College Gameday: She stole my heart, they stole my wallet, and Clemson stole our thunder


Me and my beautiful wife celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary at the big game on Saturday. She spent her day following me around in the smoldering heat so I could get video for the Cardinal’s Beak Fan Page and so I could enjoy the big moment. (She really doesn’t like sports) But she knew how excited I was and felt that buzz all week at our house. I don’t think there was one day that I didn’t have on my Louisville gear.

I don’t think that I’ve ever been so excited for a game and the folks in the local media did a remarkable job of building up the hype. It was wall to wall coverage all week and Louisville social media was fully engaged. When ESPN College Gameday comes to town it is a happening and has become one of the great phenomenon’s in college sports especially College Football. The day was going to be incredible right…

It did get off to a good start… It was awesome taking in all the sights and sounds on and around 2800 South Floyd Street. My son really enjoyed listening to the DJ at one of our tailgate stops and even my wife started to have some fun after a great meal and beverages at the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe. Yes, I even had her on board now for what was going to be a great game. This was going to be the perfect night. My Cardinals were going to finally beat Clemson on the National stage and vault into the playoff picture. It was all happening…

As we approached the gates at Papa John’s Stadium I was thinking in my mind how the day couldn’t have been any better and I was happy that my wife was having fun. I couldn’t wait to get to our seats and watch this game. I just knew that the Cardinals were going to win and I envisioned how it was going to look as fans flooded the field afterwards.

We made it inside and you could feel the energy of the crowd. One last pit stop before we headed to our seats. My late father always told me to put my wallet in my front pocket when I was in a crowd and as I was walking out of the restroom I reached for my wallet to do just that. “Oh Shit! My wallet it’s gone”, I grabbed my sons hand and run back in the bathroom frantically looking to see if it had fell out there. It had not. My wallet was gone. Credit Cards, Social Security Card, Bank Cards, driver’s license and about 20 checks all gone.

Losing my wallet made me feel horrible but the anxiety of having to tell my wife about it was much worse. This was her night too… she had finally bought in and was ready to have a great time… as she came out of the women’s restroom she had a big smile on her face ready to do just that. What happened next threw an atomic bomb on the whole day. I told my wife about the wallet, and we spent the first 30 minutes of the game in the breezeway calling credit card companies, and banks… it was horrible.

There was 9 minutes left in the first quarter and I hadn’t seen live football yet. Then it happened. It was like a call to arms when the train horn finally sounded and the score was 7-7. We agreed to fight on and try to salvage something of the night if not for ourselves at least for our son. And hey our Cardinals were in this thing…

The Cardinals defense was battling and would hold Clemson to just 3 field goals on their next six possessions… The score was 19-7 as the second half started. My family and I were rejuvenated and came out of our seats when safety London Iakopo sacked Clemson QB Kelly Bryant for a 9-yard loss to force a punt on their first possession to start the second half. I just knew that would be the spark the Louisville offense needed to get it going. My Cardinals were going to win this game and were going to save my night.

High fives and smiles everywhere in our section. Let’s get Lamar Jackson the ball and let him work his magic. My phone started buzzing in my pocket. I was getting some type of notification I looked down and it was my credit card apps informing me that someone was attempting to use my cards. Target 250.00, Wal-Mart 300.00, Hertz rental 500.00… “ugh not this shit, not right now”… then just as soon as I looked back up towards the field Clemson LB Dorian O’Daniel snatched the Lamar Jackson pass from the air like those thieves did my wallet.

Things started to unravel from that moment on and the thunder that this team had all week was gone, what air was left in the Louisville defense was finally gone, the excitement in Papa John’s Stadium gone and any hope I had of salvaging this day was gone.

As far as my assessment of the game: The defense has been beat up by everyone over the last couple of days but they didn’t quit. Guys like Iakopo and Jon Greenard were out there flying around and making big plays. I really like Greenard. We need more guys on this defense like him. He communicates, is active and knows where the play is going every time. And we’ve got to get our All-American Jaire Alexander back. I’m still confident that Coach Sirmon can get these guys playing at a high level, but we also need the personnel. Recruiting will help that down the road. But for this season to be a success we’ve got to have some guys step up. Guys like Drew Bailey who had nine tackles to end last season against LSU but has yet to show up this season.

I don’t think the Louisville offense showed up at all… They were outclassed and outplayed by the Clemson defense. I know that there are several future NFL players on the Clemson defensive unit but that should have made our guys step it up even more just to prove that they could play with the best. They did not. I didn’t like the comment from Coach Petrino Monday about his guys not having the confidence to beat a Clemson. What the hell is that?

The one thing that Coach Strong established again quickly when he took over was confidence. During his time at Louisville he had his team’s believing they could play and beat anybody and anywhere. His teams were world beaters. We’ve got to get that confidence back. I’ve seen the Cardinals finish just one season with that type of confidence since Coach Petrino’s return. The 2015 group that won 6 of the last seven games including that big win against A&M in the Bowl game. That group finished as world beaters. Hey Coach Petrino stop giving me excuses and give me some more of that.

