You either love them or hate them, but no one does it better. The New England Patriots may be the best in the history of sports at ignoring distractions, learning from mistakes, refocusing after troublesome or heartbreaking losses, and simply moving on. Louisville Football has rumbled, bumbled, and stumbled through two games and has unexpectedly found itself 0-2. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick may deflate their balls, but the Cardinals should take notes from the evil empire. All that matters now is Clemson.
Before caging the Tigers and Mr. Sweatshirt, Dabo Swinney, Louisville must look back and understand why they have blundered to 0-2 instead of soaring into Thursday night ranked and undefeated.
1. Self-Inflicted Wounds
Louisville Football is a glutton for punishment and even the most hardened UK supporter would admit that the Cardinals defeated themselves against Auburn and Houston.
Untimely and costly penalties have stalled several promising drives, and the defense has committed several major infractions that have enabled opponents to live to see another set of downs.
Through two games, the offensive line and or backfield has been flagged seven times inside the opponent's 30-yard line. It is almost impossible to score touchdowns when a team's favorite direction is backwards. Holding penalties likely cost Louisville the victory, or at least overtime Saturday, hopefully these kids can finally learn from their mistakes.
The defense has had their fair share of "what the hell were you thinking" moments through two weeks as well. Five times Grantham's unit committed a penalty that resulted in a first down for the defense, three of those being unsportsmanlike conduct. The Cardinals are simply not good enough to play this sloppy.
Penalties are one thing, unforced turnovers, however, are inexcusable. In 2015, Louisville has committed four unforced turnovers. Give Houston credit for two interceptions because of solid coverage and impressive catches. Jackson's bomb against Auburn was unforced given how wide open the tight end was just five yards in front of his face. Reggie and Lamar's botched handoffs were infuriating. Middle school teams execute handoffs flawlessly and all three of those fumbles occurred inside an opponent's 30-yard line. Once again, Louisville is not good enough to overcome missed chances to score points.
2. Special Teams
Three missed field goals, one with the wind at Wallace's back which would have sent Saturday's game into overtime, and a 100 yard kickoff return where Louisville had all the momentum and was in position to make a tackle at Houston's 10 yard line. I stated before the season that John Wallace would be one of the MVP's or LVP's of the 2015 season, I'll let you all decide which one he has been through two games.
3. Mysterious Disappearance and Reappearance of Coach Petrino's Pro-Style Offense
Louisville starts two true freshmen and a walk-on on the offensive line. Interestingly enough, the freshmen may be the best aspect of the line. The offensive line is porous and undisciplined, and has the coaches battling an identity crisis. The inconsistent play up front has left Coach Petrino incapable of committing to a consistent style of offense.
When Reggie or Lamar enter the game, the Cardinals are strictly read option. When Bolin trots on the field to perform heroics, fans rejoice as "Bobby Ball" reemerges. For what felt like the first time all season, Kyle Bolin gave us a glimpse of a Louisville quarterback taking a snap from under center in a power formation. Bolin's drives weren't flawless, but they resulted in points and left fans feeling encouraged. Maybe Bolin is a product of the system Coach Petrino successfully utilized for almost two decades, or maybe Bolin is that much better than Lamar and Reggie. Wherever you stand on the quarterback debate, I think we can all agree that Coach Petrino's pro-style offense works and Lamar and or Reggie should be given an opportunity to shine in it.
Coach Petrino understands football better than almost anyone, but it doesn't take an offensive genius to realize that whatever playbook emerges during Bolin's time on the field is the only playbook generating fireworks.
Louisville Football and Cardinal Fans didn't foam at the mouth for nine months to begin the season 0-2. The questions are many, the answers seem to be too few and far between, but a win Thursday night changes everything. Georgia Tech aside, ACC Football appears vulnerable in 2015. Louisville must regain their focus and believe in improvement. Onward and upward is the only path remaining for Louisville Football and Thursday night it is on to Clemson.
All Hail UofL !!