Season Reboot In The Cards?



Times like these are when I really gain a lot of respect for those guys/gals on the beat writing about college sports as their job. In good times and bad those folks have to meet the deadline. I’ve been struggling to find words since that horrible display of football last Friday night. Funny that it’s been over a week now but still feels like that drubbing just happened yesterday. Georgia Tech just scored again. Sorry!

It has been a long time since I’ve sat thru one like that. I had almost forgotten how bad things can get. As fans, we’ve come a long way since the “The Kragthorpe experiment”. Now if we get a whiff of that type of apathy we lose our minds. It really did scar us. Bobby Petrino is 77-31 as the Louisville head coach and has won over 71% of his games here. He’s 21-14 winning 69% of his ACC games since his return. He has a rough start to this season and we are calling for his head.

Are we jumping the gun here? Is it realistic to think that Bobby would only get one bad season before he was fired? If Ron Cooper and “The Kragthorpe experiment” got three seasons of horrible football isn’t the guy who had us on the doorstep of a National Title entitled to one bad season?

Like I mentioned above I’m scarred. I’m in the ”cut your losses now” camp. I just don’t see the same fire in Coach Petrino’s eyes anymore. He has been a great football coach for us but I’m feeling like it’s time for him to go hang with the grandkids. Move on gracefully. But that isn’t going to happen and I don’t think he’ll get fired either. Even if the Cards can’t get things turned around this season that’s just not in the Cards. His buyout is absurd and he will get a mulligan.

I’m willing to give him that mulligan but would like to see Coach Petrino and this team turn things around this season. The buzz has been good around the program considering. Players seem motivated to get things back on track and even talking a little smack this week with Tu-Tu Atwell calling Boston College’s defense slow. I love the moxie of this true Freshman and this team is full of young guys with this fiery attitude.

Maybe this cake is just taking a little longer to bake. We have just reached the midpoint of this season. Is a reboot in the Cards?

The offense is trending upwards outcome of the games be damned. After a slow start, the Cardinals are finding their stride in the last two weeks. They have averaged 452.0 yards per game in the last two losses. In dropping a game to Georgia Tech last week, the Cardinals totaled a season-best 483 yards, including 370 yards through the air. The Cardinals tied their season high for points with 31 equaling their output In the Indiana State game.

We’ve got some young offensive players trending upward as well. Tu-Tu Atwell is leading the team with an 18.8 yards per catch average the fourth-highest total among freshmen nationally. In the last two games, Atwell has caught six passes for 132 yards and two scores, averaging 22.0 yards per catch. He had a career-long 53-yard catch against Florida State. Hassan Hall totaled 194 all-purpose yards in the loss to Georgia Tech. That’s the most all purpose yards by a true freshman since Lamar Jackson had 226 all-purpose yards in the 2015 Music City Bowl. Hall carried the ball five times for 23 yards and caught a personal high four catches for 33 yards.

Puma has excelled in his last two starts, going 47 for 80 for 605 yards and four touchdowns. And he didn’t throw an interception for the first time this season in the last game. In the last three games, Dez Fitzpatrick has caught 13 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12.7 yards a reception. After catching eight passes in the first four games, Jaylen Smith is second on the team with 16 receptions for a team-high 266 yards and one score. He ranks 69th nationally with his 16.6 yards per catch average. Rodjay Burns has provided a spark in the return game. The Louisville native ranks ninth nationally and is second in the ACC in punt return average, posting a 16.4 yards per return mark.

The offense is showing some signs of life. It is the Louisville Defense that will have to get it together for this team to turn things around. The Yellow Jackets hung six rushing touchdowns on the Cards last Friday, averaging a whopping 8.3 yards per play. The defense has some hungry guys. P.J. Blue is starting to make an impact. In the last three games as a starter, Blue has been credited with 19 stops.
Khane Pass and Nick Okeke are both coming off of their best games of the season with 8 tackles each in the last outing.

We’ve got some guys to make plays on defense but they have to be put in the right situations for that to happen. This is where the disconnect is right now. Louisville has not recorded a sack in the last two games, and through six games, the Cardinals have only registered two interceptions in 131 pass attempts. Through six games, the Cardinals are -9 in turnover margin turning the ball over 14 times, while just causing four miscues.
Will VanGorder be able to close this gap?

Louisville fans are losing their minds right now. But here at the midway point, we all need to take a collective breath. A total of 14 freshmen have made their collegiate debuts this season and the Cardinals are playing the 2018 season with one of the nation’s smallest senior classes with just 11 dotting the roster. It’s not like we are playing with house money folks.

I think this season can still be salvaged and the reboot can start on Saturday in Boston.
Go Cards!

