All right, I'm going to be brutally honest right from the get-go: I simply didn't have the balls to pick against Louisville on this blog when they were two touchdown favorites at home. The truth is, whenever anyone asked me what I thought about the game during the day on Friday, I told them I thought we were going to lose.
I was disappointed, but not shocked when the score reached 21-0, and frankly I have trouble understanding how the people who were shocked managed to convince themselves that the product on the field Friday night was going to be that much superior to the one they saw two weeks ago. Louisville showed absolutely no ability to defend the spread against Middle Tennessee State or Syracuse, so how the hell could any of us expect Utah - easily the second best team the Cards have played - to score less than 30 points?
Because the D played well against an awful NC State team? Because the coaches surely would have them better prepared to handle a style of offense they'd already seen three times? Because 99.9% of teams in all sports have improved at least a little bit a month and a half into their respective seasons?
And it's not like Utah is heading anywhere special this season. I think both Syracuse and Middle Tennessee State have proven that the only thing torching Louisville's defense really means is that you'll have a better shot at finishing with a double digit national ranking in total offense at the end of the season than you would have had the Cards not been on the schedule.
The actual numbers are staggering. Keep in mind that the following is with the Louisville game added into the "season averages" category.
Rush Yards: 40.6
Pass Yards: 232
Total Offense: 272.6
Rush Yards: 42
Pass Yards: 423
Total Offense: 465
Middle Tennessee State
Rush Yards: 112.8
Pass Yards: 199.4
Total Offense: 312.2
Rush Yards: 265
Pass Yards: 290
Total Offense: 555
Rush Yards: 120.3
Pass Yards: 230
Total Offense: 350.3
Rush Yards: 260
Pass Yards: 322
Total Offense: 582
It was mentioned earlier, but can you imagine just how bad things would be if this team had a mediocre quarterback? We'd be no better than 2-4 with a pair of shocking home losses that would read even more humiliating than they do now.
Poor Brian, poor Harry, poor Art. Six games into the dream senior season and they've already accumulated as many losses as they did in their worst season to date, 2005.
When Brock scored to make it 27-21, Utah looked like a team that knew it was on the verge of being rolled over by a superior opponent. The sideline was dead and the coaches were anxious. This is the point where the 2006 Louisville Cardinals come out jacked up, get a quick stop, get the ball back to their offense which scores quickly en route to a three score victory. This was the point where the 2007 Louisville Cardinals came out feigning enthusiasm, didn't come close to making a tackle within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and let Utah grab all the momentum back after a far too easy seven play, 82-yard touchdown drive.
The defense has officially reached the point where if Lamar Myles gets blocked, they're completely fucked. I mean that's really the only offensive gameplan you need to beat Louisville anymore. Take five guys, have them block No. 22, score lots of touchdowns.
I think the thing that frustrates me most about the defense isn't the fact that we're still not getting any pressure on the quarterback or making the tackle at first contact, it's that our cornerbacks and safeties continue to give opposing receivers 10-yard cushions. We have a secondary full of guys who aren't overly athletic, but are pretty physical for their position. It makes no sense to have the likes of Bobby Buchanan, Jon Russell, Richard Raglin, Deon Palmer and Johnny Patrick (although his cover skills will improve) not pressing receivers in straight man situations. Let them hit somebody, let them disrupt a route, let them make it so that calling a drag doesn't constitute a guaranteed 25-yard gain.
I don't really expect much to change from here on out, because look at how little has changed up to this point. I mean did you see what I saw out there last night? It was the Syracuse game. And not just a few similarities here and there, a f***ing carbon copy. Surprising early deficit, seven points at halftime, mini third quarter run, and a late turnover that ended up making the score a lot friendlier than it should have been.
Oh and it could have been a lot less friendly. People complaining about the onside kick decision need to realize that Utah had the ball up 41-21 in the fourth when they fumbled, and that coupled with the fact that they had a guaranteed three points if Johnson simply throws the ball away on the last play before halftime should make all of us grateful that the final margin wasn't 24 or 28.
Still, about that onside kick...it was the second controversial Steve Kragthorpe decision this season that I've agreed with. I don't care if we had two timeouts and there was 3:20 left, did any of the people bitching about the call actually watch the first 57 minutes? What part of Utah getting nine yards on every dive or sweep they ran did you miss? We never would have seen the ball again.
What I didn't agree with was taking the ball off of the foot of Art Carmody, who had booted a beautiful kick on the previous attempt. I don't think the two kicker thing was fooling anybody, especially since only one of them actually moved. Next time go with the guy who's actually going to give you the best shot.
I'm not going to discuss Kragthorpe at length because I think the way I felt after the Syracuse still mostly covers the way I feel now, but there's one thing I can't avoid mentioning and that's the way he's handled Harry Douglas' injury. In a move that was a thinly-veiled attempt to cover his ass in the wake of a horribly embarrassing loss, Kragthorpe abandoned his sealed-lips injury policy and told the media on the Monday after the Syracuse game that Douglas would definitely play against NC State. Now obviously the injury was at least somewhat severe, but by going to the media so quickly and saying he was fine so matter-of-factly, Koach managed to make Douglas - a kid who would go over the middle against the '86 Bears if he thought it would help Louisville win - look bad. Of course it wasn't his intent to do this - I'm sure Harry told him that he would be good to go - but recklessly throwing it out there as a certain fact in a feeble attempt to deflect negativity with some good news was a highly irresponsible move, and one that actually makes me wish that the coach would have adhered more strictly to his original frustratingly absurd policy.
I can't believe I'm about to say this, but folks, this team is going to play its last game in November. Ron Cooper's first Louisville team was 7-4 and bowl eligible, the 2002 team that this year's squad was unfavorably compared to in early September went 7-4 and played in the Motor City Bowl; these guys aren't finishing at or above .500 people.
Next Saturday Louisville will take the field as an underdog for the first time since Elvis Dumervil had his leg stepped on by a Vick. They will be dogs in at least three of the five games after that. I want desperately to send the seniors off with a bowl win, even if it comes in a place where whatever happens will be drastically overshadowed by a Maple Leafs game, but right now I don't see where this team finds three victories.
There are just so many things horribly wrong here, and the worst part is that there are guys who want to win and who deserve to win, and they're being dragged along for the ride. Did you see the kids laughing on the sidelines when it was 21-0? Did you see the defense sitting silently on the benches without a coach anywhere near them when it was 41-21? Did you hear the "we can still win the Big East" and "we'll get it fixed" spiel from "the captain" after the game?
This whole thing sucks, and I'm mad at myself for being this upset about it.
Expect of heavy onslaught of college basketball preview material this week because I really don't want to talk about this anymore.