The Louisville vs. Rutgers series has come to an end and the Cards go out on top winning their 4th straight over the Knights 24-10. Tonight was billed as Louisville’s opportunity to impress the national audience and perhaps sway the voters. I don’t know if any of that happened, but to me the most important thing is that our Cards are still undefeated, are still on pace to win the AAC Title, and are still in good shape to get the automatic BCS Bid. Also with the win tonight the Cardinals are Bowl eligible. Taking the optimistic approach tonight was a very good night to be a Louisville Cardinal fan. All this team can do is keep winning the games they have in front of them and take care of their business on the field; so far this season they have done that.
All eyes were on Teddy Ballgame tonight and he was the talk of the ESPN networks leading up to and during the broadcast. These national games will help him in his Heisman campaign and that’s great because he deserves it. There were also over 26 NFL scouts in attendance to watch him play. He completed 21-of-31 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw an interception and fumbled early in the fourth quarter. Some headlines will read that he had an off night but I think it is because of the expectations placed on him by the media and outside sources. I think 310 yards and 2 touchdowns equal a pretty decent performance, but hey what do I know? Senorise Perry and Damian Copeland were the other skill players on offense that stood out. Perry rushed for over 100 yards for the sixth time in his career and Copeland eclipsed his first career 100-yard receiving game plus had a career-best seven receptions. Teddy and the Louisville offense were supposed to be the story of the night but it was Calvin Pryor and the Louisville defense who stole the show. The Rutgers offense came into the game tonight averaging 40 points and 422 yards a contest. Tonight the Louisville defense held them to 10 points and 240 total yards. And they held them to a really impressive 12 rushing yards. The group had four interceptions and sacked Gary Nova eight times. Calvin Pryor had a monster night and will be the AAC defensive player of the week for sure. He had 14 tackles (11 solo), an interception, and a tackle for a loss that helped the Cards get great field position during a crucial part of the game. The Cardinal’s defensive group has been big all season but tonight they really made their mark and made a case that they are one of the best in the nation.
Here’s what Coach Strong and Teddy had to say after the game:
Cardinal fans I think we have reached that point where we can all stop worrying about polls and comparisons and be happy winning the AAC and getting to another BCS bowl game. I know that is what I’m looking forward to and this season is just another stepping stone to building something really special as far as the football program is concerned. I’m happy with where we’ve came in just a short amount of time and very optimistic to where we are heading. Cardinal Nation showed out well tonight and is also living up to their end of the bargain in this rise to national prominence. Every game has been a sell-out this season and tonight 55,168 showed up to cheer on the Cards. It was the 4th largest crowd ever. 6-0 folks…. GO CARDS!!!
It will be Thursday night lights this week for the Louisville football team as they face possibly their toughest opponent of the season, and just maybe the toughest team on the schedule period. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are coming to town and I don’t need to remind Cardinal fans about all the big games with these guys over the past few years. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach just thinking about that field goal kick in 2006. They have written many stories about that game. And fast forward to that heroic performance by Teddy QB in the game last year. I wrote a story about that game. This rivalry has changed people’s lives on and off the field. It always seems to come down to big plays and big moments. This will be the last year Rutgers will be on the schedule as we both will go our separate ways after this season. It will be bitter sweet. It may also be déjà vu as they will have this one circled on their schedule and would love nothing more than to knock the Cardinal’s out of BCS title contention once again. This will be the ninth consecutive season these teams have done battle. Rutgers leads this series 7 to 5 but it is the Cardinals who have won the last three including a heart pounding victory last year in New Jersey 20-17.
Coach Strong talks Rutgers:
(Video courtesy @TheCrunchZone)
Leading the Rutgers offense against our Cardinals Thursday night is Junior Quarterback Gary Nova. Nova recently became the sixth Rutgers quarterback to throw for 5,000 career yards in their win over Arkansas. He also took over third all-time with 46 passing touchdowns. Nova now has four games with at least 300 yards passing in his career and he is they key to this teams success. They only go as far as he takes them. Louisville’s defensive front will have to get pressure on him and not let him get in a rhythm with his very athletic and gifted receivers.
The Scarlet Knights hired former K-State coach Ron Prince to run the offense and have had a more of an aerial attack this season. They always seem to have big, athletic and gifted receivers. This year is no different as Nova’s top targets fit that bill. 6-6 Tyler Kroft, 6-6 Brandon Coleman and 6-1 Leonte Carroo have combined for over 750 yards this season. This trio is also responsible for 11 of the teams 23 touchdowns this season. The Louisville secondary will be tested all night long in what will be their toughest challenge of the season.
