Louisville football is 2-1, just as well all expected three games into the season. What we did not expect was how this team would look with that 2-1 record. Let’s just say that it has been underwhelming to say the least, and that it’s a good thing the schedule is set up how it is this early, otherwise that record could be much different. There are some things I wanted to write about, and some you may agree with, some you won’t. It’s fine. Personally, it’s just good to get these things out there before being able to mentally move on and focus on the next game, which is at Virginia on Saturday.
Those that know me know that I am generally that positive fan that can turn bad situations into “everything is fine” moments. Regardless of how a game goes, I look at the upcoming schedule and convince myself of how the Cards will win and turn things around. After the Alabama loss, I said that Louisville can still be 7-1 heading into Clemson. That’s just usually my attitude on things. I’m not here to do that this time. There are issues with this team, and I am here to say what I see instead of projecting how good things can still be this season. Keep in mind, this is from a casual fan perspective. For the really in-depth X’s and O’s football breakdowns that I have no business speaking on, you better read Keith Wynne’s posts on here. That guy teaches me more about the little details of the game more than he even knows. So, let’s talk some about the WKU game and the season as a whole to this point. Here we go…
How many running backs get to play?
I wrote on Friday about wondering if someone would emerge as “the guy” at running back for the Cards. I predicted that Jeremy Smith would surely step up, and then either Dae Williams or Colin Wilson would make a case for themselves. I was 1 for 3 on that one. Smith and Wilson combined for 4 carries and 0 yards. Dae Williams had 9 carries for 58 yards, an average of 6.4 yards per rush. Oh, and he found the endzone twice.
Taking the quarterbacks out of the equation, five different players got carries on Saturday. Take Dae Williams out, and the other four guys got six carries total. How can anyone get in a rhythm like that? Clearly, it didn’t happen. The only time there was anything resembling a running game was in the second half when it appeared that Dae Williams was our guy. But even then, he opened the second half with two big runs that helped Louisville get inside the 10-yard line. What happened on the next three plays? He did not touch the ball once. The result was settling for a field goal. I’m all for giving a guy a rest for a play or two here and there. But to have four guys combine for six rushes is not ideal. I want to see Dae Williams get his shot at being the lead back and having 15-20 carries on Saturday.
Who is the starting QB?
I will be in the minority here, but I just can’t give up on Jawon Pass yet. I gave him, and the entire team, a mulligan after the first two games. It was Alabama (where he actually looked decent) and a monsoon game. I threw them out the window. I was certain that it would all come together on Saturday. 90 degrees and sunny, inferior opponent, it was time to light up the scoreboard. I predicted 52-13. Starting to think I should stop predicting things…
So, Pass comes out and goes 0/3 and gets pulled. The offense never looked good when he was in there. I will admit that. He missed some open guys. Not missed as in threw a bad pass, but missed as in he didn’t even throw the ball at all. But man, could the receivers do him any favors and maybe catch the ball when he does hit them? It’s clear that two of the three passes should have been caught. I will say that all three definitely could have, especially when you consider the third one being to our best receiver, even if it was a little behind him. Two or three of those drops are probably first downs if they are completed. How different are things then if we could have just moved the chains? One of the incompletions turned into an interception where if it were caught, as it should have been, Louisville is in the red zone with a chance to put points on the board early.
This is not saying that I don’t like Malik Cunningham, of course I do. He is electric and fun to watch. He has sparked the offense in the last two games. But if we are going to talk about how bad that Indiana State and Western Kentucky are, then why does someone automatically get the starting job just because he can run around these bad teams? But then I know that brings up, well if they are so bad and Puma could not move the offense, what does that mean? I get it, totally justified case there. Which is why I know I am in the minority. I just can’t believe that Bobby Petrino would anoint Pass as the next man up for the whole summer, not even hinting at a quarterback competition, talk about it being his time to shine, and him be SO wrong about his judgement on that position.
In saying that, if Malik is the starter now, I hope he shines and can help this team win. He just seems very eager to tuck it and run right away, and good teams are not going to let him do that. We don’t have anymore teams like Indiana State and Western Kentucky on the schedule. I probably stand alone here, but I want to see Jawon Pass get another shot at keeping the job that he apparently earned over the summer, and not have to look over his shoulder if he starts out 0/3 because he hit his receivers in the hands and they did not catch the ball. If he has a bad game or even a bad half, then I am probably ready to move on as well. But if you move on now, you may not get Puma back.
