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!

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!

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!

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!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Clemson


There were a lot of excited Cardinal fans at the ACC celebration a few years ago. Everyone understood the significance of that moment and knew what kind of opportunity it was for the Louisville athletic department. While basketball has always found a way to thrive the other sports and athletic programs like football needed to be in a conference like the ACC to really establish themselves.

After years of leaping around to different conferences it has been great to see the University of Louisville Football team finally be in a legitimate football conference like the ACC. The Louisville Football program has battled its way to some national relevance and have shown that they can contend. Since the move to the ACC I’ve heard coaches, players and fans say how they are grateful for the opportunity. And I am grateful for the opportunity. On Saturday night, it’s time for the Louisville Football program to take advantage of that opportunity.

The Cardinals and the Clemson Tigers don’t have a long history. Three games define the story between these teams. Clemson has beat the Cardinals in all three of those meetings but it has been very competitive with the total margin of victory in all three games being just 15 points. Football is a game of inches. The three games between these teams has proven just that. 2014 it came down to one last play on the goal line, 2015 the Cardinals were just finger tips away from winning the game in the closing seconds and last year were just inches from another chance to win it with a goal line play.

If the Cardinals are to reach the summit of the ACC they will have to eventually beat Clemson. The stage is set for that final climb. Standing in the way of another transformational moment for the Cardinals football program is another very good Clemson football team. Once again Dabo Swinney has a roster loaded with talent, speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. Clemson comes into Papa John’s stadium as the defending National Champions and are 2-0 after beating #13 Auburn 14-6 last week. The Tigers also come in ranked first in the nation in passing defense, second in total defense and sacks after their two wins of the season.

Some of the names on the Clemson offensive unit have changed but their attack remains the same. Junior QB Kelly Bryant takes over the reins of this group. He is a dual threat athlete that will use his arm and legs to make plays. So far, this year, Bryant has 417 yards with a pick and a TD through the air, and leads Clemson with 136 yards and three scores on 26 carries. They don’t have Deshaun Watson anymore but Bryant is a very capable QB. When it comes to their running game I would say that Clemson is in a very similar situation that Louisville is in. After losing RB Wayne Gallman who took the lion’s share of carries among Clemson running backs over the past three seasons they are still searching for “That Guy” again. This season they have split those duties with four guys. Their leading rushers coming in are Tavien Feaster (86 yard, 1 touchdown), Travis Etienne (81 yards, 1 touchdown), C.J. Fuller (62 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Adam Choice (41 yards, 1 touchdown). Out of this group C.J. Fuller is expected to emerge as their leader.

The Tigers have a balanced attack through two games this season with 449 yards on the ground and 497 yards through the air. After their coaching staff watched the Louisville game film I expect them to try to exploit the Cardinals secondary with All-American Jaire Alexander still on the mend. First-round draft pick Mike Williams is gone but they have a very talented group of wide receivers led by Hunter Renfrow (78 yards), Ray-Ray McCloud (105 yards) and Deon Cain (97 yards, 1 touchdown). These three guys have combined for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last three games against the Cardinals. Cain is the deep threat guy and I look for him to see a lot of balls coming his way on Saturday night. His 18.5 yards per catch average is fourth on a career basis in Clemson history. He had a 61-yard touchdown reception from Kelly Bryant in the opener against Kent State. Renfrow is their clutch guy. Four times Renfrow made a third-down reception that gave Clemson a first down against Auburn. Blocking up front for this Clemson offensive attack is one of the best offensive lines in college football. This group is led by OG Tyrone Crowder (ranked #125 by NFL:.com), and OT Mitch Hyatt (ranked #27 by NFL.com; #35 by Sporting News; #58 by Sports Illustrated).

