Louisville Football returns to ESPN’s Friday Night looking for a win

We have watched the Louisville football program grow up over the last 20 years. A big part of that growth can be directly linked to the willingness to be a part of ESPN’s weekly college football games. Former Louisville AD Tom 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.” The Louisville football program has thrived under the lights of the ESPN weeknight game and that exposure has helped along the way. Tonight they are looking to this Friday night game to get them back on the winning track.

Our Cardinals have lost four of their last six road games. Tonight the Cardinals will be in Atlanta to face Georgia Tech looking for their first road win of the season to get back to a .500 record. They will also be looking for their first conference win of the young season. I started the season talking about Louisville’s three-headed monster. Malik Cunningham is completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 757 yards, seven touchdowns, and has two or more touchdown passes in six of his last eight games. Tutu Atwell has racked up 230 yards and three touchdowns while Javian Hawkins leads the team on the ground with 313 yards and three touchdowns.

These guys have tried to live up to their end of the hype and the Louisville offense has scored points this season against some pretty good defensive units. Ranking 43rd nationally in scoring offense and 43rd nationally in total offense. The supporting cast has also done their part with Dez Fitzpatrick catching bombs for over 200 yards while Braden Smith has six receptions. All this behind an offensive line that is still figuring it out at this point in the season. That frontline has been this football program Achilles heel for several years now. It’s also been a point of emphasis for this coaching staff so I know it will get better.

With all that being said the offensive unit needs to take better care of the football. Ranked 68th in turnovers lost and turnover margin Louisville has give it up 8 times in three games this season. While only forcing 3 turnovers of their own. They have been particularly bad coughing it up on the road. These guys have all the speed and talent in the world but that does them no good when they keep shooting themselves in the foot week after week. We’ll see if they can hold on to the ball better tonight.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets also need a victory here to get back to a .500 record. The Yellow Jackets have lost six of their last seven home games. The Yellow Jackets ground game is averaging 221 yards per contest, and their QB Jeff Sims leads the way with 187 yards and two touchdowns. He is a crafty QB and will have this Louisville defense on its toes all night.

An area of concern early on for Louisville is the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, Louisville is allowing 30.3 points and 369.7 yards per game. They are ranked 26th nationally (with teams not playing) giving up almost 6 yards a play this season and ten touchdowns. Some guys are flying around on the field for Coach Brown’s unit. Dorian Etheridge leads the way with 22 tackles, Monty Montgomery has two sacks and C.J. Avery has one interception. There just aren’t enough guys to have flying around. This is another area that this staff is focused on. I’m cautiously optimistic. Hope this side of the ball can gain some confidence tonight against a Georgia Tech team with their turnover struggles this season. Georgia Tech has turned the ball over 12 times in three games, which is the second-most in all of college football.

Our Cardinals held their own back-to-back weeks against ranked opponents and Louisville is the more talented team here. Georgia Tech has been a sloppy football team. It’s Friday night lights on ESPN. We watched Louisville Football grow up on ESPN weekday games and tonight I hope we watch this current team do some growing. The stage is set for them to have a good night. I think we all need that.
Go Cards!


Miami has been a part of some big Louisville Football moments: Satturday Night could be another

In 1985 Coach Schnellenberger returned home to Louisville after taking the Miami football program to the top of the mountain. He is also credited with laying the foundation for the Louisville program’s subsequent rise to prominence. Guess we should have known that it was in the stars that these programs would forever be linked thru his lore.

Our Cardinals will meet the Hurricanes for the 15th time on Saturday night. Not a really long history in this rivalry and the Hurricanes own a commanding lead in the series 10-3-1… But there must have been some magic in that old black pipe because Miami has been a mile marker over the years on that ”collision course” and the Cardinals have won three of the last four encounters.