As far as my 11th wedding anniversary… It was messy but isn’t that what marriage is all about. Coming together to solve problems that this life throws at us. She was there patting me on the back when my Cardinals lost and we worked together in our time of crisis and kept things moving forward. It was a crappy night but I’m thankful to have spent it with such an amazing person.

The next two weeks will be great rehab for a Louisville team and fan base that had the wind knocked out of them. There are two very winnable games coming up at Papa John’s Stadium. It will give the team a chance to heal up, work some young guys in, and work on things on both sides of the ball. And it will give fans a chance to feel good again. These next two weeks are important and could determine how the rest of the season goes. It’s not going to get any easier with a trip to NC State and Florida State left.

Here’s hoping for a better trip to Louisville the next time around. And watch your wallets folks!

Go Cards!

Cards “Ring The Bell” In Chapel Hill


The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is a staple on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Each hour of the day the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower rings to remind their students and faculty of the generosity of two families associated with the university since its earliest days. On Saturday, it was the Cardinals Football team who were ringing a bell of their own.

This summer in the Louisville weight room is where this Cardinal’s Football team put in the heavy lifting for this season. When they reached a new level, they got to ring the bell. Saturday when Lamar Jackson muscled thru the UNC defensive line to score a touchdown, when Seth Dawkins manhandled a UNC defensive back with that stiff arm to get a first down, when Malik Williams rumbled for those extra yards and the offensive line held those blocks late in the 4th quarter it was all a result of the hard work these guys put into that weight room. Strength and Conditioning Director Joe Miday and assistant Director Scott Wilks have said that the weight room bell is a privilege and that these guys must earn the right to ring that bell with their performance in the weight room and on the field. I think that there are some players who earned the right to ring that bell yesterday.

It all starts with Lamar Jackson. Folks what else is left to say about this young man? Late in the third quarter Jackson had accounted for 375 of the team’s 454 yards. By the end of the third quarter he had accounted for 82.6% of the total yardage. And this year that involves him using his arm and getting his teammates involved. He has completed passes to 9 different receivers (WR, TE, & RB) in each of the first two games. When he did run he ran with a purpose. Today he fought thru two of UNC’s best defensive linemen on the goal line for a score. You probably won’t hear much from some of the national sports folks. They’ll be too busy eating crow to comment on the performance of number 8. He had 525 total yards and six touchdowns. Lamar Jackson is a better football player this season and against a veteran UNC defense he proved that he is still the best football player in the country.

The Louisville wide receivers have given themselves the nickname “Breadwinner’s”. Very fitting because these guys are going to be cashing some big checks someday.

All 6 feet 3 of Seth Dawkins was on display Saturday. He worked his tail off trying to get open and that effort was good enough for 45 yards with his biggest play coming on a 21-yard reception late in the fourth quarter when Dawkins stiff armed his way to a first down when the Cards needed it the most.

I don’t think that Devante Parker could have picked a better person himself to wear that #9 jersey. Jaylen Smith has stepped up and taken over where the guys before him left off. He has emerged as Jackson’s main target. And yes, I see some of that same chemistry that Teddy and Devante had. Smith is one of the premiere revivers not only in ACC but in college football. Today he had nine catches for a career-high 183 yards and a score. When this team needs answers, Smith comes thru with the big catch. He has done that for two games now.

And what about Dez Fitzpatrick… last week he breaks out with a big score and this week follows that up with 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. This young man is another guy who is stepping up in clutch situations and making big plays for this football team. It’s not an easy thing to make the transition to big time college football and only a select few can do that in their first season. Dez Fitzpatrick is doing that.

Remember when I said last week in my post-game summary that this Louisville team needed a running game. Well they might have found it yesterday. Malik Williams became the first running back in several games to rush for more yards than Lamar Jackson. Williams had 149 yards with a 74-yard run late in the 4th quarter to help the Cardinals secure a victory. And several times Williams fought for the extra yards to get those late first downs. Saturday afternoon he established himself as the number 1 guy heading into the game with Clemson. For this Louisville team to take it to that next level it needed to find a running game. Williams could be the guy to help them do that.

No unit in the Louisville Program has received more criticism than the guys on the offensive line. Even after they showed some improvement last week they still had their naysayers. I couldn’t be happier with this group after Saturday. They minimized the penalties, gave Lamar a clean pocket for most of the game and held their blocks late in the 4th quarter that allowed for that Williams 74-yard run to help seal the victory. The Louisville offensive line has taken a beating but yesterday they gave one out.

There are still some growing pains with the Louisville defense and they had some of those head scratching moments Saturday. There were some guys who stood out in this group. Dorian Etheridge led this unit with 8 tackles, Ronald Walker stepped up again in the absence of Alexander with 7 tackles, Zykiesis Cannon took off where he left last week with 5 tackles and Trevon Young in his second game back with 5 tackles. I said last week that these guys would keep improving as the season went on and I still believe that. There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball folks.

