A new era began in 2014. New Conference, New Coach, New Quarterback. Louisville followed up its 12-1 season after losing Charlie Strong, THREE 1st Round NFL Selections, along with its Middle Linebacker Preston Brown (3rd Round Selection) who led the Buffalo Bills in tackles in 2014, and the American Athletic Conference. HUGE Transition.
Enter the Atlantic Coast Conference, Bobby Petrino 2.0, and Will Gardner/Reggie Bonnafon/Kyle Bolin. Louisville not only changed a great deal in between seasons, but during the season as well. Still the Cards tallied a 9-4 record with a #24 finish in the AP & Coaches Polls and scored road victories at Notre Dame & Boston College while knocking off Miami and Kentucky at home. Impressive.
Louisville’s defense picked up where it left off vs. Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Cards dominated the Canes in the opener. Many programs changing conferences lose the 1st road league game, but no one picked Virginia over the Cards in Charlottesville. In the end a special teams gaffe and an offense struggling for an identity led to a 2-point loss.
A glimpse into a bright future came when true freshman Reggie Bonnafon stepped in for injured starter Will Gardner. Things weren’t perfect vs. Wake Forest, but the Cards grinded vs. the stingy Demon Deacons and through a team run with Brandon Radcliff carrying the Cards found the will to win. Louisville carried that will to win inside A LOUD Carrier Dome to beat Syracuse with Bonnafon at Quarterback for the programs 1st ever ACC road victory.
Then came Clemson on the road. Another step. The Cards allowed a punt return for a TD on Clemson’s 1st touch of the ballgame (don’t start about the block in the back, it’s not changing). A lapse on the offensive line behind a struggling Bonnafon led to a sack fumble recovery for a Touchdown……..finally Will Gardner returned and lead valiant effort only to fail to score with 4 downs inside its own 10-yard line and lost to the Tigers by 6 as time expired. Heartbreaking and frustrating, some perspective allows us to be encouraged. Clemson in Year 1 down to the wire? Everyone wants to win, but it is a process.
The Cards got on track vs. NC State with two major weapons: DeVante Parker & Michael Dyer both of which were absent due to injury prior. The Cards ROLLED the Wolfpack and did so impressively.
Then Florida State. The Cards looked to make a HUGE STATEMENT and dominated the 1st half against the Seminoles. Then Florida State made its largest comeback win in school history, rallying from 21 down. Louisville HAD THE LEAD AND THE BALL with 5 minutes to play and a great start on 1st down. Then a false start, an incompletion, and a draw before a punt. Touchdown. UofL then got the ball back down 35-31 with 3:46 to play…..and failed to convert a 4th Down off the fingertips of Charles Standberry on a well-drawn play. Still with a chance the Cards dropped an INT (the 4th INT Drop of the night) that ended as an FSU TD. Deflating. Florida State extended the nation’s longest winning streak and Louisville was left wondering “What If?”
But the Cards got back on the road at Boston College. After some frustrating possessions to start the game and losing Will Gardner to injury (this time for the season) Louisville suddenly exploded offensively and throttled BC. Louisville fans flooded South Bend for its Notre Dame game. Easily the most impressive road crowd of the season. And against the Irish, Bonnafon had the magic again and led the Cards to victory on one of the most famous tracks in college football.
Against Kentucky, Bonnafon went down with an injury of his own and 3rd string QB Kyle Bolin TORCHED the Wildcats to retain the Governor’s Cup for the 4th consecutive season. To close the season, Louisville wasn’t as effective vs Georgia offensively did not tackle like fans had come to expect.
But as you can see from the chart below, Louisville did take some slides statistically in some areas and some improvements in others. The key is that this schedule in 2014 was MUCH more difficult than the 2013 slate, combine that with the transition and the Cards had a fantastic season. Now in the off-season the coaches and players know exactly where they need to improve and that’s a great step towards the ACC Championship.
|Scoring Offense||31.2 (53rd)||35.2 (25th)|
|Total Offense||394.7 (72nd)||460.8 (28th)|
|Passing Offense||252.0 (47th)||314.0 (16th)|
|Rushing Offense||142.69 (95th)||146.85|
|Scoring Defense||21.8 (24th)||12.2 (2nd)|
|Total Defense||308.5 (6th)||251.5 (1st)|
|Passing Defense||199.6 (27th)||170.8 (5th)|
|Rushing Defense||108.92 (10th)||80.69 (1st)|
|Punt Returns||7.41 (70th)||7.63 (68th)|
|Kickoff Returns (ypr)||21.06 (61st)||22.71 (42nd)|
|Opponent Punt Returns (ypr)||9.71 (97th)||1.15 (1st)|
|Opponent Kickoff Returns||22.60 (101st)||22.65 (93rd)|
|Punting (ypp)||39.85 (94th)||40.24 (79th)|
|Field Goals (%)||78.9% (34th)||80.0% (39th)|
|Opponent Field Goals (%)||88.5% (123rd)||76.9% (83rd)|
|First Downs||20.4 (77th)||23.4 (32nd)|
|Opponent First Downs||15.3 (4th)||14.1 (1st)|
|Penalties (ypg)||49.3 (50th)||64.3 (113th)|
|Turnover Margin||+4 (41st)||+17 (2nd)|
|Time of Possession||32.:31.62 (15th)||33:40.31 (2nd)|
|Sacks (pg)||3.15 (10th)||3.31 (1st)|
|Sacks Allowed||3.08 (115th)||2.00 (61st)|
|Tackles for Loss||6.77 (28th)||7.85 (6th)|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed||7.15 (116th)||5.54 (47th)|
|Interceptions||26 (1st)||16 (30th)|
|Passes Defended||5.92 (10th)||4.77 (43rd)|
|Fumbles Recovered||4 (120th)||11 (30th)|
|Fumbles Forced||7 (107th)||16 (12th)|
|Fumbles Lost||16 (123rd)||6 (12th)|
|Kicks/Punts Blocked||1 (72nd)||2 (45th)|
|3rd Downs Conversions||39.2% (76th)||56.14% (2nd)|
|Opponent 3rd Down Conversions||31.79% (10th)||26.74% (1st)|
|4th Down Conversions||52.38% (54th)||33.33% (110th)|
|Opponent 4th Down Conversions||25.00% (4th)||52.17% (65th)|
|Red Zone Conversions %||82.76% (68th)||86.21% (40th)|
|Opponent Red Zone Conversions %||76.92% (26th)||68.42% (5th)|
|Red Zone TD Conversions %||67.24% (29th)||56.9% (89th)|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Conversions (%)||41.03% (4th)||47.37% (7th)|
|Kickoffs (ypk)||62.58 (26th)||59.98 (93rd)|
|Plays||939 (56th)||894 (69th)|
|Yards Per Play||5.46 (73rd)||6.70 (12th)|