Rutgers ground game took a hit a couple of weeks ago when leading rusher Junior running back Paul James went down with a lower leg injury. He missed their last game and is expected to miss the game Thursday. They will count on their second-leading rusher Savon Huggins to carry the load. The former four star recruit finished second on the team last year and has 186 yards with one touchdown this season. Freshman running back Justin Goodwin could also see several carries as he had a huge outing against SMU with 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Making room for these skill guys the O-line remains mostly intact and is anchored by all-big east left guard Antwan Lowery. This will be the battle of the year so far for the Louisville defense.
Rutgers defense was very solid last year, holding opponents to 15 points or less in 75% of their games. They are ranked 51st so far this season giving up 27 points a game, and their run defense is very solid ranked 3rd in the nation only giving up 70 yards a game. They lost their locker room leader Khaseem Greene, but defensive tackle Darius Hamilton who is the highest ranked recruit in Rutgers history has been there to fill any voids. They also have safety Lorenzo Waters who is one of the best secondary players in the conference and has 25 tackles this season. This defensive group for Rutgers will be the biggest challenge of the season for our running backs and with DeVante Parker questionable for Thursday night with a shoulder injury it won’t be a cake walk in the passing game either.
Louisville is in desperate need for a signature win to remain in the top 10 and in contention for a major Bowl game. Thursday will be the first chance for that. Rutgers is a very formidable foe and they are going to come into Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium with nothing but beating the Cardinals on their minds. This will be a battle between the top contenders for the AAC crown and I’m glad we got number 5 on our side line because he is going to be the difference in this one. The Cards will be 6-0 after this week but it’s not going to be easy.
With the upcoming season looming the Cards have started to practice. This past weekend they had their first Red and White scrimmage. After watching some of the new guys and getting a look at this year’s team for the first time I can say that I am very optimistic about the season. The 2013-14 Louisville Basketball team will be defending a National Title this season and have the opportunity to make history by getting to the Final Four for three consecutive years and possibly winning back to back championships. If they are able to defend the title they will have to live up to the great defensive legacy left behind by the previous teams.
Defense has become the name of the game for the Louisville basketball program. Our Cards have made it to back to back Final Fours and claimed a National Championship with great defense. During last season Louisville averaged 22.6 points off turnovers, the most among teams from big six conferences. The Cardinals recorded a steal on 16.1 percentages of their opponents’ possessions, which ranked tops in the nation. Louisville finished last season with an 83.1 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency according to Kenpom.com and that was #1 in the nation and also the lowest in Kenpom history.
So the question is can the 2013-14 Cardinal Basketball team keep this great defensive legacy rolling along? With several new pieces in place that is one that many folks are asking. I’m confident in the guys we have returning that the defensive will be just as good as the past two seasons. There is a slight learning curve with a Rick Pitino taught defense so having a lot veterans back is a big plus. We will miss Gorgui’s shot blocking as far as interior defense is concerned and Peyton’s speed and defensive prowess up front. But we do have Russ Smith back and he was the most active Louisville defender, with a team-leading 38 deflections and 13 steals in the tournament. With the athleticism, agility and speed that I witnessed on Sunday this group shouldn’t have any problems playing defense.
Seth Greenberg and the ESPN Insiders ranked who they think will have the Top 5 defenses for the 2013-14 basketball season and our Cards made it on the top of the list. Here’s what they had to say:
It was a busy day in Cardinal Nation as will be the case most every weekend now that basketball and football are at the point to where they co-exist. I spent the first part of the day watching the Louisville football team play Temple on TV and then had to finish listening to Paul Rodgers on my way to the basketball scrimmage. The football team had a very workman like performance today as they move to 5-0 on the season. They went to Philly and handled their business. Things weren’t perfect but that will just provide Coach Strong with some things he can use to maintain his teams focus.
Teddy Bridgewater sure did do his thing again on Saturday. At one point he was 7 for 7 on a drive and had completed a pass to seven different receivers. Some of the throws he completes look effortless and he makes it look like it is so easy. He throws the ball with so much touch and finesse. He is a special player and it will be tragic if he’s not considered in the Heisman conversation at the end of the season due to the soft schedule. The Cardinals three headed monster of Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry and Michael Dyer looked very good today as they rushed for over 150 yards. With his performance today Senorise has now become a 1000 yard rusher for his Cardinal Career. Between this group and the receivers the Cardinals rack up over 500 yards of total offense against a Temple defense that wasn’t a pushover. Those guys were making contact and came out hitting the Cards in the mouth.
This Temple team isn’t as bad as they are made out to be. I think they are a few skill players and an offensive line away from being very competitive. Of course they won’t get the credit they deserve for playing well on the defensive end of the ball and the talking heads will just say that it was another win over a lesser opponent.