That very first win over Miami in 2006. Our program gaining that signature win it had been searching for under coach Bobby Petrino. The 2013 ”Teddy” game. Teddy Bridgewater would further etch his name in Cardinal lore tying the school record with his 27th victory as Louisville’s starter. He was 35 for 45 for career-high 447 yards and Louisville won its second straight bowl game for its second 12-win season. And then Louisville Football’s first-ever ACC contest and win against Miami in 2014.

Now the stage has been set again with ESPN’s College Gameday returning to Louisville on Saturday to showcase yet another game between these rivals. Linked by a coaching legend and a string of pivotal games this could be one of the best yet in the series. The Cardinals are looking to revenge the 52-27 beat down at the hands of the Hurricanes last season. And the program is again looking for a signature win in year two of a new coach.

Like we have so many times over the years we are going to find out in this most recent battle with Miami where this program and this team is in year two of another program revival. At his opening press conference Coach, Schnellenberger stunned reporters and fans by proclaiming the program “is on a collision course with the national championship” The only variable is time.” Coach Satterfield proclaimed at his very first press conference that he was going to put Louisville Football back on that road.

Coach Satterfield has breathed life back into the football program. Getting us back to a Bowl game and winning it in his first season was huge but that first big signature win is still out there. On Saturday night he could check that off his list and put his Louisville football team back in the discussion.

Our Cardinals will look to build on their season-opening win over WKU. Louisville’s three-headed monster was feeding last weekend. Micale Cunningham threw for 343 yards, 3 touchdowns, and also rushed for a 24-yard touchdown. Javian Hawkins had 71 rushing yards and a touchdown and Tutu Atwell had a team-high 7 catches for 78 yards. Also a good productive outing from Hassan Hall, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Braden Smith. Ean Pfeifer and Marshon ford each had a receiving TD as well in the victory. Defensively, Dorian Etheridge led the way with 8 total tackles, including 5 solo tackles and a team-high 3.5 tackles for a loss. Monty Montgomery had a pair of sacks while Isaiah Hayes had 5 solo tackles and Russ Yeast had a pair of fumble recoveries.

This Louisville team did a good job of maximizing their yardage on each play last season averaging 6.7 yards a play. They finished ranked 12th in that category. That offensive explosion continued in the first game of this season. After their first week of play, Louisville is tied for first nationally with one play of over 60 yards and another of 70 plus yards. With Miami announcing a few days ago that they are going to be short-handed in the secondary with only 3 corners on the roster I look for this to be exploited all night in this game.

We know this Louisville team can score and I think the three-headed monster will again be eating this week. The question remains can the defense get the stops needed to win a big game like this. Western Kentucky hung 21 on the Cards. Miami has a talented and loaded roster led by QB D’Eriq King who had 227 total yards and two touchdowns last week. RB Cam’Ron Harris with 134 and 2 TDs last week. He is a beast. Jaylan Knighton and Donald ChBrevin Jordan are some talented receivers in their own right.

Trying to stop Louisville’s three-headed monster for Miami will be Bradley Jennings Jr. who had a team-high 6 total tackles with two tackles for a loss last week and Amari Carter who had a team-high 4 solo tackles and Quincy Roche who had Miami’s lone sack in their victory last week. Louisville’s offensive line held their own in week one but will face their first big test of the year in this game.

Here we are again… Another game against Miami on a national stage. And again the Louisville program is facing its first true test to determine just where it is in season two of its rebirth. Losing this game wouldn’t be the end of the world but it sure would take the wind out of the sails. Coach Satterfield has us believing again in the product. Saturday night is a chance to show us and a national audience that Louisville Football isn’t on its way back but ready to take the next step.

It is a big challenge ahead. But as we’ve seen Louisville do over the years in these games against Miami one I think they can meet again. Enjoy it Cardinal fans. Go Cards!


Come hell or high water Louisville Football starts Saturday night

It seems like an eternity since we were all celebrating in Nashville as our Cardinals had just wrapped up an 8-5 season with a Music City Bowl win over Mississippi State. There has been a lot of things that have changed in our world and in the sports world since that December evening. But one thing hasn’t. Coach Satterfield and his staff have continued to work to put a successful program on the field.