Our Cardinals are 2-0 and Saturday they answered a lot of those questions that were surrounding the team after game one and there were no turnovers and only one false start. Yesterday was a big step forward for this group and a true team effort. They did ring the bell. Things are going in the right direction and they’ll need it with a big game against Clemson looming. I was cautiously optimistic after game one. After week two I’m just very optimistic. Can’t wait until the next one… Go Cards!

This Cardinal Fan Is Happy to be 1-0


(Photo courtesy UofL)


Weeks and weeks of anticipation came to a head on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis. It all started with a great Tailgate party thrown by the Petrino Family Foundation & J Wagner Group in the shadows of Lucas Oil Stadium. It was just the kind of buildup and atmosphere you’d want before a game. And for the first game it was just perfect. After our day of tailgating concluded we made our way to our seats to finally cheer on our Cardinals Football team in their first game of the season.

I don’t think this game got the buildup it deserved from a National standpoint but local media and Cardinal fans knew exactly what it meant for the two head coaches facing each other for the first time on opposite sidelines. Coach Petrino joked in his pre-game press conference earlier in the week that the last time he had seen the Purdue coaching staff was at his daughter’s wedding this summer. It was probably all smiles that day but Jeff Brohm and his staff weren’t going to give any gifts to Coach Petrino or his Cardinals on Saturday night.

I think folks underestimated and are probably still underestimating just how much the familiarity between these head coaches effected the game. Nobody in the country knows Coach Petrino better. Purdue’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Nick Holt served as the defensive coordinator for Coach Petrino at Western Kentucky in 2013. That means he faced the Petrino offensive every day in practice. The familiarity was so intense that Coach Petrino had his staff making a box around him holding up signs to hide his signals. But even through that adversity our Cardinals would prevail over Purdue. It was far from a stellar performance from the home team but there were a lot of positives to build on moving forward.

Now about the game…

All off-season Lamar Jackson has been disregarded and in some cases disrespected by some of the sports media folks. But last night they got their first chance to eat some of those words. Yea he was 30 of 46 with 378 yards through the air along with 2 touchdowns and 107 yards on the ground but he also showed in his first game of the season that he wants to be more than just a one-dimensional quarterback. He showed great command in the pocket “when there was one” and made what I thought were some great passes in clutch situations. Lamar looked poised even when things weren’t going well. He completed passes to 9 different receivers and showed command of the offense. I couldn’t wait to see Lamar 2.0 and I like what I seen.

You could say that it was in the Cards that Jaylen Smith and Seth Dawkins were going to be guys who would step up to fill the void left at the wide receiver spot from the departures. And sure enough these guys combined for 173 yards of offense. I don’t think too many folks expected the kind of game we seen out of redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick. This young man caught the game winning score and had 95 total yards of offense. He made some great catches and was clutch. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Fitzpatrick. He and Jackson showed some great chemistry in the passing game. This young wide receiving corps for the Cardinals has me excited about the season.

Something I’m not so excited about is the Louisville run game. Anytime that Bobby Petrino has been real successful he’s had a solid run game. For this season to be a success the Cardinals are going to have to find one. Back during Spring ball, I thought we had our man when I was watching big Dae Williams busting through the pile, but then he goes down with a knee injury leaving this team still searching for that guy. The Cardinals had 146 yards on the ground on Saturday night but only 41 yards came from running backs Reggie Bonnafon and Jeremy Smith. Hope someone develops at this spot and fast or it could cause some problems. Especially down the road.

To have a solid run game you must have an effective offensive line. Another part of this team that has garnered some concern. After game one I do see some promise and do think that Coach Summers has this group going in the right direction. To their credit Lamar wasn’t sacked one time and there didn’t seem to be one time where this unit completely broke down like we seen last year. There were a few false starts but overall it was a disciplined effort I thought. I’m not going to keep beating these guys up. They earned some optimism last night.

Last night was the official start of the Coach Sirmon era at Louisville. I have been so excited to see how the defense would look. Just as I expected they were very active and flying around all over the field. They held a Purdue offense that before Brohm was built for the Big 10 style run game to just 51 yards. And held a Brohm led offense to just 344 total yards. That’s about 200 under his average. They got off the field on third downs only giving up 5 of 14 conversion attempts, had 4 sacks, and had 3 interceptions. Overall this group looked pretty good I’d say. They will only get better.

There were some great standouts on Saturday night. Big kudos to Ronald Walker who stepped up like a boss when All-American Jaire Alexander went out with a leg injury. Walker had 6 tackles. Speaking of Alexander, it’s being reported today that he will be fine and that it was not a significant injury. Great News! Zykiesis Cannon was in beast mode on Saturday night with 9 tackles. These guys are going to have a big season. Chucky Williams had 6 tackles along with the victory sealing interception late in the 4th quarter. And there were other guys like Stacy Thomas (6 tackles) who stepped up and made plays. I think these guys are playing loose and are as active as I’ve seen in a few seasons.