It was disappointing that the Cardinals let them score on a late drive as a second consecutive shut out would have been nice. I don’t know how the polls will play out this week but at this point I know that I just want to be able to maintain a top ten ranking without being jumped weekly. We got Rutgers coming up on Thursday night and that will be a chance for the Cardinals to get their first quality win of the season. I’ll have the Breakdown of that one on Monday or Tuesday.
The 2013-14 Cardinal Basketball season is officially under way and it all got started at the first Red & White Scrimmage today. For the first time in a long time I walked away from this first scrimmage thinking to myself that this team has a lot of offensive weapons. For the last few seasons we have had teams that have struggled at times to get baskets. If the performance today is any indication of the season ahead then I don’t see offensive production being a problem for this group of Cards. Granted the defense wasn’t the best it could be and some of the shots were uncontested. But from a fundamental standpoint you could just tell that these guys are scorers. I think it’s a statement with all of this great offense today while the best scorer on the team was sitting on the bench in street clothes. To say I’m excited after seeing this group for the first time is an understatement, and I think they are going to mold into a great team over the next six months.
Russ Smith has become a more mature and responsible player on the court and it’s obvious after seeing him in action for the first time today that he understands what his role on this team should be and what he needs to do to get to the next level. Coach Pitino said in his post-game comments that if Russ plays like he did today and continues to make good decisions that the sky is the limit for him. He was the second leading scorer of the scrimmage with 24 points but more importantly had 5 rebounds and 8 assist. I’m so happy that I get to watch this kid play again for another year in the red and black. He’s going to be special this season.
Chane Behanan has been known for his lethargic starts to new seasons and for his lack of preparation in the summer. In the locker room today he admitted that in previous years he hadn’t got the message from coach Pitino and that he hadn’t done what he needed to do in the summer to prepare for the upcoming season. But Chane said that he finally got that message this summer and had been in the gym working out and working on his shot. Today that preparation showed on the court and he was the leading scorer of the scrimmage with 25 points. He was also cleaning the backboard and grabbed a game high 13 rebounds. When was the last time you seen Chane have an effort like this in a game of non-importance. With this type of head start from a physical and fundamental standpoint Chane Behanan will be a first round draft pick in the NBA Draft next year. Remember you heard it here first. It’s going to be fun watching him be all he can be from beginning to end this year.
Wayne Blackshear is one of the most anticipated players to ever lace em up in a Cardinal uniform. I still remember the roar when he stepped on the floor for the first time. But since that first time seeing action Cardinal nation has been waiting on Wayne to live up to his hype. Well,.. Wait no more Cardinal fans because Wayne Blackshear has arrived. This was the first summer he actually got to go through all of his workouts without being held back by injuries and it shows. Coach Pitino said in his post-game that when Wayne improves his ball handling he will be the player he was in high school. (The Chicago Player of the Year) Wayne was one of the most active players on the court today and you could see a dramatic improvement in his confidence. He is about to have a breakout season folks and it couldn’t be at a better time. He had 20 points, 9 rebounds with 4 assist and was all over the place.
Montrezl Harrell was a big reason the Cardinals won their third championship last season. He is one of the most inspired basketball players you will see on a basketball court. The guy plays hard on both ends of the floor and makes the players around him better. He’s got all the gifts of a high level hoopster at 6’8 with a 7 foot wing span but most importantly he has heart, drive and determination. Enjoy him this season Cardinal fans because NBA scouts will be foaming at the mouth every time they see him play. He is a very special player and person. I’m thankful he is a Cardinal. If this team plays their final game in Dallas this season it will be in large part to Montrezl. He went down with a cramp today and you could hear a pin drop in the Yum Center. Then you could hear everyone exhale in unison when he got up. Coach Pitino grabbed the mic and addressed the crowd “I wasn’t worried”. This is a very deep team but the one guy that this team couldn’t afford to lose is Harrell. He had 23 points with 10 rebounds and loved every minute of it.
Stephan Van Treese has always been a guy that utilizes his skills to the max and is going to give it all he has when he gets his minutes. Rick Pitino said earlier this week that Stephan would be the starter if the season started now. I don’t see that happening with the players around but I do see him being a guy who provides steady production throughout the season. He’s always going to give the team a 100% when he’s on the court and that is why he’s so important. He’s a work horse and a great example of that is his stat line for this scrimmage. He didn’t have any points but did have 9 rebounds and a steal. He isn’t the most important player on this team but is the type of player every coach wants on their team.