Coach Satterfield and his staff took on the Louisville rebuild head-on and it didn’t take long for them to put their stamp on the program in 2019. In an offseason facing a global pandemic that changed everything and with the nation’s social injustice struggles to play out right in their backyard the mission hasn’t wavered. They have continued to meet all of the challenges head-on and are ready to send out a Louisville team that just might end up being one of the best yet.

Louisville had the biggest turnaround in college football in 2019 with a six-game improvement in wins scoring 33.1 points a game (2nd in ACC). There are lots of big expectations on this Louisville team for 2020. Some even think the Cardinals can get to the ACC Championship Game. I also think this team has a chance to be really good.

It all starts with three of the most explosive players in college football QB Micale Cunningham (2547 yards with 28 touchdown receptions, and school record 194.5 QB efficiency rating last season), RB Javian Hawkins (1525 yards rushing with 9 touchdowns 2nd in ACC last season), and WR Tutu Atwell (1276 and 12 touchdowns leading the ACC last season). It’s been a long time since Louisville has had a triple threat like this on the offensive side of the ball.

And when you throw in guys like WR Dez Fitzpatrick (has recorded 106 receptions for 1,756 yards and 18 touchdowns during his career and averages 16.6 yards a reception), and tight end Marshon Ford (caught 20 passes for 292 yards leading the ACC in receiving touchdowns by a tight end last season) this is going to be an offensive group that will really put pressure on opposing defenses with their vertical threat.

Nine of Louisville’s 10 assistant coaches return for their second season in 2020. With the stability and consistency in the coaching staff, we should also continue to see improvement along the offensive line, special teams, and the defense. This is the first time in the past 5 seasons that these units have had the same coaching staff. The defense is going to need some work after giving up 33.4 points per game last year, but with seven starters back should be better. Linebackers C.J. Avery and Rodjay Burns started all 13 contests as did cornerback Chandler Jones and defensive end Tabarius Peterson. Linebacker CJ Avery is poised for a big season after a team-leading 93 tackles last season.

Western Kentucky did well in a very competitive Conference USA last season, finishing better than they had been expected to. They’ve got some playmakers at the skill positions also and will have a very competitive team on the field Saturday night.

With the limited practice time and all of the challenges due to the COVID virus, college football teams will have to get their game legs under them early on. I think that once this Louisville team finds it’s groove we are going to be in for a fun and exciting season. Even if we have to watch from home. I’m just glad that we will be watching our Cardinals play again. At times I didn’t think it would happen. Enjoy it and stay safe. Go Cardinals…


Now it’s just the Pack Line

The Pack Line defense has a few simple principles that differentiate it from the traditional man-to-man defense. The priority of the defense is to stop all dribble penetration. And in modern basketball, stopping drives is a formula for success.

The player guarding the ball applies immense ball pressure knowing full well he has four teammates crowded within the “Pack Line” ready to help. This frustrates teams who will usually just pass the ball around on the perimeter and chuck up a contested jump shot.

I’m pretty familiar with this defense now. But before Coach Mack came to town I thought defense was gambling for steals, creating controlled chaos, 2-3 matchup zones, and fullcourt presses.

Chris Mack likes to send his guys to the offensive glass more but his defense is very much like the one we feared for years at Virginia.

This Louisville team is no longer afraid of the Pack Line. They play against it every day now. They have been drilled in its principals over and over again. They hung 80 points on that Virginia defense already this season.

That doesn’t happen to them very often especially at home where the Cavaliers are allowing just 49.6 points this season. I think they’ll make this Louisville team uncomfortable but if the jumpers are falling it will be a shooting contest.

I used to dread these games with Virginia. That anxiety and disgust have been replaced with Florida State. I think Leonard Hamilton might be Louisville’s new Tony Bennett. I now enjoy the battle of the Pack Line defense and watching how these teams attack each other. It takes good shooters. This Louisville team has those.

