When the University of Louisville football team stepped up to the John, it burned.
Louisville's loss to Marshall is not a reflection of the previous coaching staff. The loss is solely on the back off Charlie Strong, his staff, and his players. An out-of-sorts offensive line and a completely uninspired defensive front are only partially at fault. When it comes to football X's and O's, I'll never claim that I can see the Matrix. But shortly after Marshall's first touchdown, I forced myself to come to grips with the fact that this was a deep puddle of muck that we just needed to trudge through. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were simply too much of a dysfunctional football team on Saturday and ultimately allowed themselves to sink into their own stink.
If an amateur eyeball can easily note the lack of ebb and flow on both sides of the ball, then it must have been an exposed Ark of the Covenant to the face of Coach Charlie Strong. When he
sat down hulked up for his postgame comments to the media, Strong was a Hulk Smash short of bringing down the house with his frustration-laden postgame comments. Strong couldn't reach into his coach pockets and pull out any coachspeak after the game. It was an unadulterated and unfiltered look at a man who simply will not accept the kind of performance we witnessed on Saturday. The lack of passion, preparedness, and leadership were clearly the most poignant deficiencies that Strong citied no less than seven-million times.
When asked about calling a timeout when the game was clearly over, Strong's stream of consciousness response hit hard:
"I wanted to burn them a little bit."
And certainly it burned. It burned for the fans, it burned for the coaching staff, and it burned for the players. Shouldering most of the blame during his Monday afternoon press conference, it's clear that Strong is not willing to ignore the burning sensation. Strong blamed himself for allowing the team to bask too long in the spoils of defeating a rival. He’s certainly talked about changing the culture of the program, and we’ve all got to accept the fact that one win will not accomplish that.
As the chances of reaching the postseason quickly sputter away, there's not much positivity hovering around the program. But if I can garner one positive to take forward, it wouldn't be a developing freshmen superstar quarterback or a solid underclassmen cornerstone for the future. I’m also not going to gush over recruiting rankings or prognosticated depth charts four seasons down the road.
The lone positive I’ll take from Saturday’s outing: a single timeout called by Strong in the waning seconds of a losing effort. He did it to remind his staff, his players, and himself what the burning sensation of an uninspired performance feels like.
If we look close enough, it reminds us of the future, as well: the future is a coach that's willing revel in the joy of winning (see: multiple Gatorade baths, jumping side bumps); and the future is a coach that's willing to stand in the fires of defeat and burn out a culture of losing. That is a pretty cool thing.