Coach Sirmon and his defense will have faced some of the best young football minds in the game after these first three games. Coach Dabo Swinney just might be the best they face all season. Now 91-28 for a .765 percentage at Clemson he will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Louisville defense on Saturday night. Senior safety Chucky Williams has started his final season with a bang. He has 9 tackles and an interception through two games. I hope he can repeat his best performance of 2016 on Saturday night. That game came at Clemson, where he recorded seven tackles, recovered a pair of fumbles and picked off a pass. I’m hoping that Jaire Alexander can make a triumphant return to this Cardinal defense this weekend as he also has a pretty good history against the Tigers picking off two passes last year. If he can’t go or only gets limited minutes Ronald Walker will be counted on to continue to step up. Walker has 13 tackles through two games. Other guys who have started off this season with a bang and that will be counted on heavily this week include Trevon Young, a senior outside linebacker who returned to the lineup after a hip injury. He has 9 tackles, a sack and two pass breakups. Safety Zykiesis Cannon who has picked up where he left off from last season. Starting in the secondary in the first two games, Cannon leads the team in tackles with 14. Sophomore Jonathan Greenard is becoming a force off the bench for the Cardinals’ defense. Seeing action in both games he has been credited with 4.5 tackles for loss, which is second in the ACC and 11th nationally. Big task this week but this is a unit that will be up for the challenge.

A lot of the talk this week about the Clemson vs. Louisville game has been about the match-up between Louisville’s offense and Clemson’s defense. Lamar Jackson leads a Louisville offense that averages 614.5 yards per game, fifth best in the nation. Louisville averages 7.6 yards per play 15th best in the nation, including 9.1 yards per pass attempt. The Cardinals have scored 10 touchdowns in two games. Lamar Jackson is off to a great start, leading the nation in total offense with 505 yards per game. He has thrown for 771 and rushed for 239. Passing he is 55-85 for 771 yards and five touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception. The one thing that has been missing from this offensive juggernaut is an established run game. For this team to be what it can be that must happen in my opinion and it will have to happen to beat Clemson. Since returning to coach the Cardinals, Petrino’s teams are 16-3 when rushing for 200 yards or more. He has been playing the Clemson QB all week on the scout team but RB Malik Williams could play a big role in the Cardinals running attack Saturday night. He had career highs of 13 rushes and 149 yards, toting the ball an average of 11.5 yards per carry against UNC. His 149 yards are the most by a running back since Brandon Radcliff did it. This kid is hopefully the answer the Cardinals running game has been looking for. WR Dez Fitzpatrick and Jaylen Smith have been clutch early on for the Cardinals. Fitzpatrick leads the squad with five third-down receptions and two touchdowns, while Smith has four first-down catches this year. These guys will need some of those clutch catches against the Clemson Secondary. The guys on the Louisville offensive line have shown improvement allowing only two sacks in the first two games and showing some great blocking late in the game last week that allowed for 74-yard gain. This weekend is going to be the ultimate measuring stick for these guys.

Looking to slow down the Louisville attack is a very good Clemson defense. It may just be the best defense in the country. Clemson allows just 118.5 yards per game, second in the nation. Clemson is also tied for first in pass defense, allowing just 40 yards per game, second in yards per play allowed at 2.06 and fifth in pass efficiency defense at a 71.46 rating. This group has not allowed a touchdown yet this season. They are led by a who’s who of pre-season defensive watch list performers and a few All-Americans. Nine Clemson players ranked among top 125 for 2017 and six of the nine are on the defensive side of the ball, including three defensive linemen. Among those standouts are DT Dexter Lawrence (9 tackles, 0.5 sacks), DT, Christian Wilkins (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks), LB Kendall Joseph (14 tackles 0.5 sacks), DE Clelin Ferrell (9 tackles,1 sack), FS Van Smith Jr (1 tackle), and CB Mark Fields (2 tackles). Leading the Clemson defense is LB Dorian O’Daniel (18 tackles 1.5 sacks), LB Kendall Joseph (14 tackles, 0.5 sacks) and DE Austin Bryant (13 tackles, 4 sacks). This is a big and nasty bunch and it is going to take a big effort against them Saturday.