It’s been a good regular season. A win today and Louisville will share a regular-season conference title. Not too shabby in the middle of a program rebuild. I hope our guys get it done today. I would like to keep the great vibe from last weekend rolling into the postseason. Go Cards!


A day to honor a loyal group of Cardinals

Kinda hard to believe that there are only two games left in the regular season of College Basketball. Seems like yesterday we were down on Fourth Street Live watching this team be introduced and Coach Mack preparing for his second season.

I think this team still has a lot of basketball ahead of them as they head into postseason play. They will have a say in who wins the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. But one game at a time and there is still some business to take care of in regular-season play.

Today is about beating Virginia Tech and honoring another great group of seniors for their contributions to the program we love. There are still many chapters that have yet to be written, but the 2020 basketball seniors have added to the outstanding tradition of Louisville Basketball.

Six players will participate in the senior day ceremony including Steven Enoch, Fresh Kimble, Ryan McMahon, Jordan Nwora, Keith Oddo and Dwayne Sutton. Each has already earned their bachelor’s degree except Jordan, who is on target to graduate this summer.

These 6 seniors have epitomized a culture of unselfishness, humility, hard work, and high character. And the loyalty of the guys who stuck around during one of the most tumultuous times in the programs history will never be forgotten. We aren’t saying goodbye to these guys because you don’t say goodbye to family and that’s what these guys have become over the years.

Ceremonies like on Sunday are just part of the process that allows closure for the seniors and passing of the torch to the underclassmen, but in successful programs like the University Louisville, the tradition never graduates. This program is rich and vibrant because many groups of seniors have cared enough to give their very best. Over the last three years, Louisville has leaned on that great tradition to keep moving forward.

Today is about moving forward. Our Cardinals have had a lot of success this season, but coming into this game they have lost three of the last five games. The good news is that we know these guys are capable of walking into any gym in the country and beating anyone. They have shown the ability to play at a high level. Offensive woes come and go and let’s hope we left them in February.

After a hot start to the season it has been a trying year for Virginia Tech and coming into this game they have lost eight of the last nine games. Away from home, this season Virginia Tech’s offense has been an issue averaging only 61.4 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the field. Virginia Tech got up for their rivalry game against Virginia in the last one only to come up short of the upset by three points.

Louisville has won the last six games between the two teams, but this is the first meeting between the two squads this year. At home this season our Cardinals are averaging 77.6 points per game while giving up only 60.9 percent from the field. I get to watch my favorite player in years play his final game in the Yum Center today. Jordan Nwora is averaging 17.9 points while shooting 44.1 percent from the field. As the season wraps up, they need him to play some of the best basketball of the year. Think we see that today and in the postseason.

Today our seniors and our team will lace em up for the last time in that locker room, will come charging out of that tunnel to the alma mater for the last time, and will get the love and admiration from the Yum Center crowd for the last time. I don’t think there is a chance they let this one get away. I’m looking forward to cheering them on one last time and to a big win. Go Cards!


It is a Big Monday for the Cardinals

Big Monday for our Cardinals. It really is big. Tonight’s second matchup with Florida State could very well determine who ends up with the ACC regular-season title. Whichever team wins tonight will also be able to carry all that momentum into the conference tourney here in a few weeks.

The Louisville team that the Seminoles will see tonight is not the same one they beat 78-65 back in January at the Yum Center. That Louisville team was just a shell of what it is now. Over the last month, our guys have found their roles and each of them knows what they are supposed to do in order for the team to be successful.

And then there is David Johnson. He has been a spark plug for the offense over that last couple of weeks since being injected into the starting lineup. 20 assist to just 4 turnovers in the last three games. The Cardinals have been reenergized as a result. In the back to back losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson, the offense scored 120 combined points. Since then Louisville has bounced back with 90 versus Syracuse and 72 in the North Carolina game.

