“Talk is cheap. Let’s go play.” —– Johnny Unitas

Since December 29th, all Louisville Football fans have had, is talk.   Tomorrow night, we’re done talking and on to playing the 2014 season.  The wait for Monday Night Football may build excitement among the Cardinal Faithful and the rainy weather on Saturday certainly proved to be a blessing that the game was on Monday.  But the off-season, like all off-seasons are, has been too long.

It’s a new era.  ACC.  Bobby Petrino & Staff, new quarterback, new defense.  There is a lot to see and take note of.  But let’s get started.

HYPE VIDEO

2014 Football Hype Video: Respect All, Fear None from @CrumsRevenge on Vimeo.

TheCrunchZone.com Podcast

Louisville Position Previews

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Linebackers
Secondary

The Series

The series only recently became interesting.  In 12 meetings the Hurricanes hold a 2-9-1 advantage over the Cards.  Dating back to 1933, Louisville wasn’t able to defeat the Canes until the 2006 match-up in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  The tie occurred in 1950.  But the series really kicked off in earnest with two memorable (one maybe not so much for Miami) games in 2004 & 2006.

Stat Comparison (2013)

End of 2013 Stats Louisville Miami (FL)
Scoring Offense (ppg) 35.2 (25th) 33.8 (33rd)
Total Offense (ypg) 460.8 (28th) 425.8 (48th)
Passing Offense (ypg) 314.0 (16th) 265.5 (33rd)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 146.85 (87th) 160.31 (73rd)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 12.2 (2nd) 26.8 (66th)
Total Defense (ypg) 251.5 (1st) 426.4 (90th)
Passing Defense (ypg) 170.8 (5th) 249.8 (92nd)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 80.69 (1st) 176.54 (78th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 7.63 (68th) 11.30 (30th)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 22.71 (42nd) 25.08 (7th)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 1.15 (1st) 12.25 (110th)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 22.65 (93rd) 19.83 (31st)
Punting (ypp) 40.24 (79th) 46.26 (4th)
Field Goal % 80.0 (39th) 76.5% (55th)
Opponent Field Goal % 76.9% (83rd) 81.0% (96th)
First Downs (per game) 23.4 (32nd) 19.0 (93rd)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 14.1 (1st) 22.1 (91st)
Penalties (ypg) 64.3 (113th) 44.8 (49th)
Turnover Margin (season) +17 (2nd) +5 (32nd)
Time of Possession 33:49.31 (2nd) 25:58.62 (120th)
Sacks (per game) 3.31 (1st) 2.23 (49th)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 2.00 (61st) 1.31 (24th)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 7.85 (6th) 4.69 (113th)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 5.54 (47th) 5.00 (28th)
Interceptions (season) 16 (30th) 18 (13th)
Passes Defended (per game) 4.77 (43rd) 4.77 (43rd)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 11 (30th) 9 (57th)
Fumbles Forced (season) 16 (12th) 15 (16th)
Fumbles Lost (season) 6 (12th) 8 (36th)
Kicks/Punts Blocked (season) 2 (45th) 3 (23rd)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 56.00% (2nd) 35.00% (96th)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 26.74% (1st) 42.42% (90th)
4th Down Conversions (%) 33.33% (110th) 42.11% (92nd)
Opponent 4th Down Conversions (%) 52.17% (65th) 66.67% (109th)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 86.21% (40th) 80.00% (79th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 68.42% (5th) 80.00% (36th)
RedZone TD Conversions (%) 56.90% (89th) 60.00% (73rd)
Opponent Red Zone TD Conversions (%) 47.37% (7th) 54.00% (29th)
Kickoffs (ypk) 59.98% (93rd) 63.13% (14th)
Plays 894 (69th) 820 (104th)
Yards Per Play 6.70 (12th) 6.75 (11th)

Louisville Offenese vs. Miami Defense 

Louisville’s offense in 2014 has many familiar faces that have returned since 2013. Bobby Petrino has been an offensive dynamo throughout his career in college football and the expectation should be the same here with a great deal of returning talent from the conservative 28th best offense in the nation in 2013.

Of course, Louisville is replacing Teddy Bridgewater, Damian Copeland, Senorise Perry and will be without the services of perhaps the best Wide Receiver in college football.  So there is certainly legitimate reason for concern.  The good news is that there are weapons on deck for the Cardinals.

