Simulated Season Part 1: Cards Off To Rough Start

Well, the football season fast is approaching and hope is springing eternal.  Admit it, deep down in places you don't like to admit, you are holding onto the faintest hope that everything you think you know about the football team is 1000% wrong.  Anyway, the suspense is killing me.  So, instead of waiting to see how the next few months will go, I thought I'd fire up the old PS3 and find out.  All results are simulated on the "Heisman" level with a couple of reasonable tweaks to our team's player ratings and rosters.

Game 1 (0-0, 0-0 Big East) - FCS Midwest @ Louisville

The fighting FCS Midwest Mustangs or something (who go on to finish the season 0-14) come into PJCS to open the season, and the Cards do what they are supposed to do to a team that would likely lose to St. X, only to beat them again in the championship, which is to dominate.  Darius Ashley makes the train whistle for the first time in 2009 on a 1-yard run.  UofL would go on to score 3 more times in the first quarter: 2 Vic Anderson TD runs (4 and 8 yards) sandwiched around a Trent Guy 23-yard TD reception from Adam "Don't Call Me The Sausage King" Froman. 

The Cards keep the foot on the gas in the 2nd Quarter, Froman connecting with Doug Beaumont for a 52-yard TD reception a few minutes into the quarter.  If this were to actually happen, that would be Doug's first career touchdown reception.  Glad he burned that red shirt year. Anyway, Josh Chichester also gets in on the scoring pants party with a 28 yarder from Froman.  Tim Doughterty nails the extra point each time (there's nothing in the simulation to indicate whether they split the uprights or sorta snuck across) and the Cards go easy in the 4th Quarter with just a 2-yard run from Darius Ashley to cap off the scoring.

Overall, Ashley starts his first season off strong with 119 yards on 31 attempts, while Virtual Vic Anderson only gets 8 carries, but makes the most with 53 yards.  Nate Nord also lives up to the CardChron-hype and gets 2 catches for 71 yards, while Trent Guy catches 4 passes for 65 yards.  Conrad Thomas had 6 pancake blocks.  You need to know these things.

The real story of the game, however, is the defense.  The Dempsey Dozen holds ISU to a measly 105 total yards and 7 first downs despite 22:31 time of possession.  The Cards also picked off 3 passes (Heath, Chaz Thompson and someone called RS Frosh Dan Brown) and forced 11 punts. 

Overall, everything goes as planned and positive feelings abound as the Cards go to 1-0 on the season.

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via cdn.content.easports.com  Note: not from a game I played.  CardChron doesn't have those capabilities....yet....


 

Game 2 (1-0, 0-0 Big East) -  Louisville @ Kentucky

With arguably the worst 22 guys to take the field to compete for the Governor's Cup since, what, like 2003, a noon start time minimizes the dread before the biggest game of the season.  Things don't start out well for the good guys: Seiber bookends two field goals around a 34 yard TD pass from Hartline to TE Drake for a 13-0 UK lead.  The Cards answer back with a 19 yard field goal from Tim Dougherty and close the first quarter with a 24-yard TD pass from Froman to Vic Anderson.  Both defenses shine in the 2nd Quarter until the last 2 minutes, when Trent Guy catches a 9 yard TD pass from Froman and Anderson gets his second TD reception of the day, this time 25 yards.  The Cards go into the halftime locker room with a 24-13 lead on their arch-rivals, and for the first time, a bit of hope creeps across Cardinal Nation.  Slowly, tentatively, slightly drunkingly, but unmistakeably, hope.

Hope, as they say, is a young man's game.  I think they say that.  Anyway, just 3:39 into the third quarter, the wheels start to come off.  Froman throws a pass that Calvin Harrison catches for a 62 yard TD.  Unfortunately, Calvin Harrison plays for Kentucky.  The Cats tack on a field goal to get within 3 points and then Harrison delivers the death knell - a 91 yard interception return for a TD.  There was much joy in Lexington as no one scores in the 4th Quarter and the Cats prevail 29-23. 