Yesterday was a great day. The tailgating, the atmosphere and the game were all great. Considering all the factors I’m very satisfied and happy that my team is 1-0 to start the College Football season. There is a lot of work to be be done but after game one I feel like we have the coaching staff and the players to get it done. My hats off to Coach Jeff Brohm and his staff for giving the Cardinals a great battle. Purdue is on its way up and they have a team this year that could win some games. I know I will be cheering for those guys to succeed. They were Louisville First and will be Cardinals Forever.

Another Big Thursday Night Game for the Cards


Louisville is no stranger to Thursday night football, and has used the weekday games to help propel the program onto the national scene. There have been some of those Thursday night games that have had major implications to the Cards post season. This week marks the ten year anniversary of the Thursday night Jeremy Ito kicked a 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to lift No. 15 Rutgers to a 28-25 Big East Conference victory over No. 3 Louisville. That loss most would argue knocked Louisville out of their first chance to play for a National Championship. You can bet that Coach Petrino and Louisville fans have thought about that night many times. With another big Thursday night game looming it to could have major implications on the Cardinals post season playoff hopes.

On Thursday night Louisville will visit Houston to play the Cougars in what should be a very competitive game. This will be the 17th meeting between these teams with the series tied at 8-8. The Houston Cougars are 8-2 (5-2) this season after beating Tulane by a score of 30-18 in their last game. Houston hasn’t been the team that most expected them to be this season after their big win over Oklahoma but make no mistake about it they are very good. Last year Houston’s season was highlighted by their big win against the Cardinals in Louisville. This game has been labeled as their Super Bowl by several pundits.

With Houston it starts at the top with their head Coach Tom Herman and his staff. Last season I covered the game between Louisville and Houston and spent some time observing the Houston side line. They have a very young and energetic staff and that funnels down through their team. They have struggled at times this season but that competitiveness has been their one constant. The Cougars have always been known for their explosive offenses and that legacy has only improved with Herman. Offensively the Cougars are going to come from all directions and are averaging 37.6 points per game with 168.6 rushing yards and 283.8 passing yards per game. They have scored 26 touchdowns on the ground and 17 touchdowns through the air.

Leading this Cougar offense is a very athletic and talented QB Greg Ward Jr. Ward is completing 68.5% of his passes for 2608 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 8 interception this season. He leads the Cougars rushing attack with 429 yards and 9 touchdowns. Houston also features two very solid RB’s in Duke Catalon (411 yards, 2 touchdowns), and Dillon Birden (277 yards, 6 touchdowns). Ward’s favorite targets through the air are WR’s Linell Bonner (774 yards, 2 touchdowns), Chance Allen (637 yards, 3 touchdowns), and Steven Dunbar (585 yards, 5 touchdowns). One of Herman’s best attributes is how he utilizes his talent in his spread offense and this group has embraced that.

Trying to stop Houston’s very aggressive style of offense is a Louisville defense that has been very consistent this season. Defensively, the Cardinals have moved up to sixth in the country in rushing defense, yielding only 102.7 yards per game and are tied (Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan) for the national lead by allowing just three rushing touchdowns all season. Louisville is also #6 in 3rd down conversion defense, #7 in yards allowed per pass attempt and #10 in sack yards. Louisville hasn’t permitted a touchdown on the ground in the last 22 quarters (since the second stanza versus Clemson.) They are ranked #6 in total defense. There have been different guys stepping up each week on this defense. Keith Kelsey has led the Louisville defense with 68 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, while Stacy Thomas has added 58 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. Last week DeVonte Fields got back to his dominating ways. This is a promising sign as the Cardinals are going to need him down the stretch.

Lamar Jackson got his first college start against the Houston Cougars last season but ended up being replaced by Kyle Bolin after he and the offense struggled. This time around things are a little different. Louisville has the #1 scoring offense averaging 49.6 points per game with 270 rushing yards and 313.2 passing yards per game. Jackson is completing 58.6% of his passes for 2898 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions for Louisville. Jackson has added 1334 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. This Louisville offense has many weapons and can attack on every level. Houston ranks #41 in the country in passing yards allowed. Look for the Cardinals WR’s to play a big role in the game on Thursday night. Leading this group is four guys well over 400 yards in receiving James Quick (608 yards, 6 touchdowns), Jamari Staples (585 yards, 2 touchdowns), Cole Hikutini (526 yards, 6 touchdowns), and Jaylen Smith (487 yards, 6 touchdowns).

Speaking of the Houston defense they are giving up 21.3 points per game with 92.8 rushing yards and 210.5 passing yards per game. The backbone of this defense is the defensive line and their line-backers. Up front they have maybe one of the best interior lineman in the country in Ed Oliver who has 55 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He is tied for 6th in the country in tackles for loss per game. LB Matthew Adams has 55 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. While LB Steven Taylor has 50 tackles, and 6 sacks. Houston’s defensive front really has some nice size and these guys get to the ball. With Louisville needing to attack their weak secondary it will be a busy night for the Cards offensive line giving Jackson time to do so.