Where do we go from here?
This schedule sets us up to have a giant bowl of fool’s gold. Louisville could very easily win the next three games and be sitting at 5-1. That’s not the “Mr. Positive” in me coming out, that’s just being honest. There is enough talent on this team to go get a win at Virginia, and then come home and beat a bad Florida State team and a bad Georgia Tech team. I was once worried about Georgia Tech. Not now. If they beat us, it isn’t because they are very good. So yes, we could be sitting at 5-1 and still not really know what kind of team this is, simply because the next three games are so winnable.
Yes, the team looked and played better in the second half on Saturday and if you had no idea who we were playing, it was an exciting finish. But I can not get overly amped up about a down-to-the-wire win over Western Kentucky, who just lost to an FCS team at home last week. Glad we won. But as a 23-point favorite that only scores 20 points at home on a perfect night weather-wise, I won’t be fooled by just getting the win.
At the same time, if things don’t get fixed, those next three games can also be lost. Louisville is an underdog against Virginia. That should not be the case, but it is. If you lose that, maybe that bad FSU team that still has talent comes into Cardinal Stadium and figures their issues out and gets a win. Who knows after that? 5-1 would not shock me. 2-4 would not shock me. I have no idea what kind of team this is. I know there is talent. But I don’t know what is going on that is stopping it from clicking.
There is plenty more I could say and have full paragraphs about, but I will just leave you with quick-hitters so we can get on with our day…
-I don’t know if Bobby Petrino has lost “it”, but something is off. He hasn’t forgotten the game of football. But there are glaring questions about the staff he has around him. And in year five of Bobby 2.0, I think it’s fair to say that we all expected more by this point. I have never been on the “fire Bobby” train. I am just starting to have doubts creep in for the first time. We’ll see what happens.
-There was absolutely no energy on the sidelines on Saturday until the blocked field goal in the third quarter. From my new seats, I have a clear view of Louisville’s bench. All standing around or sitting with no enthusiasm. It wasn’t how I remembered Louisville’s better teams. There is always the jumping up and down and waving towels. It finally happened, but it took a crazy play to ignite it. Were they not excited to play football on a Saturday night?
-This team was supposed to be really fast and have speed. WKU’s offense looked faster than our defense at times. That’s a problem.
-The wide receivers were supposed to be the strength of the team…do better.
-My new favorite player is #36, Maurice Burkley. Did he play on Saturday? I don’t know. What I do know is that he played a mean air guitar during “Joker and the Thief” right before the fourth quarter started. That’s always my favorite time in the stadium because it gets everyone on their feet and cheering and geared up for the last quarter. And in a game where I saw so much lack of energy on the sidelines, looking on the screen and seeing a player rock out like it was playing Guitar Hero did bring a smile to my face. Rock on, Maurice.
-The intro and video are still awesome. I love it.
-Rodjay Burns will return a couple more punts for touchdowns this season.
-The call to go for it on 4th down on our own 32 was…bad. I must say that apart of me did not want us to convert it because we did not deserve it at that point. And it needed to be remembered how bad of a move that was at the time. Everyone knew Malik was running that ball.
-Did Alabama take our soul? Did we prepare and have them on our minds so much over the summer that the beatdown just crushed us and we could not get up for these last two games? Will it linger into another game? If so, this one will end in a loss.
-End on a positive, end on a positive, end on a positive…
-Get out of town. Come together as a team. Road trips are good for this. Go get a win at Virginia and begin ACC play 1-0. Get a little momentum and come back to Cardinal Stadium and whip Florida State for the third year in a row. Have a four-game winning streak when the triple option of Georgia Tech comes in on a Friday night. Let the crazy atmosphere propel us to another win. Be 5-1 heading back on the road to a potentially very good Boston College team. Maybe by then, whatever “it” is that needs to be fixed within this team, has fixed itself. Winning cures a lot of things. Barely escaping over bad teams does not cure as much. Winning three conference games could cure more. Look at me. I got roped back into this way of thinking.
-Go Cards. Beat Virginia.