haven’t been able to establish much in the rushing game. That has hurt.

The Virginia defense will be the next group to try and slow Jackson and company. Their group is ranked #30 in the country in total defense. Middle linebacker Micah Kizer is the team’s top tackler with 97 stops and five sacks, while safety Quin Blanding is next with 86 tackles on a Cavaliers defense that allows just 344.3 yards per game. Kizer and Blanding rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC in tackles. This is nothing new for the duo as they finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC in tackles in 2015 and 2016. Kiser ranks No. 6 in the nation in tackles in 2017, while Blanding ranks No. 15 in the nation. The more offensive plays away from these guys the better.

I don’t think this game is a must win for our Cardinals, but it would be nice to get that bowl eligibility before Syracuse comes to town for the final home game of the season and before the Cardinals must make that trip to Lexington in a couple of weeks. I still contest that this season now comes down to making it to a bowl game and beating UK, but I don’t want that to come down to one game. This has been a frustrating season all around. But there is still a lot here to cheer for. Our offense is legit. Just hope the extra week of practice without a game helps right the ship some on the defensive side of the ball. We’ll see… Enjoy the game folks! Go Cards!

Louisville finishes final tune-up against Bellarmine



Tonight, the Cardinals had their final warm up before it really starts to count on Sunday afternoon. They beat Bellarmine 72 to 57 but, I don’t think the Cardinals were as sharp as they wanted to be tonight and think that they recognized after this one that they still have some work to do. Hats off to Bellarmine for taking it right to the Cardinals. This game will help this team down the road. Playing a team like Bellarmine that took the punch and kept bringing it was much better than playing a team that laid down. This team learned tonight and that’s what exhibitions are all about.

I was really impressed with Jordan Nwora who had 8 points and 8 rebounds. This kid is going to develop into a very good player and I’m looking forward to his 4 years here. You aren’t going to see many guys his size be able to do what he can do. He has the finesse game and can stop and pop from anywhere on the floor and can bang for the rebounds. His tools are impressive.
And Deng Adel is going to have himself a season as well. Talk about having all the tools. He finished tonight with 21 points. When he decides he’s going to take the ball to the rack then he’ll get it there. His baseline dunk tonight was next level.

This team will have to clean up some things on the defensive side of the floor as it does every season around this time of the year and really needs to learn how to protect their possessions better. They had 20 turnovers tonight. I think this will get better as this team learns how to play together. Right now, there is too much rushing and trying to do too much. But after the final exhibition I’m still very optimistic about the season ahead. There will be some growing pains along the way but there is so much talent and athleticism that they can’t fail. We’ll get a better idea after Sunday because the George Mason team will be another tough early test.

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Louisville Red & White Scrimmage #1



There was a time in my life that things weren’t going great and during that time I wanted to get back to my roots. I wanted to be around some of those folks that were the foundation of my life. Friday night at the Yum Center the Louisville program started a new journey and there was a lot of old school walking around that building. This program is going back to its roots and it felt good to see some of the old players and coaches there in support of David Padgett and this team. This program is going thru some difficult times but the foundation is just as strong as it ever was. And its because of that foundation that I’m confident that everything is going to be fine and this is going to be a fun season.

You couldn’t tell that there had been any turmoil over the last couple of weeks in the post-game locker room tonight. Those young men were enthusiastic, happy and seemed very confident in their mission this season. All of them seemed very excited to be back in front of the fans and playing the game that they love.

Some observations from the Red & White Scrimmage:
Friday Night was the first time that I had seen the freshman class live since the Derby Festival Basketball game. I was really impressed with Jordan Nwora that night and felt the same tonight. He was the fourth leading scorer with 18 points and 4 of 6 from the three. He is a kid that can drive and bang in the lane and can pull up from deep. He has all the weapons supported by a massive frame. Will be fun watching him for 4 years.