Statistically, the Cards outplayed the Cats, although neither team really looked that impressive.  UofL had 347 yards of total offense - 79 yards rushing on 36 carries and 268 yards on an abysmal 19-49 passing.  4-19 (21%) on third down and 0-2 on fourth down seems vaguely familiar.  What really swung the game, as it always does, was turnovers: we committed 4 (3 INTs, including 2 for TDs, and one fumble), and UK had just one INT. 

Individually, Derrick Locke really chewed clock, carrying it 24 times for 93 yards, and apparently Brooks decided not to let anyone else run the ball as just the QBs registered the only other rushing yards besides John Conner's 1 yard on 1 carry.  Hartline's 75.1 QB rating on 8-24 passing, 1 TD and 1 INT looks positively Manning like when compared to Froman's 19-49, 4 sack, 3 TD 3 INT showing, especially since 2 of the INTs were run all the way back.  Despite that and the likely constant screaming at the CardsFan922 game watching party of 1, Justin Burke did not get a chance to do much better and KRAG left Froman in all game.  Vic got 17 carries for 53 yards and Ashley was not given the ball once, and Anderson led the way with 6 receptions for 79 yards and 2 TDs. 

Defensively, Jeremy Jarmon dominated with 11 tackles (6 for a loss) and 3 sacks, which is both surprising and not surprising considering he is currently in the NFL.  Cal Harrison really was the story of the game with the 2 TAINTS.  LT Walker did his best on the line with 7 tackles, 2 for a loss, and 1 sack.  Overall the defense didn't play terrible, but, again, none of them could do anything about Harrison since they, you know, weren't on the field during those plays.  Johnny Patrick ran an INT back 41 yards but did not score. 

So in what was no doubt an INCREDIBLY frustrating and awful game to watch, UK's defense again was the best unit on the field and the Cats extend their streak to 3 straight over the Kards, dropping UofL to 1-1 on the season.  UK goes onto finish 5-7 (2-6) on the year, and Rich Brooks strangles a reporter in the press conference after the UT game.  Conrad Thomas had no pancakes.

Game 3 (1-1, 0-0 Big East) - Louisville @ #6 Utah

In a game that even the most optimistic among us count as a likely blow out loss, especially coming off heartbreak the week before, the Cards travel west for a what-might-have-been-in-2004 showdown with the Utah Utes.  Utah scores first but the Cards lead at the end of the 1st Quarter thanks to a 2 yard TD pass from Froman (EA hasn't figured out the QB controversy engine, although maybe they are working on it for next season) to Beaumont.  Utah retakes the lead on a 4 yard TD pass.  The teams trade field goals and a Utah safety in the last minute of the first half makes the margin 15-10 Utah going into the locker rooms.

UofL hangs in there to start the 2nd half.  Vic rips off a 61-yard TD run with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Cards are smelling upset, leading 17-15 heading into the 4th quarter.  The Utes Strike Back just seconds into the 4th on a 6 yard TD run, but Anderson keeps his impressive season going with a 25-yard TD pass from Froman to retake the lead by 3 thanks to a 2-point conversion..  The defense holds Utah to a tying field goal with about 8:30 left, and the Cards retake the field with about 8 minutes to dream. 

Then, Froman, and I imagine this happened in slow motion for those watching at home, throws...a...pick.....6....33 yard....INT....returned...for....touchdown...ugh....crowd....goes....wild....game...over.  The Cards can't get it back and the game ends, 32-25 Utes.  Utah goes on to post an impressive 11-1 (7-1) record but I imagine that means no BCS for them (I haven't simulated the bowls yet.) 

Again, the defense plays reasonably well, forcing 2 turnovers, holding Utah to 310 total yards, 4-20 3rd down conversions and 0-1 on 4th, 2 turnovers and only 15-48 passing.  The offense continues to struggle on the ground, rushing 32 times for 70 yards and a fumble, while Froman inefficiently (14-41!!) throws for a bunch of yards (215 to be exact).  Third down conversions (7-19, 36%) and fourth down conversions (0-3) continue to haunt, and a frustrating series of empty red zone trips (6 trips with only 10 points to show for it) all were bad indicators, but what really sealed it were the 5 turnovers, 4 of which were INTs.  Again, all were thrown by Froman.  Realistically, you'd hope that Krag would pull him for Burke at this point but maybe this game knows TOO much.  I shudder to think, but 34% passing, 2 TDs and 4 INTs, including the 2nd game-losing TAINT in 2 weeks, would seemingly be enough to get a guy benched, no? 