GAMEDAY: The rain stopped, but will clouds remain over Cardinal Stadium


There are a lot of good vibes circulating thru the Cardinal faithful after an unbelievable night down at 4th Street Live. I would like to see some of that mojo passed along to the Louisville Football team on Saturday afternoon. It seems like it has rained for weeks but the skies have finally cleared. There is still a cloud of doubt looming over Cardinal Stadium.

Coach Petrino said in his weekly press conference: ”we went back and watched the Alabama game and we played harder and faster versus Alabama than we did at Virginia.”
I think they played harder and faster in that Alabama game than in any game they ’ve played this season. This Louisville Football team landed in Orlando world Beaters and I think it was too much too fast for the Psych of this young and rather inexperienced group.

I think this Coaching staff believed and I think this team believed in themselves. I’d never seen a more confident group in my six years doing Media Day. Taking the loss the way they did to Alabama not only derailed this team it also derailed this coaching staff. This is one of those times when playing a Goliath right out of the gate backfired.

This team would have benefited from opening up against an FCS program like Indiana State. This team needed to ease their way into the season but they were thrust head-on into a steamroller. I’m not making excuses for them. I really believe this. Bama broke us… The question now is what is the coaching staff going to do to fix us. Can they fix it?

The Cardinals have also had their fair share of bad luck with key guys going down with injuries on both sides of the ball. Three of the best defensive players have missed time. And the running backs have been banged up. Just when Dae Wiliams started to show glimpses of being that dominant player everyone was clamoring over at Spring practice a few years ago he suffered a deep thigh bruise. Another set back for a guy who has had a few of them.

There are reports of a coming to Jesus moment this week in preparation for Florida State. Coach Summers believes his O-Line has figured things out again, and there was word of a team meeting. I think it’s important for this team to get their mind right but they’ll also have to figure out how to score with just 17 points in the two losses. The Louisville defense hasn’t been great but they haven’t been horrible all things considered. If the offense could give them a little run support who knows.

Florida State’s season has gone pretty much the same way. They have had key injuries on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line has really suffered. And it shows in the win/loss column. The Seminoles’ two losses have come against good team defense in Syracuse and Virginia Tech, which might explain why they only put up 10 points between the pair of outings.

There are so many resources in Tallahassee and they have a young guy in Willie Taggart who is going to figure it out pretty quick. I just hope it’s another few weeks before he does. I look for him to use those tight end sets and try to pound the ball against a banged up Louisville Defensive front. Cam Akers led the rush attack last week for them with 22 carries for 64 yards and a TD. We might get Robert Hicks and Dorian Ethridge back. But will they be 100%?

Who knows what the Louisville offense will look like on Saturday. The weather in Louisville has been more consistent than Coach Petrino’s playbook. If things start to go south we could see all 3 Louisville QB’s. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jordan Travis get a shot if Puma doesn’t find his groove. Who knows when we will ever see the Louisville receivers show up again. I think those Bama DB’s pulled some mortal combat shit and stole their souls.

I’m ready to rally around the Louisville Football team. I’ve been ready to rally around them. They have to throw us a bone on Saturday. A fan base usually has a pretty weak Psyche as well. I don’t know how much more Louisville Football fans can take. Lose this game and things could officially go off the rails. But come out and beat a quality program in FSU and it could be just what the Dr. Ordered to get this team back on track.

GameDay… Next man Up.


Next man up has kinda been the theme of this young football season for our Louisville Cardinals. Guys stepping up on the offense and defensive side of the ball when called on. You might feel like this Louisville team is struggling and in some aspects they are. But the young guys on this football team are flourishing.

With 129 yards rushing in the last game Malik Cunningham had one of the highest single-game rushing totals ever by a Louisville QB. In his first career start at linebacker, Robert Hicks led the Cardinals in tackles with 11 against WKU. He is the first Cardinal to do that since Dorian Ethridge last season. While freshman defensive end Jarrett Jackson had three tackles and the game-winning sack. He showed a lot of promise for a second straight week.

When these young Cardinals ran off the field last Saturday night they carried a lot of enthusiasm into the locker room. Even tho it was only a win over Western Kentucky they appeared to have some of that swagger back I had seen glimpses of on the field in Orlando. It’s going to take another big effort from these young guys on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville.

The Cardinals open up their 5th season against a Virginia team that is currently 2-1 as well, with a loss to Indiana 20-16 sandwiched in between wins over Richmond 42-13 and Ohio 45-31. In that Ohio game, Virginia QB Bryce Perkins had a solid outing with 379 yards and three scores, while Jordan Ellis posted three more scores and 171 yards on the ground. Olamide Zaccheaus went off for 247 yards and two TDs to lead the Cavs in receiving.