Out of this freshman group I thought that Lance Thomas had the most work to do. He was the second highest in scoring in this group with 8 points. This kid has put in the time in the weight room and has added some bulk. He is another player that can score from all over the court. He is going to be a good one.
Darius Perry and Malik Williams had quiet nights offensively but Perry led in assist with 9 and Williams was the leading re-bounder with 17. And both are going to be incredible scorers. This freshman group if they stay together will end up being our bridge over troubled water. We can ride out a few rough years with guys like these.
I had felt it all along but after watching VJ King score 30 points tonight I know that this will be his breakout year. And he is a guy that is probably playing his last season of college basketball. I think his nerves got the best of him with the 9 turnovers but once he settles in he will be a game changer. His game has some Earl Clark in it…

I have always been a Ryan McMahon fan. He has a beautiful three point shot and is a better basketball player than some give him credit. He got off to a solid start tonight going 2-2 from the three and scoring 6 points before he got hurt and had to exit the game. He had a behind the back assist in a break away play with Adel that brought the house down. His court vision is next level.
Deng Adel was the leading scorer for the game with 32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. And what can’t he do? He is a future NBA player and has got all the skills. This team will win a lot of basketball games just because he is on it.

Another guy that was doing it all on Friday night was Ray Spalding. He was the third leading scored with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist and 6 steals… He is by far the most improved player on the team and showed that in this scrimmage. Ray being one of the hometown kids makes it even better.
Speaking of hometown kids Quentin Snider is headed into his last season as a Cardinal. He had 12 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. He is one of the most consistent players that I’ve ever watched in my lifetime. He quietly leads this group on the court and his calm demeanor never changes. Not even in the big moments. Those big tourney games and that performance against UK last season. I’ve enjoyed them all. I feel a lot better knowing a guy like Quentin Snider is around. No matter what happens you know he’s going to show up to play basketball.

Another guy that I’m glad to have in the locker-room is Anas Mahmoud. He’s going to get dunked on, and he’s not going to be the best player on the court but that guy brings a lot of heart to the table. His positive attitude is contagious. The more positive we can have right now the better.
Freshman Walk on Jo Griffen added his name to the long list to dunk on Anas. Griffen is going to be another great walk-on to add to the Cardinals great legacy. This kid can play and has that sneaky athleticism. He will dunk on you. Just ask Anas.

Folks better not sleep on this group of Cardinals. They are long, athletic, and they can shoot the ball very well. This might be one of the better offensive teams that the program has ever had. I think they will have to overcome some obstacles but so far, they seem like they haven’t missed a beat. I contribute that to the leadership provided by David Padgett. He was a floor general back in 2008 when he played for the Cardinals and now he’s running this team with that same passion, dedication and pride. After watching the first Red & White Scrimmage I feel much better about things.

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The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville Football at a Crossroads in Tallahassee


After a loss to NC State and stunning loss to Boston College on Homecoming weekend this Louisville football team is at a crossroads. Heading into the season most expected a playoff run but now we might be lucky to make a Bowl Game. Poor execution on the defensive side of the ball and lack of a consistent rushing attack on the offensive side of the ball has their season upside down and this team will have to fix things fast if they want to play in December.

I put in the leg work and followed this team through Fall and Spring workouts. I was excited about the offense and the defense. There was no way that I thought we’d be facing another three-game losing streak at this point in the season. I wouldn’t be fair in my critique of this team if I didn’t mention all the injuries to key players early on. The defense lost All-American Jaire Alexander after the first game and the offense has lost three key running backs in Jeremy Smith, Malik Williams and Colin Wilson. There aren’t many football programs that wouldn’t be affected by losses like that. Through seven games this season 12 true freshman, nine redshirt freshmen and one transfer have played for the Cardinals.

As a team, the defense has been awful allowing 81 points over two games… Ranked #78 in passing yards allowed, #63 in Rushing defense, #72 in 3rd down conversion defense and #63 in total defense they just aren’t getting it done. I was excited to see a guy like Coach Sirmon come in and make things simpler. But I meant simpler for our guys to understand not simpler for the opposing offense to score on. The Sirmon defense hasn’t lived up to my expectations. Our guys have been more active but aren’t being put in the right spot to anticipate the play. And when they are in the right spot they aren’t executing the fundamentals. I don’t know if they track missed tackles, but they’ve had a lot of them.