To say I’m a bit nervous about this Thursday night game would be an understatement. I know a playoff spot is pretty much still a long shot at this point but I really would like to see the Cardinals compete for that spot all the way to the end. A loss to Houston would completely derail any outside shot at playing for a National Title and send the Cardinals plummeting down in the polls. This game will be Houston’s BCS Bowl game. They are looking to make a late season statement themselves and perhaps looking for a bit of redemption after losing a few games. I think that Houston will ride the emotion of their crowd and the hype surrounding this game. I look for them to keep it close and for this game to be a battle. But ultimately big games are decided by great players. I think our O’s are much better than their X’s, and we have the best offensive player in college football on our sideline. Big Thursday night games have served as the ultimate proving ground for Louisville Football. It’s time to show the nation once again that we belong. Go Cards!

Not Just Another Gameday


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. On Saturday 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. Two games define the story between these teams. Clemson has beat the Cardinals in both meetings but it has been competitive. The Cardinals have had their introduction to Death Valley but have yet to see just how daunting Memorial Stadium can be at night. With ESPN’s College Gameday in town they will have their biggest, and rowdiest crowd of the season. If the Cardinals are to reach the summit of the ACC they will have to survive Death Valley.

Not only will the Cardinals have to face one of the most intimidating venues in college football they’ll be playing a pretty good team as well. Dabo Swinney has a roster loaded with talent, speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. Leading the Clemson offense is QB Deshaun Watson. He is a very gifted athlete and can hurt you with his arm or his legs. He has completed 60% of his passes this season for 996 yards and 9 touchdowns. He is second on the team with 120 yards rushing. Watson is the big game kind of player and he will be the toughest QB that this Louisville defense will face all season.

This Clemson offense is very pass oriented. They have 1,172 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. They spread the ball around and they have 10 guys who have 40 receiving yards or more. They also have 8 guys who have caught at least one touchdown pass. Watson’s favorite targets are Mike Williams (303 yards, 1 touchdown), Ray-Ray McCloud (255 yards, 2 touchdowns), and Artavis Scott (143 yards). McCloud hauled in eight balls for 101 yards against Georgia Tech last week and this group had 442 yards through the air against the Yellow Jackets. The Louisville secondary will face a tall task.

The Tigers rushing attack hasn’t been as effective as their passing game this season. The Clemson rushing attack has accounted for 638 yards total with 4 touchdowns. In comparison Lamar Jackson has 526 yards and Brandon Radcliff has 427 yards rushing this season. Clemson’s leading rusher is Wayne Gallman. He has 256 yards with 3 touchdowns this season. Last week he was held to just 56 yards.

You can’t mention this Clemson offense without talking about their offensive line. They were picked by several outlets to be one of the top units in the country this season. Last season the Tigers O-line, which had been overhauled ranked No. 19 in fewest sacks allowed and were No. 21 in rushing. This group has allowed three sacks and the rushing game is averaging about 4.2 yards a carry through 4 games this season. I don’t think that’s what most expected out of this unit at this point but they are a capable bunch.

Clemson backs up a very talented offense with a defense that is 5th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 11 points per game and a total defense that is ranked third, allowing 218.5 yards per game. Clemson is also second in pass efficiency defense and second in yards per play allowed (3.41). Leading this group up front is D-Linemen Christian Wilkins (18 tackles, 2 sacks), Carlos Watkins (10 tackles, 3 sacks), and Scott Pagano (7 tackles, 1 sack). A secondary thought by many to be a weak spot in this defense has started to gel after returning one starter from last season. Leading this unit is DB Ryan Carter (7 tackles, 1 sack), Safety Jadar Johnson (11 tackles), and Safety Van Smith (24 tackles). He had 14 tackles against Troy.

This Louisville Football team has taken the college football world by storm and it’s hard to picture the Clemson defense being able to completely stop the Cardinals attack. Lamar Jackson is the best player in college football, and if teams find a way to slow him down they still won’t be able to stop him in my opinion. A big reason why is the weapons he has around him.

The Cardinal offense is a balanced attack with 1,273 yards rushing and 1,455 yards receiving. Brandon Radcliff is having a career season himself with 427 yards and 3 touchdowns in the rushing attack. James Quick (360 yards, 3 touchdowns), Jamari Staples (313 yards), Jaylen Smith (202 yards, 2 touchdowns), Cole Hikutini (177 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Traveon Samuel (77 yards, 1 touchdown) lead one of the best receiving groups in the country. I look for Cole Hikutini to have a big game and think that Jamari Staples has his biggest game of the season on Saturday.

It is becoming a cliché this season to say that it all boils down to how well the offensive line performs. So far the Louisville offensive line has gotten the job done. They did take a few steps back last week and at times got beat up by a very good Marshall front. The Clemson group they will face on Saturday won’t be as good but will be another tough challenge. I know Coach Klenakis coached up his guys in the film room this past week and he will have them ready.

The Louisville defense will have their hands full all night long with Watson and company. Especially in the first quarter of the game. The Clemson crowd will be electric and I know that the Clemson players are going to feed off of that energy. If they make a few big plays on the Cardinals defense early on then it could spell trouble. If the Cardinals defense is able to stop that initial burst and take the crowd out early it will change the complexion of this game. Players like Josh Harvey-Clemons, Devonte Fields, Keith Kelsey, and James Hearns are players who love big moments. These guys will be ready for this challenge. Zykeisis Cannon recorded a career-high nine tackles last week and I look for him to have a big follow up.