Starting with Quarterback Will Gardner (6’5, 226, Soph) the offense is going to rely almost completely on the young shoulders of the Louisville Sophomore.  Gardner is an athlete, timed at 4.6 in the 40 and with a canon of an arm Will has all of the tools athletically to handle the job of running this offense.  Making great decisions, seeing the plays develop, and understanding schemes in the Petrino system will be his biggest challenge.  The great news is that Petrino installed this offense twice in the Spring with Gardner and Will looked fantastic in the Spring Game. The extra time pre-Fall Camp this summer is most certainly going to make a difference for Gardner, but also ALL of college football with new players and new staffs.

Will has an offensive line with 4 starters from last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl in Jamon Brown, Ryan Mack, Jake Smith, and John Miller.  But Center Tobijah Hughley has never played a snap of college football and just recently moved from walk-on status to scholarship player.  Hughley is the unknown here, but the Cards have A LOT of veteran experience in the returning starters and moving Jake Smith from Center (where he played throughout 2013) improves the Cardinal front 5 by moving Jake into his more natural position.

I believe that the move to guard for Jake Smith is multi-faceted but the end result is a HUGE boost in the Louisville running game potential.  Right now it appears that Michael Dyer is ‘questionable’ to play with a thigh contusion suffered on August 16th. The contusion must be ‘severe’ if Michael’s return is still in question 12 days after the original injury but I have a tough time believing that a deep bruise would keep Dyer off the field in the season opener vs. Miami.  Petrino has said that Dyer is showing up early in the morning for treatment every day since the injury and doing everything possible to return to action.  It would be good to see him on the practice field before the game.

If Dyer can’t go, Louisville has options in a deep & talented backfield.  Starting with senior Dominique Brown who led the Cards in rushing last season with 825 yards and 8 Touchdowns, including 42 yards in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami.  True Freshman LJ Scott is the real deal, and the Cards could be very aggressive with both Brown & Scott against the Miami front 7.  Brandon Radcliff & Corvin Lamb also will see action in this group and I expect Lamb to make noise on 3rd downs and in Kick Returns.  Without Dyer this group is still very good.  With a HEALTHY Dyer this group can be outstanding.

Miami’s Rushing Defense last season was…..well…..less than satisfactory finishing 78th in Rushing Defense and allowing 178.54 yards per game on the ground.  Clearly this is a big point of emphasis in this game.  Will Louisville be able to exploit the Miami Defense on the ground?  Has Miami shored up their deficiencies in stopping the run?

The Canes are switching to a 3-4 defense to better accommodate their athletes and they found right away their Nose Guard in Calvin Heurtelou (6-3, 315, Jr.) who joined the Canes in January from Scottsdale CC.  Calvin has lost 25 pounds since joining Miami and the Canes are depending on him to hold the point of attack and allowing STUD linebacker Denzel Perryman (6-0, 242, Sr) to run free and make plays.

I spoke with Perryman at the ACC Media Kickoff in Greensboro prior to the season and he told me that he believes that Miami has made the necessary changes to improve on defense significantly.  Denzel passed up entering the NFL Draft in 2014 to return to Miami after essentially being a lone wolf on the Cane defense in 2013 that finished 90th in the nation.

Defensive End Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 282, Sr) does return with 46 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks from 2013.  Chickillo had just 2 tackles in the RAB and will be backed up by highly touted freshman & former Louisville target Chad Thomas. Olsen Pierre (6-5, 300, Sr.) will also factor in the middle rotation, returning with 33 tackles and playing in all 13 games in 2013. Al-Quadin Muhammad (6-4, 245, So.) appears to have won the rush end spot in Fall Camp returns to Miami after just 8 tackles last season.  Tyriq McCord would figure to beat out Muhammad instead as he at least at 13 tackles and 4 sacks off the bench last season and freshman Trent Harris may also be an answer here.  Beyond Chickillo, Miami is S-E-A-R-C-H-I-N-G for a productive group of players they can count on.  There are bodies here, but not a history of production in this group.  Young players and new blood was much needed here, but it is also one of the reasons why the Canes are switching to a 3-4…it’s one less problem to solve.