Tim Henderson was one of the most valuable players in the Final Four last season. I have said before that if my son were old enough to attend the games with me that I would point to Tim as an example of a hard worker on the court. He quietly does his job and works on his game. He has accepted his role and will always be ready when his number is called upon. I love this kid. Today Tim quietly had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
The New Cardinals:
Chris Jones was the number one Juco player in the nation last year and is known for his ability to run an offense. He has great handles and a soft shooting touch. He will be a great point man for this team. He plays his game under control and has good court awareness. I think it will take him some time to adjust to the speed of the game at this level but once that happens he will be the real deal. He had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assist and played under control. This guy will also be great on defense when he learns Coach Pitino’s system.
Anton Gill is a player that I had pegged as a guy that would be brought along slowly. I didn’t expect him to see much court time this season. I could be very…. very… wrong. This kid turned more than a few heads today with his offensive prowess. This kid is a pure shooter and has an eye for the basket. He has a very fundamentally sound shot and great shot selection. If today is any indication of what is to come there’s no way he doesn’t make it into the rotation. He was 5-10 from long range and had 17 points in his impressive debut.
Terry Rozier wasn’t going to surprise me today. As a matter of fact I have been singing this kids praises all summer and have said all along that he was just as good as any player in the 2013 class. This kid is the real deal and if you weren’t there to see it today then you will see it soon. He has a Dwayne Wade look about him on the court and is big time basketball ready. This kid is a well-rounded basketball player in all aspects of the game. He was the second leading re-bounder today with 11 and Coach Pitino said after the game that he had never seen a guy rebound like Rozier does from the guard spot. And went on to say that was his biggest attribute. He was 3 assist away from having a triple-double in his Cardinal debut with 18 points and 7 assist. Terry Rozier made me look like I know what I’m talking about today. I can’t wait to see him flourish under the Rick Pitino system.
Mangok Mathiang was touted by Coach Pitino as one of the quickest guys on the team. And he does get up and down the floor very effectively. With the loss of Gorgui this team was in desperate need of someone to step up and provide the interior defense needed for the guys up front in the Pitino defense to take chances. “The Mango” just might be our huckleberry… Not only did he lead the game with 6 rebounds he was the only player to record a blocked shot on the roster. He is very athletic for his size and has great timing on defense. I think he will fill the void in the middle this season especially once he learns the system better. And he isn’t that far behind because even though he couldn’t play last he was around and did go through practices. He also had 8 points with 10 rebounds today. I’m very excited about the potential of “The Mango”.
Akoy Agau is a guy who came to campus in need of some Pitino magic. He has already cut his weight significantly but is still a long way from being in D1 basketball shape. At times today he was gasping for air as he lumbered up and down the floor. He was visibly the most out of shape guy on the team. But I do like this kid and like the qualities he has to offer not only on the court but off. He’s a great person and you need great people on a team. I do think he will be a solid contributor but not this season.
David Levitch has the best 3 point percentage in North Oldham’s history. He is a kid that grew up watching the Cardinals and has come to games since he was an infant. This kid is honored to play for the team he grew up admiring. I see him as a potential candidate to take over the “Hendo” role someday. I see some big shots in this kid’s future.
It was a great day in the KFC Yum Center and you can feel that Cardinal Nation is ready for some hoops. There wasn’t much defense played today but that is to be expected in the early season. I know that with the athleticism, speed and skill that I saw on the court today that this team will live up to the great defensive legacy left behind by the past two teams. It’s just going to take some time and they won’t really be able to start that process until the first exhibitions. It’s going to be another exciting year Cardinal Fans. Please be sure to follow my website on the journey and I will try to keep you as informed and entertained as I can. GO CARDS!
As has been expected for weeks Chinanu Onuaku made his verbal commitment to the Louisville Cardinals and Rick Pitino today. I think this is a great pick-up for our 2014 class. This kid is young and has a huge upside. I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface when it comes to his offensive potential. He will fit great into the Rick Pitino system. He loves the game, works hard, and he’s a great passer which will be great for our offensive scheme. He Runs the floor well and blocks shots something we can use to help us with pressure defense. While raw offensively, we have lots of scoring options and wouldn’t need him to do much early on. He’s also mobile enough to play 5/4.
Center of attention
Chinanu Onuaku (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist)
2014, C, 6-10, 250
“Onuaku is an intriguing 5-man with great length. His offensive game is raw other than an occasional drop-step move in the paint, but he plays with great energy and affects the game with his shot blocking and rebounding.”
Louisville has become a program where players like Onuaku can come and develop their full potential without being rushed into things too early. This has payed off big for other players and I think it will for this kid. I’m really glad we got this kid on board and can’t wait to see all the creative ways the UofL student section finds to root for Nanu. They should have a field day.