Not only are some calling this game the biggest in the history of the Louisville program but they are also saying it could be the biggest college football game ever played in the state of Kentucky. I will be celebrating my 11th wedding anniversary with my beautiful wife at the game so the night really couldn’t get much bigger for me. This is a big moment folks and one that could define the Louisville program for years to come. There are some of the best recruits in the country expected to be in attendance on Saturday and a national television audience watching. There will be a lot on the line. A Cardinal win will cement their membership into the ACC giving them their 1st legitimate shot at a conference championship. A win could all but guarantee another Heisman trophy for Lamar Jackson and would put Louisville on a path to a possible College Football playoff berth. It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Winning games like this puts a college football program in a different conversation. I’m ready to have those conversations. Enjoy it folks. Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs UNC


The Cardinals head into the first game of the ACC slate this weekend with a Saturday trip to Chapel Hill. This will be the eighth meeting between the Cardinals and Tarheels on the gridiron with Louisville holding a 4-3 series advantage winning three of the last four. Coach Petrino is 2-0 against the powder blue but has yet to face them during the Fedora era. This will be a match-up of two great offensive minds.

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora is in his sixth season at Chapel Hill. Fedora is known for his aggressive, attacking philosophy on both sides of the ball. It’s a wide open spread offense and a blitz-heavy defense. Fedora was hired by UNC in 2012 and during that first season his attack was on full display in Louisville. I was at Papa John’s stadium when his first UNC team overcame a 39-14 deficit with seven minutes left in the game to come within finger tips of beating the then 19th ranked Cardinals. In the second half of that game his team carved thru Coach Strong’s defense like a hot knife thru butter.

Fedora only returns about 13 percent of his Total yards of offense from last season passing, rushing and receiving. Seven starters had to be replaced. So, he might not have the offensive fire power he had on that day in Papa John’s Stadium but his system is firmly in place at UNC and he does have a roster full of young and talented athletes. He also has some graduate transfers to try and replace some of that production. One of those graduate transfers is QB Brandon Harris. Before making his UNC debut last week against Cal he had 13 starts for LSU. His UNC debut didn’t go so well as he posted a pair of interceptions early and was pulled in favor of freshman QB Chazz Surratt, who fared better on 161 yards and one TD. He also ran for 66 yards and a score.

The Cardinals could see both guys on Saturday as there seems to still be some competition going on for the starting role. But Harris should get the start and play most of the game. He is the experienced QB and I think he’ll play with something to prove to his head coach. Harris will be handing the ball off to sophomore running back Jordon Brown and freshman Michael Carter. Brown is their returning guy and poses a real threat both on the ground and as a receiver. He led the team last week with 9 catches for 53 yards. Carter also had a big debut with 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is taking the bruiser role for this offense and will be in when they need those tough yards.

Senior wide receiver Austin Proehl will be the primary target through the air. He is their most experienced guy and is close to having a thousand yards for his career. They really lack experience in their wide receiver corps and will rely on the other guys to step up in this game. Among those guys are freshman Roscoe Johnson, second season transfer from Vandy senior Jordan Cunningham and fourth year player junior Devin Perry. Johnson is a talented freshman and I think could be one of their biggest threats. He caught two passes for 25 yards in his debut last week. They also have a couple of good tight ends with sophomore Carl Tucker and junior Brandon Fritts. These guys combined for 30 yards of offense last week. There is a lot of building going on for this UNC offense but they have a great offensive line to do it behind. The offensive line will be the biggest advantage for UNC in this game. This group is led by Senior LT Bentley Spain (13 starts) and senior RG R.J. Prince (12 starts). Add in graduate transfers C Cam Dillard of Florida and LG Khaliel Rodgers of USC, and this group is legit.

This will be the second week straight that Coach Sirmon and his defense will face an aggressive offensive game plan. Coach Fedora will attack on every level so the Cardinals are going to have to be active. The defense may have to do that without All-American Jaire Alexander who is nursing a sore leg. Ronald Walker could see extended time if Alexander can’t go. He stepped up big against Purdue. I’m also excited to see the follow up performance from Trevon Young. He had a triumphant return to the field last week with a sack and a tackle for loss against Purdue. He along with the guys on the Louisville defensive front are going to be busy on Saturday. I think this unit will get better every week and they’ll be up to the challenge.