There will be a lot on the line on Saturday night. A Cardinal win will cement their membership into the ACC giving them their 1st legitimate shot at a conference championship. A win would all but guarantee a 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 Death Valley on a Saturday night in October. Winning games like this on the road puts a college football program in a different conversation. I’m ready to have those conversations. Go Cards!

incREDible


If you asked someone to describe the game Saturday you probably heard the word speechless. And immediately following the game that’s how I felt about what I had just experienced. After having some time to reflect I’m still left with just one word. IncREDible!

-incREDible Conference

I remember how excited I was back in July of 2014 when the University of Louisville was officially welcomed into the ACC. I knew that it would be transformational for the athletic program. I also knew that it would really benefit the Louisville Football program in a big way. Over the last three seasons we’ve seen first-hand how impactful the move to the ACC has been. That magical day inside Notre Dame Stadium during the 2014 season and the FSU game yesterday are two of the biggest moments ever and I don’t think either happens if we aren’t in the ACC.

Just because a College program is given a platform to succeed doesn’t mean that it will. It still takes a great administration, great student athletes and great fans. The University of Louisville football program has taken full advantage of the opportunity. On Saturday Louisville was the epicenter of College Football. All eyes were watching as the administration showed off our first class facilities, and as a record number of Cardinal fans showed up to cheer for their team. The nation also watched the Louisville football players outshine those red chrome helmets as they beat traditional powerhouse Florida State.

-incREDible administration

There is a lot that goes into having a college football game especially when hosting the nation’s premier college football pre-game show. We have the best athletic director and SID in the country. Tom Jurich and Kenny Klein are the example of excellence in their profession and their leadership reflects in their staff. They know how to put on a first class event like yesterday and make it special. I want to give Kudos to Tom Jurich and his staff on the Muhammad Ali tribute. I really thought it set the mood inside the stadium. From the inspirational intro to start the game to the half-time dedication. The pride Ali had for his hometown echoed yesterday in all of us.

The hospitality and the catering inside the Louisville press box is second to none. You might get popcorn and a hot-dog if covering a game at most stadiums in the country, but at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium it’s sliced prime rib. I want to give Kudos to Kenny Klein and his staff for showing the National Media Saturday that the University of Louisville knows how to be a winner on and off the field. Anyone in the media who experienced it on Saturday will want to come back and look forward to it. You don’t have a day like Saturday without the hard work of Tom, Kenny and their staff.

-incREDible Coaching

Bobby Petrino and his staff are among the best in the country. They have built upon the winning culture re-established by Charlie Strong and taken it to the next level. Coach Petrino’s play calling yesterday was superb. He had the FSU defense on their heels all day and hung the highest point total ever (63) on the FSU program. A “methodical dismantling” is how one Florida journalist described it.

And how about the job Coach Klenakis has done? He has had the toughest job rebuilding the offensive line but has got it done. His guys protected Lamar Jackson yesterday and gave him time to complete 13 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown. They also opened up running lanes big enough for him to get into open field where he cut, spin and dashed for 146 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Cardinals rushed for 314 yards total behind the Louisville offensive line and they only allowed one sack on their QB. I said in my pregame article that big football games are won in the trenches and that Saturday was the proving ground for the Louisville offensive line. They got it done.

Coach Grantham has built one of the most versatile defenses in the country. He’s got guys that he can move around and come at opposing offenses from every angle. His group held one of the best running backs in the country Dalvin Cook to just 54 yards. The Louisville defense held one of the most explosive offenses in the country to just 284 yards of total offense. They also held them to just 20 points. It was really 10 because Coach Grantham pulled most of his starters in the second half.

I listened to the post game show on 790am on the ride home Saturday. Howie Lindsey called-in to the radio show and was telling a story about how he witnessed Coach Grantham getting all over one of the second string guys after giving up that late FSU score. It’s that kind of coaching, discipline and demand for perfection that has put the Louisville program in position to win big games like they did Saturday.

-incREDible Players

You can’t use the word incredible when describing Saturday without mentioning the incredible play of Lamar Jackson. He clearly put himself in position to win the Heisman Trophy with 362 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. He did it all while facing one of the best defenses in the country. Jackson epitomizes program changer and he has put this Louisville team and program on his back.

Brandon Radcliff has been described by coaches as one of the hardest working guys on the football field. The guy has so much passion for what he does and for the team he does it for. In my opinion Brandon had the best game of his career yesterday and out staged Dalvin Cook big time with 118 yards and a touchdown. I was great seeing this young man succeed in such a big game.

On a day where Louisville celebrated and honored one of the greatest hometown athletes ever it was another hometown athlete who was catching big passes and moving the chains. James Quick had 122 yards receiving and was a top target for Jackson all day. His best play came on a reception that he completed after the ball bounced off the leg of a defender. Quick made athletic catches all day but that one really stood out to me,and showed just how focused he was. I know that he was proud to represent his city yesterday in such a big way.