Another guy who has seemed to find his groove again as a result of the reenergized offense is Jordan Nwora. A lot of folks have been very critical of Jordan this season and his struggles have been well documented. The biggest gripe from fans is that Jordan disappears in big games. I think he redeems himself tonight and will have a good game. Not going to be easy for him as he will draw all of their attention. Just think he’s ready for that performance.

Malik Williams has been the most clutch player in college basketball down the stretch stepping up and hitting big shots, hitting key free throws and getting some big defensive stops. He was still finding his way back from injury the last time these teams played. He has scored in double figures in five of his last six and grabbed 13 rebounds on four other occasions. He just had his fifth career double-double against Cuse and was two points shy of a career-high against UNC. This dude is balling. Will be big tonight against FSU. Maybe the X-factor.

Things seem to be taking shape for this Louisville team to make a big run to the finish. As I pointed out in my last pregame it’s starting to be more about their execution and less about who their opponent is. I don’t think it matters what FSU does tonight or how well they play. Team 106 is on a mission. I think the Cards win a great battle here and claim that ACC regular-season crown.

Go Cards!


Cards need to come ready to play UNC not their record

If this college basketball season has taught us anything it’s that anybody can lose to anybody. You can lose even if you have a significant talent advantage and a significant coaching advantage. There has never been so much parity in the sport.

This is the time of year when the best teams in the country have learned that lesson. I think this Louisville team has learned that lesson. They are starting to understand they aren’t playing the competition. They are playing against the standard that they have set for themselves. At this point, it comes down to execution.

I read today this Louisville team is the best in the country at getting late-game stops. According to stathouseanalytics.com their 0.729 points per possession allowed in the final four minutes and OT of games (adjusted for opponent strength) is far and away from the best mark in the nation. Give me a team that knows how to finish in March.

The 2005 Final Four team will be honored at the game on Saturday. That was a team that knew how to finish. The finish against WVU that year is one of the best in Tournament history. It’s awesome that they are bringing those guys back in because this current Louisville team reminds me of them. Not so much defensively but offensively for sure.

That 2005 group could shoot it from deep finishing their season as one of the best three pointing shooting team’s in the country at over 40%. The current team is ranked 11th in the country shooting 38% from deep. Before Nwora and Mcmahon, there was Cisco and Dean.

Coach Mack has been great at making adjustments throughout the season but made his best one in the last game by starting David Johnson. For the first time in several games, the offense was effective from whistle to whistle. If this team is gonna make a run Johnson is going to be a big part of that. Looking forward to seeing him face UNC’s size and athleticism.

North Carolina likes to play an intense man-to-man type of defense and you will hardly ever see them in a zone because Roy Williams’s philosophy is that it slows down the game too much for him to run up and down as they do.

This UNC team has struggled to defend against the high screens. Williams has his big men step out around the screen causing enough hesitation by the dribbler for their guards to catch back up into a defensive position. Due to their issues defending the high screen teams are getting a lot of open looks from deep. UNC ranks 207th in the country defending the three-ball allowing teams to shoot 33% on average. Good news for Jordan and Ryan.

This UNC team has had a rough go of it lately losing their last six games. But even with all of their struggles, they have battled. Five of their six losses during this recent skid coming by 6 points or less. I’m not going to be surprised to see them play out of their minds on Saturday. This Louisville team has got everyone’s best shot.

UNC is better than their record but our Cardinals have been tough at home, outscoring teams by 16.8 PPG and holding opponents to just 61.3 PPG this season. Hoping it will be just another day at the office. Think Cards end up winning big here.


Cards need to get back to basics against Cuse

Tonight we get back to basketball and after days of the ”sky is falling” nonsense in the Louisville media and elsewhere I welcome it. I’m hoping that our team realizes that their season is nearing the end and can get back to playing with a sense of pride and with the sense of urgency to finish this season strong. Just get back to the basics.

Despite all of the doom and gloom side talk this Louisville team is still at the top of the ACC standings, in third place sitting at 12-3 in conference play. They can still win this league outright owning a head to head victory with Duke and a trip to Florida State left on the schedule.