The Cardinals offense overcame some early mistakes and outscored the Boilermakers 25-14 in the second half after trailing 14-10 at halftime. Lamar Jackson had a great outing in his Week 1 debut, going 30-of-46 for 378 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 21 carries for 107 yards on the ground. Jaylen Smith was the Cardinals’ leading receiver with eight grabs for 117 yards. Dez Fitzpatrick had a solid debut as well with 95 yards and a touchdown. The biggest thing for the offense this weekend is to hold on to the football. It’s very hard to win on the road and almost impossible if you turn the ball over. Penalties are also a big concern for this group heading into week number two. Again, very hard to win on the road if you are battling negative yards all day. I would also like to see the run game be more productive this week. And will be watching the offensive line to hopefully see continued improvement.

Trying to slow down the Louisville attack this week will be a UNC defensive unit that boast the most experience on the team. Their defense was expected to be a strength for them but that didn’t work out very well for them in week 1. They gave up six plays of at least 20 yards against Cal. Keep in mind that Cal was breaking in a new QB. That is a far cry from the returning Heisman Trophy winner they will face this weekend. Junior LB Andre Smith is one of their best defensive players. He had 10 tackles with a 73-yard interception in their opener. He said earlier this week that he didn’t intend for Saturday to become “the Lamar Jackson show.” Smith along with fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb and senior corner MJ Stewart will try to hold down a talented group of Louisville speedsters. Jr defensive linemen Malik Carney and sophomore Aaron Crawford will try to stop the Louisville offense before it gets started. These guys combined for 10 tackles and a sack last week. This UNC defensive unit has had a lot to say this week but they seem to still have a lot to prove.

North Carolina is going to pull out all the stops on Saturday honoring their basketball team and an appearance from MJ was planned. Don’t think MJ can make it due to travel restrictions but they’ll still be fired up in Chapel Hill. They are a team that is hungry for that first win of the season and they always play their best in front of the home crowd. Fedora has a 25-9 record at Kenan Stadium. If the Cardinals come out and play sloppy football with a lot of mistakes it could be a long day. If Lamar and the guys come out and play solid football I still expect it to be a battle but one that the Cardinals should win.

Enjoy it! Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Purdue


It is that time of year again… we’ve made it through another sports dry spell and now are one day away from the start of another College Football season. There are several intriguing match-ups to open the regular season but none more than the Cardinals and Boilermakers. There is not much history between these programs and the only time they played back in 1987 the game ended in a 22-22 tie. But there is a lot of history between the men who will be leading their teams into battle on Saturday.

During their three seasons together Jeff, Greg, Brian and Coach Petrino led the Louisville program to 32 wins, Liberty Bowl win, Orange Bowl Championship, Conference USA and Big East championship and twice finished in the Associated Press top 10. And by popular opinion were a field goal away from a possible National Championship. There isn’t anyone who has had a bigger impact on the rise of the Louisville football program than Coach Petrino and the Brohms and now they will be on opposite sidelines as the Cardinals open the 2017-18 College Football season.

For Coach Petrino and his Cardinals some of the faces in the starting roles will be different but much will remain the same. The Cardinal’s lose three offensive linemen as well as its leading rusher and top-three receivers from last season but Lamar Jackson is back after a season in which he produced 51 touchdowns. Last season Jackson’s first instinct was to put this offense on his back. After another off season to learn the playbook we will see him utilize the guys around him more on Saturday. There is a lot of talented players on the offensive side of the ball for the Cardinals who are ready to step up in those roles left behind last season.

Proven Veteran Reggie Bonnafon will give the Cardinals a more versatile and athletic look in the backfield as the #1 running back. In 33 career games, Bonnafon has totaled 346 yards on the ground and five touchdowns his best season coming in 2015 when he ran for 175 yards. I look for him to be highly effective in helping this team move the ball down the field. He and RB Jeremy Smith will be a great one/two punch. Smith is coming off his best season. He was third on the team last year in rushing with a career-high 382 yards and eight touchdowns. We should see a steady workload for both guys on Saturday.

There is a lot of speed, talent and versatility at the wide receiver spot for the Cardinals. During the season I think you will see several different guys share the bulk of the load but I look for wide receiver Jaylen Smith and wide receiver Seth Dawkins to emerge as go to guys for this unit. Smith, a rising junior, finished third in the nation in yards per reception at 22.2 yards. He has big play ability and had had three touchdown receptions for over 50 yards last season. Dawkins also displayed big-play potential last season catching 11 passes for 191 yards and one score. He caught at least one pass in eight games, and ended the year with six receptions for 85 yards in the Cardinals final three games.

