I debated with myself today whether or not to write this. The loss on Saturday night hurt. People were feeling it on Sunday. We had all day Monday to listen to local sports talk radio shows and hear people vent. It’s about time to move on. So I almost just let this one go because I don’t want to drill the game into the ground. I don’t want to offend people, although I may. But I just want to get my thoughts out about the game, the atmosphere, and what we do from here. And then I will be ready to move on.
So if you have already had enough Clemson talk and don’t want to go any further, that is your right. Thanks for making it this far. If you want to keep going so we can get through this together, buckle up. Let’s attack a few different things and then get this one behind us.
This was never going to be an issue. You don’t have to convince Louisville fans to tailgate. SportsCenter made their third trip to the Red Rage Tailgate. I got out there around 7 a.m. and there were already people in the lot. However, I hear that Lot H may be closed for tailgating for the rest of the season. Plan accordingly if that happens. I made my way to the Green Lot at PJCS. On my way, the Boys Scout Lots were full and everyone looked to be having a good time. The Green Lot was much of the same. The tailgate atmosphere was how we all expected. Note for some folks: drink more water.
This is where some people may get upset, and that comes with the territory of doing this. The seats were filled. The party deck looked packed, and the seats still looked filled. So I was impressed there. The crowd made noise when the team ran back to the locker room one last time. The stadium was full of black with some orange. As the clock started to wind down, there was a buzz in the air. The music was playing, game time was approaching, and the fans were amped up. This was one of the parts I was looking forward to all day long, just being in the atmosphere and taking it all in before the game actually started. And then…
Look, this is not a shot at the band. I can’t do what they do. If you ever put on a UofL uniform, you are good with me (not you, Andre McG**). They were just doing their job. But who thought it would be a good idea to have the crowd amped up with regular music from DJ K-Dogg all the way up until about 10 minutes until kickoff, and then hit us with “My Old Kentucky Home”? It’s our state song. I love it. I love it after games as I am leaving the stadium or arena. I love it when the horses are on the track before the Kentucky Derby. I don’t love it 10 minutes before we face the #3 team in the country and we need our crowd to be jacked up and ready to be louder than ever.
I could only think back to being at Clemson last year, and how the atmosphere was before the game. It could not have been more of an opposite feeling. Tell me all you want about their “fake noise” or the microphones by their student section. They are still a loud crowd. The group that made the trip for this game proved that. Their stadium was rocking last year before the game. Ours was sedated, and not by the all-day tailgating. I respect the band. It’s not their fault. I just don’t know who thought that THAT was the best idea to get energy into the stadium.
I won’t go into this too much, but the Muhammad Ali pregame video last season seemed to get everyone excited before the team ran out. Even aside from the Florida State game when it debuted, it still worked for the other games. Well, we went away from it. Regular highlight videos are nice. But it leaves people just watching the video and not really cheering. Mix in highlights with Ali and boxing clips, and it works. People go nuts. The bell rings and then the team runs out to cheers. It worked last year. It would have on Saturday night. I don’t think the regular highlight video did.
By now, you have read or heard everything about the game on the field. I won’t go into X’s and O’s. I think a championship caliber team played to that level, and Louisville did not match it or even play to the level we are used to seeing. Combine those two things, and it was just a whooping. Kelly Bryant played better than anyone expected. Lamar Jackson did not play how we expected. Louisville needed to play a great game to compete with a Clemson team that brought their A game. It didn’t happen. Lamar missed some throws, receivers dropped some passes, we didn’t run the ball with Malik Williams as much as we should have.
If you keep up with Keith Wynne on twitter, you already knew that Peter Sirmon’s defense usually plays a soft coverage to keep things in front of them. It’s basically opposite Todd Grantham, who seemed to blitz on every single play no matter what. So alright, keep everything in front. We have to live with that. And it gets frustrating when every pass is easily caught because the defense plays so far back. But then we also give up the big play? That’s when it becomes too much. How do we play off of them, yet they still get behind us? Why do they run up the middle and we miss tackles? Why is it 3rd and 14 and the middle of the field is wide open for them to pass it 15 yards? Are we going to play soft coverage or get beat deep? We can not have both. I am not a football wizard. I can’t break these things down like others on this site can. These are just general observations and questions.
Another controversial topic among this fan base. Yes, fans left early. Some left really early. I was worried that the crowd would not have as much juice when the second half started, and I was right. It was only 19-7. We stopped them on defense and got the ball back. But the long Lamar run that was negated by a penalty, followed by the pick six just sucked the life right out of the stadium. Most people checked out after that.
I was there until the clock hit 0:00. I used to be a stickler for that and get mad when I saw people leaving early. I don’t know how far on that side I am anymore. Am I a better fan because I stayed and you left? Or are you the smarter one for leaving? I don’t know. Part of me is starting to say that it is your money that you spent on the ticket, you are free to do whatever you want. And also, if they aren’t giving you a reason to stay and watch, why stay and watch? And don’t think that we are the only fan base that leaves early when getting dominated.
Yes, that is Texas, Clemson, and Ohio State that also has fans that leave early. It’s not just Louisville. I am not saying I agree with it. I am not saying that I will start to do it. Just that people are making it a very big deal and how it made the stadium look bad. Well, the scoreboard looked bad on ABC too. Attacking other fans and telling them how they should be fans will not help anything. So I won’t do that. You are free to do what you want. But I invite all of you to stay until 0:00 with me. And if you don’t, I am not a better fan than you.
Check that picture again of the Clemson stadium as they got beat 51-14 to Florida State in 2013. Yes, 51-14. What happened after that? They won four out of five to close out the season and then beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. And they have gone on a pretty nice little run since then. This one game does not have to define or end our season. We still have the best player in college football. We still have a good team. We ran into a team that could end up playing for the National Championship again.
We take care of business against Kent State and Murray State. Then we are 4-1 and head to NC State for a Thursday night game on ESPN. The country gets reintroduced to Louisville and Lamar Jackson because they won’t care at all about us in these next two games. Win that one on the road and then beat Boston College at home, and you are 6-1 heading to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. We will reconvene there and see where we are.
This season is not over because we lost to Clemson. It was bad. It hurt. It deflated us. Time to pick ourselves up and rally behind this team and get on a nice little roll here. This team can still make some noise in the ACC. Kent State, I am sorry for what has to happen to you. Hope you understand.