There has also been a lack of intensity from the defensive unit. Haven’t seen enough high fiving, chest bumping and jumping around from this group or their coaches. To get more intensity Coach Sirmon was moved from the box to the field during the last game. The team gave up 364 yards rushing. And there was little to no emotion while it was happening. We have had some great individual play on the defense. Jonathan Greenard is becoming a force off the bench. He has 11.5 tackles for loss ranking 10th nationally. True Freshman Dorian Etheridge is second on the team with 43 tackles and safety TreSean Smith has 17 tackles and four tackles for loss this season as a rookie. Trevon Young has made a triumphant comeback from injury and has registered 34 tackles, which is fourth on the team, and he is second on the team with 6 tackles for loss. Our defense has guys making big plays, but this team needs more of them and needs to learn how to execute a game plan together as a unit. There is enough talent here to win a big game, but will this group turn it around.

The Louisville offense hasn’t been awful but not having a consistent rushing attack and lack of being able to establish those long time of possessions hasn’t done much to help the struggling defense. This Louisville offense is one of the best in the country. They are currently ranked #4 in the country in total offense and #7 in passing offense. But come in just #28 in rushing offense. And the only reason they are in the top 30 is because of Lamar Jackson. He has 690 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Having a 100-yard rusher a game like Jackson this team is hard to beat but add another 100-yard guy to this offense and they become really hard to beat.

Coach Petrino has prided himself on running the football over the course of his career, and when the Cardinals can run the ball for over 200 yards, they are 45-6 with him as coach. Like I mentioned above the Louisville running back corps has been wiped out due to injury, but for this team to be successful going forward Coach P is going to have to find a way to get another running back not named Jackson in the box score. I love Reggie and think he can help here but he just isn’t that bruiser who can pound it out for those tough yards in the 4th quarter. That’s when this team needs long sustained drives and possessions to take the pressure off a tired defense. Hopefully Dae Williams can get it going and help down the stretch if not I don’t know where the answer is.

I don’t know if they need to win the game on Saturday afternoon, but this team needs to play well and give themselves a chance to win. Going in and getting blown out wouldn’t be good and I don’t know if this team would recover from an outing like that. Florida State is 2-3 on the season, falling to Alabama, NC State and Miami with wins over Wake Forest and Duke. They have also had their fair share of bad luck this season, and their team is also at a crossroads of their own. There is still a lot of talent in Tallahassee and one of the most talented guys on their team is QB James Blackman. After losing their starting quarterback in the season opener Blackman has 799 yards, five touchdowns for the Seminoles and seems to get better every time out. He is a very effective passer with some talented WR’s to work with. Tops in receiving for the Seminoles is Auden Tate, who has 19 receptions, 312 yards and five touchdowns.

And when it comes to a rushing attack you won’t find much better than freshman Cam Akers and junior Jacques Patrick. They have led FSU’s rushing offense to increase its rushing output in every game this season. Akers leads in total rushing yards (379-364), but Patrick has the edge in yards per rush (5.9-5.3). The Noles have set a season high rushing output in each of their first five games, while facing some of the top run defenses in the country and now they get a crack at Coach Sirmon.

The Noles will be just a tough on the defensive side of the ball. Louisville a team that needs to establish a run game will face Florida State’s stingy rush defense allowing just 114.6 yards per game, a mark that ranks 21st nationally. Only one opponent has crossed 150 yards rushing against the Seminoles this season, as Alabama posted 173 in their season opener. Their defense had 12 pass break-ups against a top ranked Miami unit. The most for the Seminoles since 2008 and tied for the highest single-game total in the NCAA this season. Adding one interception, FSU’s 13 passes defended against the Hurricanes are the most in a game by an ACC team in 2017 and tied for the third-highest total in the NCAA this season.

They have future NFL players all over the field on defense. Junior Josh Sweat has emerged as FSU’s most consistent edge rusher this season, leading the Seminoles in sacks (2.5) and tackles-for-loss (5.5). DB Derwin James has been everywhere this season. The preseason All-American leads FSU with 29 tackles this year. James is second on the Seminoles with four pass break-ups, and has 1.5 tackles for loss to go along with 0.5 sacks. James had five tackles and two PBUs in a strong performance at Miami two weeks ago, then followed by tying for the team lead with six tackles at Duke. After the last meeting between these teams you can bet that this FSU defensive group has been waiting for another crack at Jackson and company.