For the fifth time in seven years under the offensive prowess of head coach Bobby Petrino, the Cardinals ended last season ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense. Louisville finished third in the country in offense, averaging 532.7 yards per game. On Saturday Purdue will have a tall task ahead of them stopping this Louisville attack. Purdue was 117th in the country last year, allowing 38.3 points per game. Purdue’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Nick Holt served as the defensive coordinator for Coach Petrino at Western Kentucky in 2013. He will have a general idea on what to expect from the Louisville attack and does have some key guys returning to work with.

Holt teaches an aggressive style attack and prefers speed and athleticism over size. This Purdue defense is in a bit of rebuild mold but do have some key guys returning on all three levels. Linebacker Markus Bailey returns after 97 tackles last season, defensive lineman Gelen Robinson had five sacks and corner Josh Hayes had one interception. Trying to patch together a defensive unit Holt will have the flexibility to cater his scheme to fit his personnel. I think they will be able to play tough against the Louisville run game but their inexperienced secondary will struggle to stop an attack that will come on all levels. The Purdue defense will play hard but it could be a long day for them.

On offense, the Purdue Boilermakers have nowhere to go but up and they now have a coaching staff who can take them there. Jeff Brohm is widely regarded as one of the most innovative offensive masterminds in college football. His offenses at Western ended up #4 in 2014, #9 in 2015, and #5 in 2016. It didn’t take him long to get things moving forward down in Bowling Green and it won’t take him long in West Lafayette.

Purdue returns quarterback David Blough, who had 3,300 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. He has a decent cannon but it’s a loose one with 21 interceptions. He’ll have to cut down on those numbers to be effective this season for Brohm. The Boilermakers really lack experience at the wide receiver spot but do return a running back tandem of Markell Jones (321 carries, 1,491 yards, 14 TDs career) and Brian Lankford-Johnson (48 carries, 314 yards, 4 TDs career). They are Big Ten style bruisers and I expect them to get a lot of action on Saturday. Coach Brohm has some tools to work with but for Purdue to be able to move the ball effectively against a stiff Louisville defensive front they’ll have to get something from their offensive line. Purdue’s left tackle redshirt freshman Grant Hermanns and right tackle graduate transfer David Steinmetz will be making their very first FBS starts.

Coach Peter Sirmon will make his debut on Saturday as Louisville’s new defensive head man. His first task will be figuring out a way to stop the creative mind of Jeff Brohm. Sirmon’s defense will face an attack that they really won’t know much about heading in. That matters but it won’t matter near as much as it has in years past. Coach Sirmon believes in defensive principles where players attack rather than read and react. He will have his guys flying to the ball no matter where Brohm tries to move it. I’m looking forward to this battle. The Cardinals have 9 players returning on the defensive side of the football including all-ACC cornerback Jaire Alexander, third-team all-ACC offense tackle Geron Christian and safety Chucky Williams. These guys along with linebacker Stacy Thomas (85 tackles last season), and defensive end James Hearns (8 sacks last season) will be big on Saturday. The Louisville defense was 31st in the country last year, allowing 23.8 points per game.

I’m really looking forward to the game, and think we could see a back and forth contest for a bit. First game jitters will play a part in that on Louisville’s end. On Purdue’s end, they have more talent than what most folks are giving them credit for. Plus, they have a good coach. They could keep it close for a while but I don’t think Purdue has any chance of winning this game. At the end of the day the emotions will settle in and Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals defense will be too much for the rebuilding Boilermakers to handle. When the game reaches the fourth quarter the Boilers time will be UP.

Enjoy the game folks and GO CARDS!

The Cardinals and their fans hope Citrus will get the bad taste out of their mouths


The Louisville Football team carried a lot of momentum from the end of the 2015 season into 2016… The excitement of spring ball and summer practice was a catalyst to a 4-0 start to the regular season. We watched as our Cardinals made it to that 5th spot in the College Football Playoff Poll. The Cardinals started the regular season being compared to a red hot-rod going up and down the field in those chrome helmets but somewhere along the way the tires went flat.