I was very critical of Josh Harvey-Clemson last year and felt that at times he took plays off. But yesterday he was one of the hardest working guys on the defense. He was flying around all over the field making big plays. And talk about versatile. I watched him play line-backer and safety yesterday getting 8 tackles and a sack. He was a big key in keeping FSU from ever gaining any momentum and helped keep QB Deondre Francois from getting into any kind of rhythm. If he keeps playing like he did Saturday Harvey-Clemons will hear his name called in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.

One of the most electrifying punt returners in the country was on display Saturday. They didn’t have any answers for him. FSU’s special teams allowed Jaire Alexander to return two punts for 139 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown. Alexander is a special athlete with exceptional speed and his field vision along with his instincts are next level. He was fun to watch.

I mentioned the stand out performers but every guy in a Louisville uniform helped pull off the biggest win in program history. They are a focused bunch and that showed in their performance. You don’t have days like Saturday without great players and this Louisville team has them from the top to the bottom of the depth chart. Maybe the best depth chart ever.

-incREDible Fans

Mark Ennis of Card Chronicle mentioned last week that the national media would be surprised to learn that every Louisville fan wrote for some kind of Louisville blog. It’s true and I’m one of them. That is one thing that proves just how much interest and passion that Louisville fans have in the Louisville athletic program.

The Cardinal Nation set a new attendance record on Saturday and I think that all 55,632 of them were tailgating at 7:00am. Some were even out tailgating on Friday. I want to give kudos to the guys at the Red Rage Tailgate for showing the nation just how well we do it in Louisville. Those guys are some of the most passionate among us and their love for Louisville football inspired the ESPN College Gameday folks so much that they did some live spots from their gathering. You guys are awesome!

The Card March was the best one I’ve ever seen. Thousands of Cardinal fans lined up at 9:30 am in the rain to welcome the football team. And when it was time for kickoff every fan was in their seat and that stadium was rocking. I know there wasn’t a person in my section who sat down. We stood up through the whole game. And I think I gave high fives to all of my new friends in section 112.

The atmosphere in and around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was surreal. The roller coasters are across the street at the fairgrounds, but the Game day experience on Floyd Street Saturday was one of the greatest thrill rides I’ve ever been on in my life. You the fans made that possible. Thank you!

CARD MARCH FSU GAME

-incREDible Day

It was a huge day for the University of Louisville and I couldn’t be happier for our student athletes, administration, and coaches. They are the ones who put in the time and the effort to make Saturday possible. But I’m also very happy for Cardinal Fans. They are the ones who spend their money to go to the games, they are the ones who buy Cardinal merchandise, and they are the ones who have stayed loyal through thick and thin.

I sat by a guy in section 112 that had been a fan for 50 years. He talked about how he had sit through some stinkers and was just amazed to be watching just how far the program had come. The enthusiasm and passion of Cardinal Nation is second to none and they deserve the best. They deserved Saturday.

It was an incredible day and one that I will share with my grandchildren. Telling stories about how I watched our first Heisman Trophy winner lead the Cardinals to the biggest regular season win in program history. (Because by then we will have won a National Title). It was great being there to see the program take the next step. No doubt that we are on that prophetic “collision course”.

Can we do it all again real soon? Go Cards!

Cards Take Care of Business


For months we’ve been talking about, analyzing, and breaking down the start of Louisville Football. The wait was finally over Thursday night as over 50,000 fans (15th largest) piled into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the start of the 2016 season. It was a great crowd and it’s great to see a full house on a Thursday night. The Cardinals did not let this great crowd down and provided a lot of action on both sides of the ball. In a 70-14 lopsided win the Cardinals took care of business and did what they were supposed to.

Lamar Jackson finished last season getting his name in the NCAA record books by running and passing for over 200 yards in a Bowl game. On Thursday night he starts the 2016 season by etching his name in the Louisville record books now the program record holder for most touchdowns in a single game (8) and most touchdown passes in a single game (6). It was also mentioned by ESPN that he is the first player to have 6 passing touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns in the 1st half in the modern era.

Jackson ended last season with everyone talking and now starts this season with everyone talking. He even had an impromptu interview on Sports Center after the game. During the Louisville post-game Lamar Jackson wasn’t worried about any of the hyperbole. He was happy that his team won and happy that he was able to play a part in that. To me this says more about Lamar Jackson than the 8 touchdowns.

All of the guys in the skill positions looked sharp tonight. Both James Quick and Reggie Bonnafon had great touchdown catches. Jamari Staples also had 83 yards. The offensive line faced a challenge early on with all of the Kamikaze blitzes the 49ers were running. But they appeared to adjust well. Lamar did give his O-Line credit in the post-game.

The defense was aggressive and guys were flying around all over the field. I really liked seeing Harvey-Clemons in that linebacker spot. And he and Devonte Fields were on, or around every defensive play. It was also great to see Stacey Thomas making plays. He led in tackles with 7 and is a leader of this unit. Some had thought he might miss action after having a surgical procedure a few months ago.