As mentioned before Miami DOES have linebackers.  Perryman is legit and must be accounted for in every play.  Because Miami’s defensive line really couldn’t handle Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Perryman was limited to just 4 tackles with no superlatives despite the Canes defense being on the field for 38:32 of the game! If Miami can’t keep Louisville’s guards & centers from getting downhill and reaching Perryman it will be a LONG night for Miami and the Cards won’t need a passing game to win their 3rd straight over the Hurricanes.

But as poorly as Miami stopped the run in 2013, the passing defense was worse.  Miami allowed 249.8 yards per game in 2013, 92nd in the nation.  Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, and Ladarius Gunter return for the Canes after starting the Russell Athletic Bowl. Miami lost both of their 2nd & 3rd tacklers behind Denzel, with the most productive returning player after Perryman on defense is senior CB LaDarius Gunter with just 46 tackles and 3 INTs including 6 tackles and 3 pass break-ups in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

But Miami doesn’t really need returning players from a bad passing defense.  They NEED fresh blood to find playmakers who can actually make a difference in pass defense.  Corn Elder has broken into the starting group, and Antonio Crawford and Artie Burns both also return from a year ago.  Burns you might remember as ‘the guy DeVante stood over’.

Speaking of DeVante Parker, he’s out after a broken 5th metatarsal sidelined him 6-8 weeks (starting after his surgery on Monday 8/26).  Louisville’s….and perhaps College Football’s best Wide Receiver will miss the season opener against the Canes.  To help the running attack the Cards MUST stretch the field.  Kai De La Cruz will certainly step into the Parker’s role, but James Quick MUST fulfill his potential to help the Louisville passing game.

Miami is likely to play a great deal of man coverage.  Historically when that happens Bobby Petrino likes to run the football and work crossing routes with guys like Eli Rogers, Michaelee Harris, and Gerald Christian.  Petrino also likes to run off a side (either with a stretch or leave a side empty with a crossing pattern) and throw to the back in the flat.  Also in these situations it will be interesting to see how much of a Green Light Will Gardner has to take off and run.

If Miami fails to pressure Will Gardner, it will be a long day for Miami.  If Miami can create pressure on Will and limit the Louisville rushing attack they have a chance to slow down this Louisville offense.  But it all starts with the new Miami defensive front.

Last season, Miami’s biggest problem on defense was that they just could not get off the field on 3rd down, finishing 90th in the country in Opponent 3rd Down Conversions allowing 42.42%.  As a result, the Hurricanes were one of the worst Time of Possession teams in the nation controlling the ball just an average of 25:58 (120th). In addition, Miami’s 2nd best defensive player last season was Punter Pat O’Donnell who reversed fields with a super impressive leg, Miami was one of the worst punt coverage teams in the nation last year however, allowing 12.25 yards per return (110th).

Bobby Petrino is an offensive mastermind.  He’s had plenty of time to get his guys up to speed and despite some injuries to some top play-makers the Cards have replacements who are highly regarded.  Unless Miami is greatly improved on defense from a year ago, this is a big….BIG advantage for the Cards.

 2013 Total Offense Miami Allowed vs. Deviation from Avg. % Gained of Avg Allowed
Florida Atlantic 380.4 250 -130.4 65.72%
Florida 316.7 413 96.3 130.41%
South Florida 256.4 288 31.6 112.32%
Georgia Tech 440.7 401 -39.7 90.99%
North Carolina 432.4 500 67.6 115.63%
Wake Forest 292 361 69 123.63%
Florida State 529.4 517 -12.4 97.66%
Virginia Tech 359.1 549 189.9 152.88%
Duke 408.1 543 134.9 133.06%
Virginia 368.4 483 114.6 131.11%
PITT 351.9 501 149.1 142.37%

Louisville Defense vs. Miami Offense 

Miami’s Offense is going to be MUCH different than what Louisville fans saw in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  First & foremost, we can’t write another sentence without saying that DUKE JOHNSON changes everything for the Miami offense.  Duke Johnson is the real deal at the running back position and was in the middle of an incredible season in 2013 before injuring his ankle in a losing effort vs. Florida State.