I said that our Cardinals are at a crossroads but really both teams need to win this big mid-season match-up to carry some momentum into the rest of the year. I had high expectations for this season but now will just be happy to make it to a good Bowl Game and beat UK. Both of those things may come into doubt if the Cardinals lay an egg in Tallahassee on Saturday. I’ve lowered the expectations but haven’t lost all hope. I think this group has a turnaround weekend and will finish the season strong. Enjoy the game folks. GO CARDS!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. NC State


Once thought to be a cheap knockoff of Saturday College football the Thursday night college game has become a staple of the season. These Thursday night throw downs started off with much skepticism. Some college football fans and media folks thought that the Thursday night game degraded the product. As the popularity of the mid-week game has increased that negative talk has decreased and even the NFL is now cashing in on the market. The University of Louisville has been a part of ESPN Prime-time College Football Thursday nights since the late 90’s. They were playing on Thursdays before they were cool, and now prepare for another big midweek battle at NC State.

Thursday nights have also become a proving ground of sorts. Seems like there have been a few times where a win and loss here can determine how the rest of the season goes. Louisville holds a 6-1 record over the Wolfpack and are 2-0 in Raleigh. They’ll have to keep that winning streak alive if this season is to be considered a success. With a 2-1 record in the ACC the Cardinals can ill afford to drop another game with a challenging schedule ahead. This Louisville team also needs to go out and win this game for confidence. It’s been a while since this group has had a big win in a big prime time match-up.

The Cardinals defense allowed just 230 combined yards in the last two wins. That is the lowest total in back to back games in 57 years. But they will face one of the most efficient offenses in the country on Thursday night. The Wolfpack leads the ACC and ranks 7th in the FBS in completion percentage this week. NC State QB Ryan Finley is one of the nation’s most accurate passers, completing 71.9 percent of his throws, and hasn’t tossed an interception in 257 throws dating back to last season. He has passed for 1,403 yards and nine touchdowns in the first five games of the season. This guy knows how to pick apart a defense with his accuracy. Let’s just hope that the Cardinals defense can get a rush on him.

Finley’s favorite target is WR Jaylen Samuels who has 43 catches for 321 yards and three scores this season. He ranks 4th in the FBS this week in receptions per game with 8.6 and has caught a pass in 33 consecutive games. It doesn’t end there with this talented Wolfpack receiving corps. WR Kelvin Harmon (301 yards, 1TD) ranks 49th in the FBS in receptions per game (5.4), WR Stephen Louis (253 yards, 2TD) posts the 17th-best career yards-per-catch mark in school history: 15.7, and WR Jakobi Meyers (241 yards, 2TD) had 112 yards on five catches in their big win over FSU.

They have all the weapons to beat you through the air and then have guys like RB Nyhein Hines. There isn’t anything this guy can’t do. He currently ranks second in the ACC and ranks 10th nationally with 155 all-purpose yards per game. Hines has rushed for 423 yards (5.0 yards per carry), has 12 receptions for another 69 yards, has 40 yards on three punt returns (13.3) and 255 yards on 11 kickoff returns (23.2). Blocking up front for this talented group of skill position players is one of the best offensive lines in the country. They call themselves the Band of Brothers. The leader of this band is 322-pound RT Will Richardson. They will run a lot of plays behind this guy Thursday night. He has not allowed a sack OR a quarterback pressure in 215 snaps. He has also tallied 11 knockdown/pancake blocks over the past three games.

Stopping this group will be one of the biggest challenges remaining this season for the Louisville defense. After getting outplayed by Clemson the Louisville defense has responded well over the last two weeks in wins over Kent State and Murray State. Louisville limited the Golden Flashes to 150 yards of offense and 80 in the win over Murray State. Those performances moved the Cardinals’ defense to 20th nationally against the run yielding 104.5 yards per game and 27th in the country allowing 317.6 yards of offense. Coach Sirmon was also able to work some young guys into the mix. Guys like Amonte Caban, C.J. Avery, TreSean Smith, Tabarius Peterson and Russ Yeast showed that they will be able to help with depth this season.

The difference makers this week could be Louisville’s pass rush specialist LB Jonathan Greenard and LB Trevon Young. Young just keeps getting better and better each week. Through five games he is tied for the team lead with three QB hurries, has registered 24 tackles and is second on the team in tackles for loss (5.0) and sacks (1.5). Greenard leads the team with 5.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss coming off the bench this year. The defense will have to get to QB Ryan Finley and not let him just sit in the pocket. I think Greenard and Young could be the key.