There’s really not much you can say or analyze about a game this lopsided. It’s just one of those games where the better team comes out and does what they need to do. I think it was great for everyone to get involved. These guys been busting their butts for months in the heat so it’s good they all got rewarded with playing time. It’s also very good for the depth chart for everyone to get game reps. It’s a long grueling season and every guy has to be ready to go when called on.

The Cards are 1-0.

Louisville vs Charlotte

You can take the Cards out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the Cards

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Cardinal fans have been on a roller coaster ride of emotions over the past couple of weeks. And you can only imagine what it has been like for those young athletes and what they’ve had to endure. After two very tough losses on the road, with their hopes of an ACC regular season title dwindling away and with nothing left to play for they could have easily packed it in. But not this group and not these Cardinals they are much bigger than that. They have reached down deep within themselves and found a new will to win.

These guys aren’t playing for a NCAA birth and they aren’t playing for an ACC title they are playing for the name on the front of their Jerseys. “Louisville First”. They are also playing for the love of the game. These guys have played basketball for most of their lives and they know they owe it to that passion to play hard and get better. Damion and Trey will move on but they will be Cardinals forever. They are playing to cement that legacy. Yes these guys aren’t going to get their “one shining moment” but moments like today will shine in the hearts of Cardinal fans for a long time.

This year’s freshman class is living up to every bit of the expectations they had on them coming into this season. I covered these guys this summer during the Derby festival basketball classic and wrote extensively about how I thought these guys were going to have an immediate impact. Donovan Mitchell has been a spark plug for this Cardinal team. His energy, enthusiasm and athleticism have been an inspiration to his team. He has only scratched the surface. Ray Spalding is carrying a heavy load being from the city of Louisville and he bares the extra pressure of performing up to the expectations of the home crowd. He has taken that burden and ran with it. He is also only scratching the surface of his potential. Deng Adel was labeled as a guy with the most upside of this group but was hampered with an injury early in the season. In the last couple of weeks we have started to see just how good this guy can be. On Saturday he got his first start as a Cardinal and after his effort it won’t be his last. The Sharp shooter of the Louisville freshman group isn’t even playing this year. The future is very bright…

I can’t say enough about the progression and improvement of Chinanu Onuaku. His effort on the offensive and defensive glass has been relentless this season. He had to step up with the absence of Mango and he has. Jaylen Johnson is another player that has come a long way since he got to campus. His effort sometimes goes unnoticed with his other teammates doing so many things right, but he is a big part of the positive on this team. He is a great kid with a great attitude and the game to back it up. These guys were big in the win Saturday.

This Louisville team has circled the wagons led by two fearless and fantastic players. The winning attitude of Damion and Trey has funneled down through the rest of this team. This group showed us on Saturday afternoon that they might have been taken out of the fight but they aren’t going to let anyone take the fight out of them. There may not be any trophies or banners waiting for this group when the season ends but there will be a lot of respect and admiration. Go Cards!

Duke Post Game:

Coach Pitino Post Game:

Damion Lee:

Trey Lewis:

Deng Adel:

Cards Adapt and Overcome Against the Hokies, Seem Poised for a Strong Finish

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Going into this game Coach Pitino had his guys ready for a very unorthodox Virginia Tech style of play. The Cardinals who had used their defense to their advantage for the past couple of weeks had to adjust due to an aggressive style of offense played by the Hokies. They thrive on getting fouled and they do this by throwing their bodies into the defender. The Hokies came into this game 4th in the country in free throw attempts and 9th in free throws made. They certainly lived up to that tonight.

With the Cardinals having to play a less aggressive style of defense they would have to use an offensive burst to win this tough road game. And what a burst it was… The Cards scored 91 points which is the highest point total in ACC games this season. And they hit 12 three point shots thanks to some nifty shooting from Damion and Trey. Those guys really showed up when needed and with our best low post threat Chinanu compromised with foul trouble we needed them.

I really love how every week a different front court player steps out to have a big game. Last weekend it was Anas and tonight it was Jaylen Johnson who came through with a big performance. MATZ also stepped in and got some timely baskets. I get giddy when I think about our front court at full strength when Mango returns in a couple of weeks.

The college basketball season is a marathon and in a marathon a runner usually makes his kick towards the finish of the race. In the racing world, kick refers to sprinting towards the end. It involves a combination of physical and mental preparation. February is usually the time of the college basketball season when a team wants to make their kick. It also takes a lot of physical and mental preparation.

Our Cardinals have grown and matured throughout and we have seen player development at every position on the floor. They find a way to win and the execution of the game plans has been impressive. This team is ready to make their kick towards the finish line of conference play. We will face the toughest part of our schedule and our guys appear to be peaking at the right time as most Coach Pitino Louisville teams have done. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks. Go Cards!

COACH PITINO POST GAME:

JAYLEN JOHNSON POST GAME:

TREY LEWIS POST GAME:

DAMION LEE POST GAME:

(Video courtesy Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal)

Louisville’s Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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