Duke Johnson is hard to contain.  He hits the edge HARD, he has tremendous vision and explosiveness to get through the holes.  Johnson will play in the NFL and he is priority #1 for Louisville. Miami returns 4 lineman that started the Russell Athletic Bowl.  Louisville limited the Canes to 174 yards of offense and just 14 yards rushing in December during the bowl game.  That is unlikely this time around with Duke Johnson and the Russell Athletic Bowl really was an anomaly from how the Miami offensive line performed throughout the year.

Louisville loses Preston Brown, Marcus Smith, Roy Philon, Brandon Dunn, Calvin Pryor, Hakeem Smith, and others from the #1 defense in the nation a year ago.  But the cupboard certainly isn’t bare.

Much has been made about the change to a 3-4 defense under Todd Grantham, and the defense IS different but the Cards played a lot of 3-man fronts in 2013, but the personnel was used much differently.  It will be interesting to see how the Cardinal defense performs in their first game, particularly against a premiere running back like Duke Johnson.  But there will are many other weapons and responsibilities in play here.

True Freshman and top prospect Brad Kaaya has won the starting Quarterback job for the Canes and will replace the mostly ineffective Stephen Morris from a year ago.  Kaaya is a gamer and a true student of the game.  The future of Miami football is bright………but this is a true freshman’s 1st game & on the road.  It’s a safe bet that Al Golden is going to try and put Kaaya in successful positions early to settle him down and help him find comfort for the 1st few series in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That’s why Duke Johnson is so important through runs and screens, Duke can take some early work and help settle down the super freshman.

If Kaaya settles in, he has WEAPONS to use.  Miami is a QUICK STRIKE offense.  Herb Waters, Stacy Coley, and Phillip Dorsett each are BIG-Time Playmakers and can go the distance in the blink of an eye.  Mix in Tight End Clive Walford and the Canes have major NFL potential in the skill positions with an experienced offensive line.  The question is, can the freshman be the guy can he deliver the ball?

It is a sure bet that Louisville is going to bring a maximum amount of pressure in a hostile environment against the Freshman QB.  The front 7 for the Cardinals was recruited with control of the line of scrimmage and hitting the quarterback in mind.  I do expect that Louisville will mostly play nickel throughout this game where in the Cards have James Sample, Gerod Holliman, and Terrell Floyd all on the field at the same time, with Floyd at nickel.

Charles Gaines has the speed to stay with anyone in the nation and is a side of the field that Louisville shouldn’t worry about it.  Andrew Johnson & Devontre Parnell will also all have work to do and possibly true freshman Trumaine Washington.

If the Cards can stop Duke Johnson and frustrate Miami’s running game the Canes will not be at liberty to try and threaten deep.  With a struggling run stopping unit Lousiville could be in trouble through the air.  I do have a great deal of confidence in DeAngelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins to really come into their own along with Senior BJ Dubose who is also reliable to play assignment football.  Linebackers Keith Kelsey, Keith Brown, and James Burgess should get a big number of tackles in this game and throughout the season, while Defensive Ends Lorenzo Mauldin, Deiontrez Mount, and Nick Dawson will all three have a responsibility to set the edge and rush the passer.

Louisville is replacing a lot of top talent on defense through graduation and the draft, but it’s hard to give the edge in this match-up to Miami with a true freshman Quarterback.  I expect some growing pains for Miami with Brad Kaaya early in the game, but with the play-makers that Miami has the Cards may not take a play off or run the risk of giving up 6.  Miami is that explosive, but they did have trouble sustaining drives last year converting just 35% (96th) of 3rd downs.  Still the Canes had the 33rd best offense in the nation last season.  The Canes can score in a blink of an eye.

It’s hard to given an edge in this match-up, with all of the changes from last season to 2014 but Louisville’s change to the 3-4 defense with DeAngelo Brown at Nose Guard backed up by Johnny Richardson is a perfect cornerstone group.  Sheldon Rankins & BJ Dubose’s skill set both lend well to the defense as well with both players big and strong enough to hold the edges and also with enough ability to create pressure.  The Defensive Line should do a nice job against Miami.  Behind them, Keith Kelsey, James Burgess, and Keith Brown are set to CLEAN UP with a ton of tackles throughout the season.  The pressure is set to come from the outside with Lorenzo Mauldin, Nick Dawson-Brents, and Deiontrez Mount.