The story again this season for the Cardinals offense is Lamar Jackson. Through five games he has 1636 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions while also leading the Cardinals on the ground with 72 carries for 437 yards and five TDs. This team goes as Lamar goes. The running game has been coming around and Malik Williams has added another dimension to the offense. He has 389 yards on the season and can catch passes out of the backfield with 127 yards this season. He had his first multi-touchdown rushing game of his career, scoring twice against Kent State on nine carries and logged career highs of four catches and 43 receiving yards. I think he needs to be effective this week for the Cardinals to win this game.

It’s looking as though the Cardinals will be without their leading receiver Jaylen Smith this week. But this is the deepest unit on this team. The Cardinals had 14 different players catch a pass in last Saturdays game and guys like Dez Fitzpatrick have answered the call. Through five games, Fitzpatrick leads all freshmen nationally with six touchdown receptions and ranks sixth among all players, while also leading the ACC. He is one of those guys that gravitates to the spotlight. I think he will be big in the game on Thursday.

The Louisville offense will face another one of the top defensive lines in the country. The Wolfpack leads the FBS in returning defensive senior starters in 2017 and most of those guys are on the defensive line. They are led by defensive end Bradley Chubb (29 tackles), who ranks second nationally in tackles for loss and ninth in sacks. and Senior linebacker Jerod Fernandez and leads the team with 44 stops for the season and was the single-game tackle leader versus South Carolina (9), Florida State (9) and Syracuse (a career-best 14). These guys help power an NC State defense that is eighth against the run allowing 85.6 yards per game.

This Wolfpack defensive unit has solid depth in almost every area. One point of some concern for them is the defensive secondary. So far, this season, five players have started for the first time at a position in the secondary in the first five games. I’m hoping that with more time to get comfortable with his receivers that Lamar Jackson and company can expose them here. But first the Cardinals are going to have to deal with that strong defensive front. The Cardinals were not able to handle a similar defensive group from Clemson and this will be a similar test.

After all that has transpired over the last two weeks it will be hard for me not to think about Tom Jurich while watching yet another big Thursday night game. The national rise of the Louisville football program can be directly linked to his willingness to be a part of ESPN’s weekly college football games. Jurich was quoted after he was hired saying “The thing we need to do right away is to get exposure and get this program branded, and that is something I feel is most essential.” He did that on this platform.

Thinking back about those games I’m reminded of all the highs and lows I’ve felt on Thursday nights over the last 16 years. The field goal at Rutgers was probably the biggest low, but that was replaced by many highs including the Thursday night win against Rutgers that got us to the Sugar Bowl. And that game three years ago against Cincinnati. All those heroic performances by Teddy and other Cardinal greats the memories just go on and on. They laughed at Tom for playing the Thursday night games but who’s laughing now.

This is a big game for this team and one that I feel is a must win for them to finish out strong. The last big test that this group passed was the big win against FSU. Since then the build up to this kind of big game has been great but the team hasn’t delivered. I do think they have put the Clemson loss in the rear view and think they will have too much speed and talent on the field for NC State to keep up with. We get All American Jaire Alexander back and that won’t hurt either. Enjoy it folks! GO Cards!

Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino: Men for their time


(Photo Credit Keeb White @keebwhite)


When the sun comes up over the Twin Spires and shines through the trees on the UofL campus in the morning and for the first time in 16 years Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino will not be pulling the strings. Pitino officially fired and Jurich on administrative leave and has essentially been replaced for now.

Two men for their time both innovative, creative and in some cases revolutionary in their career fields. A flashy sports businessman from California and a brass basketball coach from New York City Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino changed the face of Louisville sports and helped to change the sports world in general. They brought the Cardinals into the 21st century and gave the University the platform to compete on the national stage.

They were also the two men of my time… We only have a certain amount of it and with each passing day it gets shorter. The time we spend on this earth is filled with memories of the things we love, the people we love and the times we share together. Sports is one of the things that I love and I’ve spent a lot of time sharing the experiences surrounding that with the people I love.