Jordan has had two rough outings. Maybe the two worst of his Louisville career. It’s not easy carrying the weight of a college basketball program on your shoulders. Especially one with a passionate fan base. The grind of a college season alone and getting everyone’s best shot. I think he gets back to that 18.2 points, 7.3 rebounds per game player tonight.

Steven Enoch is 2nd with 9.9 PPG and Dwayne Sutton is 3rd in scoring and tops in rebounding with 9.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG this season. These guys will have to bring their games tonight also along with Malik Williams. It’s always a frontcourt battle with Syracuse.

Coach Boeheim’s teams are known for that stingy two-three zone defense and having those very athletic and explosive wings on offense. The Orange are in a logjam in the middle of the ACC, sitting at 7-7 in conference play after losing 4 of their last 5 games. The Orange just stepped up against Florida State, taking the Seminoles down to the wire. We all know that Cuse teams usually come alive this time of year.

This is a very important game as far as team morale is concerned. Lose this game tonight and we could see this team spiral downhill for the rest of the season. Things are sensitive right now with this group and a three-game losing streak is not what the doctor ordered. Win this game and carry some much-needed momentum into that big game with North Carolina on Saturday. I would love to see this team have a strong finish to this crazy regular season. I hope that starts tonight.


Changing the trend

There are two teams that this Louisville Program plays where they just can’t seem to get on the winning side. One of those teams I won’t mention and the other is Virginia. The Cardinals have won 9 in a row but it is Virginia that has won their last 9 against Louisville.

This is not the same Virginia team of years past, as teams have been able to figure out the Cavaliers pack-line defense. Teams that have been able to produce some consistent offense in games against the Cavaliers have been able to get the lead and keep it. Exposing the Cavaliers offense that is near the bottom in scoring offense, field goal percent, and 3-point offense.

The Cardinals should have enough firepower to take advantage of this one. I think another thing that will help this Louisville team against Virginia is that they understand the principles of the pack-line defense now that they themselves play a Coach Mack version of it. They go against this version every day in practice.

In order for the Louisville program to really arrive in ACC play, they’ve got to level the playing field in this rivalry. With a return trip to Charlottesville coming at the end of the season, it is also important to at least split one in this series for a chance at an outright regular-season ACC Championship.

This team wasn’t able to buck the trend in a game with that other team this season but have another chance to change another trend today. I’m tired of losing to the Cavaliers. I think this Louisville team is as well.

Change the trend today. Go Cards!


Things will only get tougher after this one

Our Cardinals head into the Yum Center tonight looking for their 20th win of the season. It will be the first time a team has reached 20 wins this fast since back in 2004-05. That team finished 33-5 and lost to Illinois in the Final Four.

That team like our current team had some guys that could flat out shoot the rock. The current Louisville team is 6th in the country in three-point field goal percentage and 49th in field goal percentage. Thanks in part to guys like Jordan Nwora who is shooting a cool 47% from deep in the last nine. And Ryan Mcmahon who hit seven three-point shots his last time out.

This team is also getting it done on the defensive side of the floor ranked 5th in the country in field-goal defense. Behind players like Malik Williams who has six blocked shots in the last five games and an energized Darius Perry who has had five steals over the last four games.

This team is doing everything pretty good right now and the reason I think Wake Forrest will be running into a buzz saw tonight. Wake is a team that has got some pieces back but one with a defense that ranks 200th in field goal defense and 251st in scoring defense. The Deacs have been poor on the road, having gone 1-6 in true road games this season.

I told a guy on the Fan Page this week that I don’t think this team looks back now. I think they are past blowing games like this one. If not it would mean taking several steps back. Not what you want to see a team do in February.

It doesn’t get any easier after tonight with the heavy part of the schedule still ahead. Cards need to come out take care of this one and get themselves ready for the final push.

It should be a night with no drama. But as confident as I am in this one I wouldn’t be surprised at anything. Go Cards!