By Andrew Phelps
Winning is everything, or so they say, but here at the University of Louisville, it sure feels good to be back where we belong. Not since 2006 has our team, our players, our coaches and our fans had the right to be disappointed and infuriated after a very important victory.
Normality has returned to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and this program is headed nowhere but up.
Cardinal fans, hopefully a few on the coaching staff and most surprisingly our hero Theodore Heisman should have left that field relieved and disappointed. Our team had a real chance to make a national statement against Rutgers, instead, Shawn Watson let us down, and sadly dealt a hard blow to Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman campaign.
As the good reverend says, and probably all of our mommas, let's focus on the positives. The UofL defense is 100% legitimate, as I stated and argued a few weeks ago, and has consistently been more impressive than the offense all season. James Burgess is an absolute playmaker and has an opportunity to become one of UofL's all-time great linebackers. Bedford and Charlie deserve a ton of credit for mixing up our defensive packages and looks which obviously made Gary Nova's eyes go crossed. Maybe Nova can get kicked by that same mule that took care of Ruby Sue. Clint Hurtt is earning his paycheck, and in my lifetime, Louisville has never had a better defensive line. The strength of those boys, the form tackling, and the inspiring speed off the ends is an absolute thrill to watch.
Momma and the Bible are right; you will always feel better talking about the sunny side of life. However, it is my job to be fair and balanced. I do not question Shawn Watson's ability, work ethic or preparation for one second. I do question his play calling inside the red zone. Watson is in a tough position; we Cardinal fans were spoiled for four years by the greatest offensive mind in the modern era of college football. We expect points, we want them, and when we get inside the 10 yard line, scoring six should not be an issue.
The University of Louisville had four possessions inside the Rutgers 10 yard line Thursday night, we managed 10 points. In the second half against Temple, and then against one of the worst secondary's in college football Thursday night, the Cardinals managed just 13 points in four quarters of football. In my humble opinion those stats rest solely on the shoulders of our play caller. With NFL talent scattered abundantly across the field, Watson should be having a blast in the booth, not tightening up, coming across more squeamish than a stutterer in a spelling bee.
It is simple, Teddy is the best quarterback we have ever had the pleasure of cheering for. Our receiving core and tight ends have never been better. The running backs have adequate hands and are phenomenal in the open field. Put the ball in Heisman's hands and let him find somebody, trust me, it won't be hard. How many times did Teddy bail us out on third down and long against Rutgers? How many times in a row are we going to run off the tackle on first and 10? How many times are we going to let Teddy march us down the field then make him irrelevant inside the red zone? Stick with what works; we are not going to lose putting all our faith in Teddy Ballgame.
Last but not least are the special teams. Not trying to tell Charlie how to do his job, but it has never been more obvious we need an actual special teams coach. Let Kenny Carter focus on the running backs and hire someone who genuinely knows what they are doing. These blocked field goals, poor kickoff coverages, and nerve-racking punt/punt returns have got to go. The program has the money; just go find someone pretty please, with a cherry on top.
The Louisville football team is 6-0, ranked in the top 10 and in a prime position to make another BCS bowl game. The good news is we have six games left, and another chance Friday night to make a national championship. We missed an opportunity against Rutgers, but there is no need to panic. Get back to work, learn from our mistakes and become the best college football team next Friday. This is our year, and it will be.
All Hail UofL!