The simulation seems to get one thing right: Vic is clearly our best player, rushing for 89 yards on 15 attempts (a 5.9 YPC average that will be cited by many fans in the next week on ITV, if the servers haven't exploded) and 4 catches for 79 yards receiving, with 1 TD each rushing/receiving.  Pretty good game there, Vic.  Beaumont also has a good game - 8 catches for 104 yards and a TD.  Defensively, Jon Dempsey leads the way with 12 tackles (3 for loss) 1 INT and 1 sack, half of the team's total in both categories.  Johnny Patrick gets his 2nd INT in as many games, although I think the game is vastly overestimating our team's ability to pick off passes. 

Overall, another frustrating loss, and the pressure mounts on the Koach.  You have to think that Froman would be on the bench by this point in the season, and you'd think we would run the ball more since our best player is our RB.  Regardless, UofL limps home with a 1-2 record and a very, very unhappy fanbase.  For the record, Conrad Thomas had no pancakes.

Game 4 (1-2, 0-0 Big East) - Pittsburgh @ Louisville

The real season starts this week, Imaginary Kragthorpe tells the Imaginary Fans through the Imaginary Press.  We can still get to a BCS bowl if we win the rest of our games.  We've just got to get better.  And all that. 

Well, surprise, whatever Kragthorpe does during the week works!  The Cards sprint out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter of their first Big East game on the strength of a Vic Anderson 2-yard run and a Beaumont (making up for lost time scoring TDs) 6-yard reception from Adam "Sausage TAINT King" Froman.  Pitt gets on the board in the 2nd quarter with a field goal, but the Cards do the rest of the scoring: 4 yard Vic run, 30 yard field goal (I'll believe it when I see it) and a Bilal Powell sighting for a short TD run in the 3rd quarter.  There was much rejoicing as the Cards, for only the second time in their history, start Big East play 1-0 (look it up!) with a 31-3 win over Pitt.  I know, I don't believe it either.

As the score indicates, the Cards basically dominated from start to finish.  390 total yards to 241 for Pitt (although Pitt outgained us on the ground 107-101).  Froman got better on the completions, 21-35 with, critically, just 1 INT.  2-4 on 4th down conversions helped keep things moving at critical times (I guess) while 7-19 (36%) on 3rd down still leaves some room for improvement.  A 100% conversion rate in the red zone (4 TDs, 1 FG) really makes a difference as well, but at the end of the day, Froman throwing just 1 INT with 289 passing yards on 60% completions, combined with another solid effort from the defense, earned the Cards the victory.

Justin Burke sees his first action, likely in the 4th Quarter, and goes 2-5 for 20 yards.  Vic gets over the century mark with 104 yards on 20 carries, scoring 2 TDs and adding 2 catches for 22 more yards for another all-around exceptional performance.  Beaumont continues his fine season with 9 catches for 158 yards, 1 TD and a 66-yard reception which no doubt was darned exciting.  Dempsey and William Savoy tied for the most tackles (6), TFLs (2), sacks (1) and deflections (1 - I'm serious, they have that stat on here), and Chris Campa recorded a forced fumble, which was recovered by Chaz Thompson. 

So with that, the Cards even up the record at 2-2 and start Big East play with a eye-opening win.  Pitt would go on to a disappointing season, finishing 6-6 (3-4) and paying off those who chose "Stache" on the "who gets fired first, Kragthorpe or Wannstache" bet.  Importantly, and I know you were curious, Conrad Thomas had nary a pancake. 

Hope you enjoyed the first four games of the season and have learned a little something about yourself and Adam Froman.  A summary of games 5-8 will be posted reasonably soon.  Until then, remember, this is just a simulation.  Actual results may vary.  Likely a lot.

 

 

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