The Louisville Defense returns as the #1 defense in the nation from 2013, and while it’s unlikely that the Cards repeat as #1 in 2014 this roster was built for Defense and has the tools and experience in place to really play well.  How quickly the Cards make the change to Todd Grantham will be key.

Miami has PLAYMAKERS at Running Back, Wide Receiver, and Tight End.  With True Freshman Brad Kaaya, do the Canes have a quarterback?  If Kaaya can come in and play well this edge evens out in a hurry.  But if Louisville can take the field and make Kaaya look like a true freshman making his first start on the road???????  That would put the advantage squarely in the Cardinals’ hands.

I expect Miami to try and place the focus on Duke Johnson early to both settle his the freshman QB and also compact the Louisville defense.  With success, I don’t know how much Miami is going to try and put together sustained drives, but rather I expect Miami to try and do everything they can to score quickly with long strikes with WRs Waters, Dorsett, and Coley. When Miami needs a critical 3rd down, I’d expect Walford at tight end to get the call.

Right now, the edge has to go to Louisville but if Kaaya is the real deal right out of the gate we could have ourselves a ball game.

My Predicition

The Russell Athletic Bowl was a masterpiece of a football game. Having watched it in its entirety about a dozen times for various video production purposes since December I can tell you that game may have been one of the most well-played games by Louisville in the last 3-4 seasons. The Cards were sharp defensively, and the offense was finally able to open up.

Miami on the other hand was not sharp.  Injuries ravaged the Canes and an offensive line that was one of the better units in the country looked pedestrian.  Miami isn’t going to be held to 9 points this time around.  They have too many weapons.  Duke Johnson is beyond legitimate and the Phillip Dorsett,  Stacy Coley, Herb Waters, and Clive Walford play-makers in the passing game is an OUTSTANDING collection of talent.  Brad Kaaya as a QB is a tremendous question mark, and personally I think that he will make some plays but overall the new Louisville Defense will be successful with their pressure and cause some bad decisions from the true freshman.

Defensively, the biggest concern is not allowing Duke Johnson to control the line of scrimmage.  With Louisville’s pressure the Cards will be susceptible to screens and draws and that’s something that will definitely be a part of the game plan with a young QB.  Also with aggressive defenses are big plays, and that’s what Miami does.  Communication is KEY.

Offensively, Louisville has a big advantage here on paper.  Miami has a lot of new faces and that’s a good thing, because what Canes fans saw in 2013 was not Miami Defense.  Denzel Perryman is most certainly an outstanding football player, but he’s not going to be able to do it alone.  Miami is also switching to the 3-4 and I expect some adjustment from Miami as well.  Louisville’s running game should have a big advantage here and with Will Gardner at Quarterback if the Cards have success on the ground it is going to open things up through the air with a very suspect secondary.

In the end, I think we’ll see some points in this one but Louisville’s defense is better than people are giving it credit for this off-season and Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius that isn’t going to be denied the scoreboard.  Louisville 38, Miami 24.  

Pre-Game Videos

The Night That Changed Louisville Football 10-14-2004

Since the 1987 there haven’t been many Louisville Football games that these eyes haven’t witnessed.  The Schellenberger years were exciting, but even Louisville’s 1991 Fiesta Bowl victory was discounted by national pundits.  There have been a great number of pivotal moments during UofL Football History, internal change, coaching change, stadium change, conference change. But the night that changed Louisville Football forever happened on October 14, 2004 in Miami, FL at the Miami Orange Bowl.

That night in Little Havana established the program’s legitimacy in the eyes of College Football, and the program’s belief in itself that it may actually be able to achieve Howard Schnellenberger’s ‘Collision Course’. It seems appropriate to re-visit this game prior to the season-opener against the Hurricanes in what would be the games’ 10th anniversary in a month and a half.  Bobby Petrino is back.

Miami in 2004 came into the Louisville game as THE DOMINANT FORCE in College Football.  The Canes were 4-0 when the Cards came to town, pushing Miami’s record to 50-4 (.9259) dating back to the beginning of the 2000 season which also included the Canes winning the 2001 National Championship.  To compare with Alabama’s current 4-year stretch dating back to 2010, the Tide is 46-7 (.8679) and won 2 National Crowns.