Beating Florida State with the ESPN College Gameday crew on site was the zenith of the season and losing at home to arch rival Kentucky to end the regular season was the nadir. This team was making some of the same mistakes throughout but the effort in those early games masked some of those issues that cost this team in the end.

-The Cardinals offensive line gave up 3.25 sacks a game this season ranked 121 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals averaged 7.75 penalties a game this season ranked 118 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 21 fumbles this season ranked 128 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 31 turnovers this season ranked 124 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

When this team got complacent they stopped getting better. This Louisville team never got better than they were during that 4-0 start to the season. In the final two games of the season the effort we had seen early on was nonexistent. These guys appeared to have lost all that great momentum they had in September and October… and will now have to dig deep to get it back.

The game on Saturday is important to the legacy of a great senior class, it is important for the guys who came to Louisville for their last chance, it is important to Cardinal fans who deserve to see their team end the season with a win and the game on Saturday is important to regain some positive momentum headed into next season. The attitudes in the weight room and on that practice field next spring and summer will be a lot different coming off a Bowl win as opposed to three straight losses. There is a lot of discussion around this time of year about how much these Bowl games really matter… for the Cardinals and their fans it’s the only thing that matters now.

Louisville will be making its 21st bowl appearance when they face LSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and looking for its sixth bowl win in the last eight Bowl games. The Cardinals offense enters the Bowl game averaging 45.3 points per game with 256.8 rushing yards and 302 passing yards per game. Having won 14 of his last 18 starts our Heisman winner Lamar Jackson is completing 57.6% of his passes for 3390 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Jackson has rushed for 1538 yards and 21 touchdowns. Brandon Radcliff has added 877 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns for the Cardinals. James Quick has caught 42 passes for 688 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Cole Hikutini has caught 49 passes for 656 yards and 8 scores. This Louisville offense will be facing a very good defense on Saturday. The biggest key will be the offensive line. Lamar can’t win this side of the ball alone. It’s going to take a balanced attack. That means time for plays to develop and open running lanes. Coach Klenakis’s guys were able to rise to the occasion last year in the Music City Bowl. Can they do it again?

The Louisville defense is giving up 23.3 points per game with 110 rushing yards and 206.3 passing yards per game. Leading this unit is Keith Kelsey with 81 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Stacy Thomas with 74 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack and Chucky Williams with 45 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Zykiesis both have 61 tackles on the season. The Cardinals defense will be without sack leader James Hearns but still have Devonte Fields coming off the edge. This unit will be playing with a lot of emotion. They will be playing without one of their defensive leaders in Hearns and it will be the last time a lot of these guys will be wearing a Cardinal uniform. I think Coach Grantham will have them ready.

LSU lost 2 of their last 4 games and finished tied for 2nd in the SEC West. The LSU offense is averaging 28.3 points per game with 238.1 rushing yards and 187.6 passing yards per game. QB Danny Etling isn’t anywhere near as good as the guy he will be facing but gets the job done completing 60% of his passes for 1906 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The Tigers leading rusher is big powerful running back Derrius Guice. He has rushed for 1249 yards and 14 touchdowns. Their speed back Leonard Fournette will not play. Their leading receivers are Malachi Dupre who has caught 34 passes for 454 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Travin Dural who has 28 catches for 280 yards and 1 score. Who knows what to expect from this LSU offense. What will it do to this unit’s chemistry with Fournette not playing? Or will affect them at all?

This LSU team can put points on the board but it is their top ranked defense they rely on. The LSU defense is giving up 16.4 points per game with 121.8 rushing yards and 201.2 passing yards per game. The leaders of this unit are Linebacker Kendell Beckwith with 91 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Linebacker Duke Riley with 85 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 interception. Safety Jamal Adams has 70 tackles, and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux has 58 tackles. Defensive end Arden Key leads this unit with 10 sacks. I think we will get this units best shot on Saturday. A good defense takes pride in being able to stop great players. They have their chance to shut down a pretty good one Saturday.

