Louisville finishes final tune-up against Bellarmine



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

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

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

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Louisville Red & White Scrimmage #1



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. NC State


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino: Men for their time


(Photo Credit Keeb White @keebwhite)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Cards!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Kent State


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Clemson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs UNC


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy it! Go Cards!