The Virginia offense has another dimension to it this season with the ability of Perkins to make plays with his legs. But make no mistake about it this guy can also do some damage with his arm. Louisville 85th in total defense, 94th in rushing defense and 56th in passing defense will have a special challenge ahead of them in week four. They need to be aggressive enough to keep this offense in front of them but not be too aggressive overrunning their coverage. If Louisville can keep Perkins in check on the ground, and CBs Rodjay Burns and P.J. Mbanasor both very fast and talented can keep this defense from getting beat on the outside I really like our chances. Virginia is 13th nationally in converting third downs. The Louisville defense has to get off the field on Saturday.

The mobile QB has been the Virginia Defense Kryptonite. And with a steady dose of Cunningham and Dae Williams I think this Louisville team will find the end zone a few times. And I’d like to see our WR’s come to life this week as I think they could pose a real challenge for the Virginia secondary. Virginia Coach Bronco Mendenhall said after their game against Ohio last week: “Our secondary is not playing consistently, but Bryce [Hall] and Darrius Bratton are,” “Our safety play is inconsistent. Our corner play is actually consistent.” If Cunningham and Williams can establish the run and force the Virginia secondary up into tight coverage I really like our chances of beating them with the deep ball. Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins, sand Jaylen Smith can sure talk a mean game. Now its time to play one.

I’m really hoping to see an inspired team performance on Saturday afternoon. With conference play getting started its gut check time for both the veterans and rookies on this Louisville football team. If they answer the call in the conference opener it could give them some great momentum moving forward. If not it could be a long season. Can’t wait for another exciting day of College football. L’s Up and go cards…

First the Tide, Then a Tropical Storm first two weeks of Louisville Football have been a wash



First the Tide, Then a Tropical Storm the first two weeks of Louisville Football have been a wash.

We had such a build-up to the start of the Louisville Football season. So much build-up that the head coach was predicting a victory against college footballs best team. The players seemed confident and even started the game in Orlando with a little swagger in their step.

They were playing some good football. Puma looked poised, the Oline blocked, the running backs were running downhill, TE’s looked good, WR’s running crisp routes and even the defense made some good plays. Things seemed to be going as expected for about a quarter then the wheels started to fall off. So much so that the coaches were having gaffs.

After that game, I was able to put things into some perspective taking into account that they did play the first game of the season against the Tide. We did some things well, and it was a game to build on. Our young guys got hit in the jaw and didn’t respond well.

Heading into the Indiana State game I expected the monsoon rains and knew it would be a student body left, student body right kind of night. Not very entertaining but expected a solid win. I did not expect the breakdowns on offense, and I sure didn’t expect to see the Indiana State O-Line housing our D-Line at times. Knocking them off the ball.

I expected inconsistency with yet another new coaching change but come on… how are you controlling the line of scrimmage on downs against the likes of Alabama one week and losing that battle to an FCS school the next week. Doesn’t add up. Or does it all add up?

Did opening up the season against such a dominating opponent backfire? Did some of these young guys have that confidence tested too early? Did they completely put the last one behind them when heading into the game week with Indiana State? Did the torrential downpours affect the offense that much? To look that bad? Was the Louisville defensive front that beat up and did the weather affect their gameplay?

I’m willing to call it a wash.

That’s right… these last two weeks have been a blur. Louisville fans drove 13 hours to watch the season opener and then had to set thru a monsoon for the home opener. The expansion did not get the appreciation it deserved and we didn’t even get a Card March.

I don’t imagine that these first two weeks have been great for the players either. They did get knocked down to size pretty good in that first game. Confidence was shaken. Then they don’t get a Card March and have to sludge thru a monsoon all night against an FCS school in the home opener. Not much fun at all. They did enough to get the job done and did have some pep in their step to end a miserable night.

I’m excited about this weekend. I liked what I saw out of Malik Cunningham Saturday night. If you paid attention at the Spring Game you know his game is very Lamar’esque. Bobby will now have a few more options. And this could give Puma a little nudge. He has to be the leader of this team Tide or monsoon be damned… It’s good to know that there is someone ready to step up if he doesn’t. Don’t think we have a QB controversy yet. I like what Jeremy Smith brings to this team. He hasn’t missed a step.

Our defense is beaten up. The best player Jonathan Greenard is out indefinitely after injuring his wrist against Bama, and Dorian Etheridge suffered an ankle sprain against Indiana State. A lot of tackles here.