This game comes down to very good offense vs a very good defense. There will be a lot of speed and athleticism on both sides of the field but it will all come down to emotion. There will be a team that wants it more. LSU can lose this game and rely on the benefit of that SEC bias to be right back in playoff conversations again next season. If Louisville loses this game they will start next year with a very different narrative. The Cardinals need this game more and if they play like they need it more they should be able to secure the victory. If they come out uninspired like they did in the two games to end the regular season it will be a long off season.

It’s gut check time for the Louisville football program. They have faced a lot of adversity on and off the field over the last couple of months. Sure, individual awards are great and it was special for the program and the fans getting to celebrate a Heisman Trophy. But in the end football is a team sport and this team needs a win. Let’s hope the Citrus Bowl gets the bad taste out of our mouths and we can head into next season on a high note. GO CARDS!

It’s Time for Louisville to win The Governor’s Cup… again


There doesn’t seem to be as much buzz or anticipation for this seasons battle for the Governor’s Cup. I think that the Cardinals uninspired performance against Houston has a lot to do with that. It might also be the fact that the Cardinals haven’t lost a football game to Kentucky since 2010… But by the time kickoff rolls around tomorrow I expect the spirit of this Bluegrass Rivalry to be in full effect. The all-time series is currently tied at 14, with Louisville winning the past five meetings. The Wildcats will bring one of the best teams they’ve had during the Stoops era into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and they are Bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season. Our Cardinals also have one of the best teams they’ve had during Petrino Era part 2. We have enjoyed watching them compete for a playoff spot all season and will hopefully enjoy another victory over Kentucky on Saturday at noon.

This is the third season that this game will take its place at the table of rivalry weekend in college football. And this has the potential to be one of the better games on Saturday. Kentucky is finally getting together enough size, talent, speed and athleticism to be fairly competitive again. They have done a nice job utilizing their talent with that Wildcat offense. They have rushed for 2,666 yards this season out of that Wildcat look and are ranked #17 in the country in rushing offense. Their passing attack isn’t as effective but still capable of that big play. They have 1,892 yards through the air this season ranked 111th in passing offense. This Kentucky team has been inconsistent at times on the defensive end of the field but can be very good at times. They are ranked #81 in total defense allowing 428 yards a game. They are giving up 220 yards a game on the ground and 208 yards a game through the air.

Leading the Kentucky offense is QB Stephen Johnson. He took over the starting role after Drew Barker was injured. Johnson isn’t going to “wow you” but is consistent and does a good job out of the Wildcat offense. He has 1,524 yards through the air with a 9:4 TD: INT ratio and has 195 yards with 2 touchdowns on the ground. The Wildcats offense has taken off in the past few weeks in large part thanks to the two headed monster of running backs Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr. This duo is as good as any in the country. Williams ranks seventh nationally and is second in the SEC in yards per carry (7.3) and 32nd nationally. He has 2,413 career rushing yards, seventh on Kentucky’s career rushing list. Snell’s 1,006 rushing yards this season is a school record for a freshman in a single season. Williams ranked #31 in rushing yards uses his speed to run by people and Snell ranked #41 uses power to run over people. This kid is a beast…

In the Wildcats passing attack WR Jeff Badet has surfaced as a solid threat himself with 335 yards and three scores on just 14 catches over the past five weeks. When this guy catches a pass he makes em count ranked second nationally in yards per catch at 24.46 per reception. The Kentucky offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the success of this team. This is one of their most experienced positions returning 83 career starts, including 46 from last year. Senior center Jon Toth anchors their O-line and he has started in 46 consecutive games. He is considered one of the top centers in college football.

Trying to stop the Wildcat Offense is a Cardinals defense that has been strong against the run, holding eight foes to less than 140 rushing yards. They have limited the last five opponents to an average of 58.4 yards per game and will need that type of effort against this Kentucky offense on Saturday. DT DeAngelo Brown (11.0 tackles for loss), LB Devonte’ Fields (22 tackles, 5 sacks), S Josh Harvey-Clemons (33 tackles), and LB Keith Kelsey (41 tackles) will be running out onto the field at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the last time on Saturday. These guys have never suffered a loss to the Wildcats and how they play tomorrow will determine if they can graduate with that claim. The Louisville defense took the day off last Thursday night. They have had over a week to think about that effort. I think we will see an inspired performance out of this group.

