By Andrew Phelps
It was a philosophy John Madden swore by, an ideology imprinted into the minds of football fans for decades: who ever scores the most points will win. Touchdowns have been an elusive aspiration for Louisville football since Mr. Flavor of the week Petrino walked out on us in the dark winter months of 2007. Our scoreboard is lonely, and our inventory still contains fireworks from the 2008 restocking order. If Louisville is to regain its consistency, success, and swagger, the Cardinals must learn to fly once again.
On top of a mountain one week, agonizing in defeat the next. It is challenging to endure the growing pains of this young Cardinal team, but it is our duty as loyal supporters and fear not, good times will come again. Losing to Marshall was an embarrassment, no other word describes that performance, but at least we beat Kentucky and our fans possess most of their teeth. Last weekend was a miserable sports outing for me personally, UofL laid an egg and my alma mater, South Carolina, scored 13 points as well in their first loss to Auburn.
After hours of silent anger and depression, I visited Steak & Shake for comfort and moral support. Halfway through my strawberry/chocolate milkshake my eyes were opened to an interesting and depressing possibility. After some quick research, my fears came to fruition. John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino strolled the sidelines for nine years at this University. Through those seasons, not one Louisville team lost a game where its opponent scored 20 points or less. Through Charlie Strong's first two seasons, we have lost three games where the opposing team failed to reach 20 points and six games when the opposition scored 24 or less.
Charlie Strong is not Petrino; he is a defensive coach and an immaculate recruiter. However, he is the head of our program and in charge of putting a product on the field that is going to win football games. It is his duty to resurrect the once envied and feared Cardinal offense. Where does he begin? Mike Sanford. Defensive minded coaches must have a skillful offensive coordinator in order to be successful. In my opinion, Sanford is not getting the job done. Excuses can be made, and a lot of fingers can be pointed at the offensive line, but ladies and gentlemen we are averaging 18.8 points a game and have yet to play an opponent ranked in the top 60. Last season, we averaged 26 points a game, and did not play an opponent who ended the season in the top 25. Through 17 games, Charlie Strong's Cardinals have only eclipsed 30 points four times. That is unacceptable based on the quality of opponents we have faced.
The offensive line must continue to progress, but I simply do not understand the lack of aggression in our offense. The mentality Sanford presents appears to be a hope of gaining a couple of yards and a prayer we do not turn it over. Sanford refuses to attack, and abstains from a vertical passing game. Teddy has displayed a more than capable arm and our receivers are endlessly talented. Take some chances, push the envelope, stretch the defense, and emphasize the only acceptable outcome is six points.
Saturday presents a road challenge against the Tar Heels of North Carolina. Louisville has not faced UNC since the 69-14 slaughter in 2005 at PJCS. This will be a stern test and the Cardinals are currently a 14.5 underdog. There is reason for optimism, Charlie Strong is 4-2 on the road and we have only lost one game in his tenure by two scores or more. UNC is a solid team, and stands at an impressive 4-1 considering the turmoil in their scandalous program. UNC is averaging 31 points per game, and have a talented quarterback and running back. Giovani Bernard is the nation's 14th leading rusher, and averages seven yards a carry. Bryn Renner has thrown 11 touchdowns, and has achieved a completion percentage of 75%. The Cardinal front seven will be relied upon heavily, and must regain their footing, strength and speed.
Offense has already been discussed; let's continue the growth and progression of Mr. Bridgewater. It is time for Sanford to start swinging for the fences and forget about the sacrifice bunt. If we lose, let us lose knowing we left it all out on the field and the word conservative should not be used to describe our offense at any point throughout the 60 minute matchup. Prove me wrong, but Tar Heels win a back and forth battle 27-20.
Reality tells us Cardinal Nation will never again see the offensive perfection that defined the Petrino era. Accepting this is a major step in the road to recovery, but in order for our program to succeed again, a competent and reliable offense must be discovered. He who must not be named clipped our wings but these Cardinals are destined and determined to soar once more. Defense wins championships Cardinal Nation, but scoring touchdowns is the name of the game.