Rick Pitino would enter my sports world in 1989 when he took the University of Kentucky job. I was a freshman in high school and was probably too young to really appreciate it then but Coach Pitino was revolutionizing the game of college basketball. Coaches at all levels were trying to model their strategies around his run and gun, three-point shooting style of play and blitzing defense. Being a short un-athletic player myself I now had an opportunity to contribute to my high school team by learning how to shoot the ball from deep. I’ve never been a University of Kentucky fan but I enjoyed watching some of those Pitino led teams.

It wasn’t until he had beaten my beloved Cardinals for a fourth straight time that my love for Pitino’s style of play turned into disgust for who was reaping the benefit. I couldn’t stomach another National Championship or Final Four run from that program in Lexington and couldn’t wait until Rick took an NBA job. It finally happened and I couldn’t have been happier.

Ever have a rival guy date an amazing girl and out of jealousy you have nothing nice to say to her or about her? Then your rival and that same girl split and she starts to have eyes for you. Suddenly it is you with the prettiest girl at the prom. That’s the way I felt back in 2001 when Rick Pitino was named the head coach of my beloved Cardinals. I couldn’t wait to get that air brushed T-Shirt with our names on it to show my rival that she was my girl now. And when Rick Pitino became my coach I couldn’t wait to wear that “Got Rick” T-Shirt to show college basketball fans that he was our coach.

Just as he had done in Lexington Pitino didn’t waste any time changing the climate and the culture of the Louisville basketball program. Things started to look different and things started to feel different. His name alone gets you on the front page and Louisville who was coming off a bad 10 yr. run was a household name again. In just 4 years the Cardinals would return to the Final Four. With success on the court going as planned Coach Pitino wasn’t having as much of it in his personal life. Admitting to an affair in 2009 things became cloudy but the program continued to move forward. It didn’t hurt that a new arena was in the works. Coach Pitino wasn’t going to play second fiddle to horse shows and truck pulls and would start immediately to petition for that new arena. He and Tom Jurich would get their wish. Some coined it the Pitino Palace when the Yum Center opened in 2010.

With a new arena and a new brand Louisville Basketball was back in the spotlight. They say pride comes before the fall. I don’t think you could have had more pride than what I felt in my heart walking out of the Georgia Dome that night in Atlanta when my Cardinals had just won their third National Title. I didn’t think I’d ever live to see it. And that entire year was special to me. That joy would soon turn back into heartache and in 2015 those clouds rolled back in. The stripper scandal unlike the Sypher scandal was not going away. And while the program still waits on the final word from the NCAA on that now here we are amid yet another scandal. I don’t think this is a sign that he’s done anything wrong but just might be a sign that it’s Ricks time to move on. College basketball might not have a grand exit planned for one of its most influential figures but all those coaches and players he’s mentored along the way and who are now coming out in support of him is a pretty good one in my opinion.

The hiring of Rick Pitino was the cornerstone of Tom Jurich’s career at Louisville and perhaps is the reason he feels so much loyalty. So much that he is willing to jump on the sword with his friend. The Pitino hire gave Jurich the juice he needed to start making ground breaking moves in the athletic department. Tom Jurich celebrated his 20th anniversary as the Cardinals athletic director this year. The impact he’s had on the Louisville athletic programs are nothing short of amazing. He turned an athletic program once mocked as Silo University into a major brand. The Silos are gone and now only serve as a shadow of another stadium expansion. I think one of his bigger achievements is pushing the Louisville football brand on Thursday night football. He was willing to take that leap with ESPN when it wasn’t a popular thing and has been credited by them for the success of that platform. And that platform helped put a budding program on the map. After years of hopping around from conference to conference that visibility helped Louisville Football and the Louisville athletic program find a permanent home in college sports. And without Tom Jurich there would be no ACC affiliation. Period!

I got to drink a beer one time with Tom Jurich at a Louisville event. I say drink a beer because that’s the story I tell. It was actually a couple drinks of beer while I told him how things had changed with UofL Sports in my lifetime and thanked him for his contribution. The picture from that day hangs in my man cave. He always greeted me with a smile and a handshake after that. There is more to Tom than just all his accomplishments. He is a nice guy who I believe genuinely cares about the University of Louisville, Louisville fans and the student athletes on campus. They might not ever build a statue of this man on campus but all the new buildings, and personal achievements of those student athletes he helped along the way will serve as monuments to his great legacy.

