Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino: Men for their time


(Photo Credit Keeb White @keebwhite)

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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!

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.

The Beak Football Breakdown: Louisville vs. Purdue


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the game folks and GO CARDS!