By Andrew Phelps
Cardinal Fans you have two options. Talk until you are blue in the face about the youth, the inexperience, the offensive line, and the forbidden fruit known now as the end zone. Or be in your seats at 8pm tonight, dressed warmly with layers of clothes and a heat blanket provided by your drink of choice, ready to cheer on your team at a point in the season where they need us more than ever. Losing hurts us the fans, kills them the players and coaches, and being close only counts in horseshoes. Just win!
The University of Louisville football program has been the center attention lately for more than just its wins and losses. Charlie Strong was given a massive contract extension, we might reach a Big 12 conclusion this evening, and Mike Sanford is no longer with the program.
Charlie Strong is a good person, a good defensive coach, a proven recruiter and a passionate leader whose intolerance of losing appears to be exploding through his eyes, ears and mouth. The news of his extension did not shock me, but I was a little surprised about its timing. Charlie is going to be a winner at Louisville, but he is still unproven and only in his second year of the original five year deal. This move was made for many reasons. We wanted to show faith in our coach in what will and should be his toughest year. More importantly, recruits and interested conference courters need to see stability and commitment. Charlie Strong is our football coach, I am proud to have him on our sideline, and most importantly he will not rest until this school is dominant once more.
Is anyone out there in Cardinal Nation losing sleep over the firing of Mike Sanford? ... Didn't think so. In fact, if your daily night cap or sleeping pill is not getting the job done, try re-watching any of Louisville's 2nd half efforts this season, I guarantee you will be asleep before the Cardinals hit the red zone. Coach Watson has been given a seven game tryout to prove he is worthy of being the next offensive coordinator. He stands at 0-1, but the team showed some life against Cincinnati and the play calling was not nearly as dreadful.
I still do not understand the conservative mentality of our offense. Football is not chess club, the goal is to score seven points, not induce absolute silence and boredom with two yard running plays. Bridgewater has showcased a cannon, let the kid use it. Our receivers have proven blow by ability, take some chances. I'd much rather see a 30-40 yard pass be intercepted then watch Philpot trot on the field and punt it the same exact distance. However, we understand the issue. Our offensive line collapses faster than Joker Phillips coaching career, and collects more violations than Calipari's basketball programs.
Youth and inexperience has been most prevalent in regards to the big boys up front, and to adjust for this Louisville needs to spread the field, play fast and abandon the run-first mentality. Attack all portions of the field and allow Teddy to make plays with his eyes, arm, and feet. Perhaps if the Cardinals started throwing prayers at the end zone, a few might actually be answered.
Friday night at 8pm bring the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to PJCS. Rutgers is my least favorite team in the Big East. Not only did they ruin our national championship season of 2006, but they are just annoying. They never do anything of significance, and they pester the real winners in this league year after year. Greg Schiano can chop wood on his own time, and I wonder how much he regrets choosing Piscataway over South Beach.
As for the game, I expect more of the same. Louisville's defense will play well, and give the offense plenty of opportunities to take an early lead. Rutgers is only giving up 16 points a contest, meaning it is a necessity the Louisville offense institutes some new wrinkles and finally crosses the goal line. Our young secondary will be tested tonight for the first time since the Florida International game as Rutgers appears to be a pass first offense. Mohamed Sanu is the Knights' playmaker. Hakeem Smith, Holton and Pryor must contain his speed and keep him in front of their coverage.
The Scarlet Knights are off to a solid start and this game provides a perfect opportunity to ruin their season. They are 2-0 in the conference and have already defeated two of the conferences better teams in Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The defensive line needs to pressure their freshman quarterback, and any turnover will be crucial. Our offense needs all the assistance it can get, so if Rutgers is willing to fumble or throw an interception we will gladly accept. If I have one hope for this game, I ask that if we win the coin toss, elect to receive, put Teddy in the shotgun and throw the damn ball down the field. Louisville is a one point favorite. Cards get their first Big East win 23-20 and the announcement is made we are joining the Big 12.
The 2011 season is half over for the University of Louisville and thus far it has been disappointing, but eye opening. The realist in us all knew this was the kind of season we were in for thanks to the destruction of the unspoken three years, but we couldn't call ourselves fans if we didn't hope and want something better. All talk aside, this team just needs a win. They do a lot of good things, and possess a lot of talent, now it is time to showcase that in the 4th quarter. Seal the deal Cards, finish the game, and when 15 minutes remain, look up at the 50,000 fans, your head coach and just win!