They came in as Batman and Robin saving the Louisville athletic program when it needed a new direction and now might go out like Thelma and Louise holding hands as their careers at Louisville go over the cliff. During the prime of my life these guys have indirectly had a substantial impact on my life. If it is the end of the Jurich and Pitino era then I want to thank them both for the good they have done along the way. I don’t know what my last 16 years of being a Louisville fan would have looked like had they not been a part of it but I don’t think it would have been as fun as it was. We all fall short of perfection and the only thing you can do is appreciate that good someone does.

I’m really hurt by all this stuff but probably not as much as I would’ve been 10 years ago. Growing older I’ve gained some new perspective. My Louisville Cardinals are still an important part of my life but it’s not life and death. I will survive this and the University of Louisville will survive this. There are going to be some dark times it appears but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go thru it with than the Cardinal Nation. We have one of the best fan-bases in all of college sports and that is ultimately the reason for all the success to begin with.

Over the next couple of weeks let’s keep things in perspective. Now is not the time to run and hide. Wear your Cardinal gear with pride and continue to support the student athletes. They deserve our best especially those guys on the basketball team who while just starting their journey in life have had to deal with so much.

Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Kent State


I thought that this Louisville football team had taken two steps forward after their road win at UNC. It seemed that they were ready to take on the early challenge facing them Saturday night. But they were not. Last week this team took two steps back. They have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball and over the next two weeks should be able to fine tune things in preparation for that huge Thursday night game in October. That is the next litmus test.

The first game of the much-needed home stand is against Kent State on Saturday afternoon. This will be the 18th meeting between these programs and will be their first trip to Louisville since 1972. The Golden Flashes own a 9-8 series advantage reminding me that our program has really come a long way. Kent State has been on a money-making tour that has included losses at Clemson and Marshall. Louisville will be the last leg of that tour.

Kent State lost their 5th year starting QB Nick Holley in their second game of the season. He is still their leading passer and rusher on the season. Last week they split this duty between QB’s Dustin Crum and George Bollas. They combined for 117 yards and a pick on 7-17 passing. I don’t think you will see much of an air attack from this offense on Saturday afternoon. They will look to get their running game going with RB’s Justin Rankin, and Will Matthews. The two have combined for 161 yards this season. Rankin will also catch passes from the backfield with 54 yards and a touchdown thru the air

When they look for them WR’s Trey Harrell and Mike Carrigan have combined for 90 yards thru the air this season. Kent State has struggled on the offensive side of the football and a key indicator of just how dismal it’s been is represented in their third down conversions. In losses at Clemson and Marshall they were 4 for 16 and 4 for 15 respectively. Holley was this offense’s biggest weapon. Without him they are struggling. They were held scoreless last week.

Things don’t get much better for the Golden Flashes on the defensive side of the ball either. They have allowed 108 points averaging 36 points a game. They’ve given 776 yards rushing and 761 yards thru the air in three games this season. Defensive backs Jamal Parker (24 tackles), Jim Jones (21 tackles) and Lawrence-Burke (20 tackles) lead this unit. These guys haven’t backed down from the challenge this season and they’ll be active in the game against the Cardinals Saturday.

For the Cardinals, this week will be about getting better and working in some younger guys to help with the depth chart moving forward. On the offensive side of the ball you might see guys like RB Colin Wilson and TE Kamari Aberett get more reps. I think Coach Petrino will look to get A&M transfer Jordan Davis more involved as well. I think the Cardinals could use his versatility and athleticism. You might also see freshman Cole Bentley working in some on the Offensive line.

Our defense really needed these next two weeks to work out some obvious kinks and to help get some guys who are banged up some rehab. We are going to need All-American Jaire Alexander back to full strength when they take that mid-week road trip to NC State. Young guys who should see more action this week on the defensive side of the ball include LB London Iakopo. He was very active in the Clemson game and had a big 9-yard sack. LB Malik Staples along with CB’s Russ Yeast and Cornelius Sturghill should see extended reps. I’ve heard Coach Petrino mention these guys several times over the last couple of weeks.

After being beat up by Clemson the team and fans need some rehab. That’s just what these next two weeks will be. This week is about getting back in the win column. Next week will be about getting ready for the final push. This schedule is not forgiving.

Get out to Papa John’s Stadium and enjoy the day. Enjoy another victory. Go Cards!