I’m beginning to worry that issues go much deeper than a few injuries on this side of the ball. Charlie Strong built a defensive culture so strong that it lasted up to Grantham’s last season. He was able to use Strong’s mojo for a few seasons. I’m worried about the current culture. Too much turnover and not enough consistency has left a big hole. Coach VanGorder is getting paid handsomely and he has some athletes so I’m not giving up hope yet.

This could be a week for guys to gain some confidence and more experience. Like Jarrett Jackson. This dude wears #8 and his last name is Jackson. He was No. 56 on ESPN’s Top 300 defensive linemen list and one of the top high school defensive lineman in Florida a season ago. Jackson has 7 assisted tackles this season. Guys like Amonte Caban and Tabarius Peterson. They both were trending upward at the end of last season.

Michael Boykin and Derek Dorsey could use another game before heading into the conference grind. Boykin is still adjusting to the speed of things. He was dominating in Juco last year. Dorsey has a mean streak about him but needs to be in right spot. GG Robinson has to step up and lead with Greenard out. GG can be a beast and has 7 solo tackles in the first two weeks. This defense is wet behind the ears and not from the rain last week.

I know that a hurricane is barreling up the east coast. But weather should not be an issue this Saturday night when the Cardinals play WKU. It should be an awesome night for a football game. I expect the tailgating lots to be packed early, I expect a great Card March, I expect the place to be packed, and I expect the expansion to get the crowd it deserves. I hope Louisville plays better and shows some promise. We will know a lot more about this team after Saturday night. Even though these last two weeks have been a wash I still have hope the season won’t be.

Go Cards!

GAMEDAY


GAMEDAY!

Another game today where I don’t think we learn much about the Louisville Football team especially if we get the monsoon the weather folks suggest. It will be a great game for all of the Coaches to work on getting their calls in and Gametime reps. It’s a great opportunity for the Louisville defense to gel more and to get more game ready with Coach VanGorder.

I think we see a steady flow of Running Backs tonight for the Cardinals but hopefully will stay dry long enough to see Jawon get a chance to work on some game rhythm with his wide receivers. Special teams should get some in-game action tonight. Should be a lot of Kickoff coverage practice (much needed), and field goal/extra point work. Hope we don’t see any punt work. (sorry Mason)

This game will be good for the players and should juice them back up some after being demoralized by Alabama. Football is very physical but can also be mentally exhausting. The young guys were very overwhelmed last weekend. Today is another chance for them to learn and gain some much needed confidence.

It’s going to be awesome to see these guys run out of that tunnel for the very first time of that beautiful new expansion. Should be a feel-good night all around and Cardinal Football needs it. L’s Up!

Go Cards!

“It’s your time” A Spring Game Preview



“It’s your time.” The phone call that Jawon Pass received from Coach Petrino just a few months ago when Lamar Jackson decided to take his game to the NFL. The end of another great quarterback era in Louisville… The end of our first Heisman Trophy winner’s reign… The end to one of the most entertaining college athletes to ever spin across the gridiron. The man who gave us some of the most memorable wins in our program’s history. But all great things must come to an end, and instead of being sad or hopeless we should be excited to see what the future holds.

Our future is bright at Louisville, from a great player stepping up at quarterback that has now had years of experience under a Heisman winning quarterback, too upperclassmen in key positions at receiver, linebacker, and safety. So what do we expect to see at the Spring Game on Saturday?

First off, I was lucky enough to watch Jawon play in high school at Carver in Georgia when Louisville played Auburn in Atlanta in 2015. The Man was amazing to watch as a high school player. He brought a spark to the field that reminds me of Lamar. I am extremely excited to see him take a team that is 100% his now and see what he is capable of early on before the season starts. He is a playmaker that is more than capable of making plays in the air or on the ground. He may not be as fast as Lamar, but running a 4.5 40 yard dash I think he is more than capable on the ground. He can air it out and punish a secondary in the blink of an eye. Jawon will be an amazing player to watch develop in the offseason and through the season, and I’m happy to say I think he will make a great impact on our team.

Another key area to watch is our Receiver stable. Senior Jaylen Smith, Redshirt sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick, and sophomore Josh Johnson are a talented core of receivers that are expected to be at the top of the depth chart as of now. Jaylen Smith is a proven player that has put up nearly 1000 yards (980) and 60 catches in 10 games last year. Smith missed the first practice of the season to an undisclosed injury but we are hoping to see him lead the receiver core Saturday as one of the only expected seniors on offense expected to start as of now.

At tight end, we are used to hearing the name Crum a 5th-year senior, but we may need to get used to hearing Kemari Averett much more. Averett a Sophmore is expected to be the starting tight end on paper, but expect to see Crum have plenty of playing time as with Jordan Davis. Switching up tight ends have become a major part of the offense in today’s football, and with the mindset of Coach P, the options are endless.