So far this season, Lamar Jackson has 3,109 passing yards with 28 touchdowns, and also leads the Cardinals in rushing on 209 yards and 1,367 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had a breakout performance against Kentucky last season leading the Cardinal’s to a come from behind victory at Commonwealth Stadium. Jackson is a fierce competitor and you can bet that he doesn’t want to end his record breaking regular season with a loss to the Wildcats. For offensive leaders RB Brandon Radcliff (787, 6 touchdowns), WR James Quick (621 yards, 6 touchdowns), WR Jamari Staples (593 yards, 2 touchdowns), and TE Cole Hikutini (556 yards, 7 touchdowns) this will also be their last time on the home turf. This offense has been explosive and these guys have been a big reason why. Makes no sense to think that they won’t play a big role in this one. This rivalry tends to mean a lot more to the guys from the state and in the case of OL Tobijah Hughley who is from Lexington it really means a lot. He along with OL Matt Cohen, and OL Kiola Mahoni will be playing their last game in front of the home crowd and they should be motivated to finish the home-stand strong. They’ll want to erase that awful game last week (11 sacks) out of the minds of Cardinal fans.

Trying to slow down the explosive Louisville offensive attack is a Kentucky defense that has been very inconsistent this season. They can play lock down on one series then turn around and give up the big play on the next. Playing against this Louisville offense that averages over 15 yards per catch (#8 nationally) that could be a problem for them. This Wildcat defense is strongest at the Linebacker position. LB Jordan Jones is a really good player and flies around all over the field looking for somebody to hit. He has 90 tackles this season to rank third among all SEC defenders with 8.2/game. He also leads the SEC in solo tackles (62), and has a team-high nine quarterback hurries. He will be the biggest challenge for the Louisville offensive line on Saturday. LB Courtney Love, a transfer from Nebraska, is third on the team with 62 tackles and strong-side LB Josh Allen has posted 53 tackles with a team high 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, which ranks eighth nationally. Kentucky also has five corner-backs with extensive experience, including Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC corner-back Chris Westry (72 career tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 11 pass breakups). If the Wildcats pull off the upset Saturday these guys will be a big part of it.

I always look forward to this football game. Rivalries are what make college sports so interesting and we have one of the best rivalries in the country. For the first time in a while this game will make its way back to ESPN for the noon kickoff. I hope both teams come out and play the best game of their seasons and make this one an instant classic. With their running backs they could make it a very competitive game and the Louisville defense will face one of the toughest challenges of the season. Penalties could also play a big part in a game like this. The Wildcats are ranked #25 in fewest penalties per game while our Cardinals rank #122. Having said all of that I think Lamar Jackson along with the emotions of Senior Day will be the difference in this one. This is one of the better teams that Kentucky has brought into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and I do think it will be competitive but the Cardinals will win their sixth straight in the Governor’s Cup battle. Let’s get loud tomorrow Cardinal Fans. GO CARDS!

The Beak’s Prediction for the
Howard Schnellenberger Award:

My prediction for the award this year is Lamar Jackson. I believe he will win this award for his ability to take over this game like he did last season. He should be able to have his way with a very inconsistent UK defense. The Stoops defense has struggled with mobile QB’s and will have trouble with the speed and athleticism of Jackson again on Saturday.

The 2010 game was the inaugural year for the award. The award is given to the Most Valuable Player of the game. It is named for Howard Schnellenberger, who played under Bear Bryant for Kentucky and coached at Louisville.

Previous winners:

-(9-04-2010) Derrick Locke, RB@ Kentucky had 23 Carries, 104 Yards, for 2 TD’s
-(9-17-2011) Dexter Heyman, LB@ Louisville had 12 Tackles & 1 Forced Fumbles
-(9-02-2012) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 19/21, 232 Yards
-(9-14-2013) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 16/28, 250 Yards, 1 TD
-(11-29-2014) DeVante Parker Louisville WR 6 Receptions, 180 Yards, 3 TD’s
-(11-28-2015) Lamar Jackson Louisville QB 8/21, 130 yards, 1 TD 17 carries, 186 yards, 2 TDs