At running back with the loss of seniors Reggie Bonnafon, Jeremy Smith, and Malik Williams expect to see Dae Williams, R-Sophmore, Colin Wilson, Sophmore, and Trey Smith, R-Junior all take handoffs from Pass in the spring game. Much in the running back is up in the air as of now, but expect by the time we step on the field with Alabama it to be figured out.

Stacy Thomas is a major loss for us at Linebacker, but I expect to see 5th year senior Isaac Stewart (OLB), Freshman Robert Hicks (MLB), and sophomore Dorian Etheridge(OLB) step up. Having Stewart as a 5th year senior on the field behind the d line is a great contribution and should pay off well with the other young linebackers.

To be completely honest, Cornerback is where I’m the most fearful with our team. We are extremely thin at CB and with little to go off of, the spring game will be a big stage to see how the positions are covered. Expect redshirt sophomore Rodjay Burns, and redshirt sophomore P.J. Mbanasor to lead the depth chart for us in CB. As I said, this is a major area to keep eyes on Saturday.

Senior Dee Smith and sophomore C.J. Avery head up our safety positions. Smith had an excellent season last year, and an amazing bowl game. We have recruited well for the safety position so it is a possibility to see Blue, Character and Trenell Troutman. Marion Character was a huge ju-co pickup for us so I expect to see great things from him. When TreSean Smith returns from offseason knee surgery he could take the Starting spot from Avery as well, but time will tell.

As far as special teams go, we return all kickers from a good lineup last year. As far as returners, your guess is as good as mine. It is very likely to see multiple players plugged into returning positions so another thing to keep an eye on.

All in all the game Friday should be a great game, and a much-needed dose of football we all crave as Louisville fans. There are some positions that could come to light and make things much more clear after Friday. I hope to see all players play excellent and to see some youth step up.

As always #L1C4 and #gocards

Maxwell Bird

Louisville National Signing Day Party 2018 “Speed City”



It was a great evening out at the 2018 Signing Day Party. There was a pretty good crowd of die-hard football fans as Coach Petrino and his Coaching staff introduced and talked about some of the newest Cardinals. I have really enjoyed these events over the years. You get a chance to see the personality of the Coaching staff and get an in-depth look at the new players.

Coach Petrino opened the show talking about his commitment to the University and to the city of Louisville. He emphasized how much that this program means to him. And I think this 2018 Recruiting Class is an example of that. Coach Petrino and his staff logged thousands of hours and thousands of miles to lock down what might be the best recruiting class in program history.

This Louisville Class didn’t get much love in the final team rankings finishing #28 in ESPN, #30 in Rivals, #29 in 247Sports and #29 in Scout. But adding 10 Four Star athletes will not go unnoticed. This class has a lot of versatility and speed. They will be able to move a lot of these guys around to find out how to best utilize their abilities. If you are a wrestling fan then you’ve heard of Suplex City tonight Coach Petrino dubbed this bunch Speed City. There are six guys in this group that run the 100 meters in under 10.8 seconds.

Here’s what ESPN says about this group:

I really like this recruiting class. Two of the most important things in College Football are Size and Speed. This class has both. There is a lot for the Coaching staff to work with here and I can’t wait to see some of how they do that during the Spring Workouts. Congrats to Coach Petrino and his staff for reaping some of the reward for their work. They did real good here…

Here is some Video from the Signing Day Party

-Coach Petrino Intro

-Coach Petrino talks about Hassan Hall, and Yasir Abdullah at Signing Day Party 2018. #SpeedCity

-Coach Kolby Smith talks about Javian Hawkins & Marcus Rikey at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Lorenzo Ward talks Telly Plummer, Trenell Troutman, & Boosie Whitlow at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Klenakis talks about Rodjay Burns at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Summers talks about Adonis Boone & Dejmi Dummervil-Jean at 2018 Signing Day Party

-New DC Brian VanGorder talks Thurman Geathers, & Allen Love at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Nick Petrino talks Jordan Travis & Tyler Harrell at 2018 Signing Day Party

-New Coach Grady Brown talks PJ Mbanasor & Marlon Character Jr. at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Ryan Beard talks Robert Hicks & Quen Head at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Galloway talks Jatavious Harris & Chatarius Atwell Jr at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach Brian VanGorder talks Chandler Jones & Jared Goldwire at 2018 Signing Day Party

-Coach L.D. Scott talks Jarrett Jackson & Mike Boykin at 2018 Signing Day Party

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!