The two teams that night were LOADED with NFL talent.  The world already knew about Miami.  They were about to learn about Louisville.  Also, of the players that actually appeared in the game 44 played in the NFL (22 Miami, 22 Louisville) and 12 Players are still active on NFL Rosters (6 Louisville, 6 Miami) totaling 214 years (and counting)  in the NFL (110 Miami, 104 Louisville). There were other players, like Eric Wood who were dressed for the game but didn’t play in the game that also have had very nice NFL careers.

Miami Years in NFL Louisville Years in NFL
Roscoe Parrish 7 Travis Leffew 3
Frank Gore 10 Jason Spitz 7
Brock Berlin 2 Kurt Quarterman 4
Darnell Jenkins 1 Stefan LeFors 1
Rashad Butler 6 Eric Shelton 2
Chris Myers 10 Kolby Smith 3
Kevin Everett 2 Elvis Dumervil 8
Antrel Rolle 10 Montavious Stanley 4
Kelly Jennings 5 Robert McCune 3
Marcus Maxey 1 Brandon Johnson 7
Rocky McIntosh 6 Antoine Harris 3
Santonio Thomas 2 Kerry Rhodes 8
Orien Harris 3 William Gay 8
Baraka Atkins 2 JR Russell 1
Devin Hester 9 Malik Jackson 1
Buck Ortega 2 Brian Brohm 3
Brandon Meriweather 8 Michael Bush 7
Leon Williams 5 Lionel Gates 3
Tavares Gooden 6 Gary Barnidge 7
Greg Olsen 8 Harry Douglas 7
Sinorice Moss 4 Breno Giacomini 7
Kareem Brown 1 Amobi Okoye 7
22 NFLers 110 22 NFLers 104
6 Still Current   6 Current  

The Stage 

#3 Miami vs. #18 Louisville on Thursday Night in the Original Orange Bowl.  ESPN had Mike Tirico, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth, Chris Fowler, Mark, May, and Trev Alberts with pre-game, halftime, and post-game coverage….and of course Jill Arrington on the sideline.   This was Louisville’s chance, ESPN was going “all in” as a network to showcase the game between the “IT” program in college football (Miami) and the “BCS Buster” that Louisville was labeled with from Conference USA.

Miami won the 2001 National Championship over Nebraska and lost in 2 Overtimes in 2002 against Ohio State in what was an epic game in a failed bid to go back-to-back.  The 2003 season the Canes had lost to #10 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and #18 Tennessee.  Not just anyone was going to beat Miami.  The Canes had suffered just 3 losses in 3 seasons.

Louisville had taken down Florida State (national outlets discounted the game due to Hurricane conditions) in 2002 during a disappointing season but rebounded with new coach Bobby Petrino in 2003 with a 9-4 season. Still the win over the Noles was a FAR cry from the 31-0 shutout the Cards suffered 2 years earlier to the Noles in Tallahassee.

The Cards had a Senior QB in Stefan LeFors that few had heard of nationally, even fewer recruited to play at the FBS level and was leading one of the nation’s best offenses.  The Canes had given up just 1 Touchdown all season entering their 5th game of the 2004 season.  Tirico said during the broadcast, “Miami is virtually unbeatable in the Orange Bowl.”

The now gone Miami Orange Bowl was a treasure. We parked in the backyard of a person’s home in the neighborhood and ate Cuban food from a street car.  Arriving early the older crowd invited us to their tailgate and told stories of their proud Miami past.  Walking by the students waiting to get inside, was less welcoming.  But you could tell, this was an environment for a great college football game.  One that could not be duplicated now if tried.  It was clear that this game was going to be special.

Howard Schellenberger said during his sideline interview that a Louisville win vs. Miami “Would put them into orbit and extend their success indefinitely.”

Inside the Orange Bowl Miami had one thing on 10/14/04 that I distinctly remember.  IT WAS LOUD.  Having been to very many stadiums in college football I can tell you that the Hurricanes crowd on this night had a different tone than any I’d experienced before.  It was piercing, not a low roar, but an urgent sound that constantly rang out throughout the course of the evening.  The Miami band played when Lousiville was over the ball and they were mic’d up to carry the sound throughout the stadium’s sound system.  A familiar theme was “The Imperial March”  better known as Darth Vader’s Theme Music from Star Wars.   Traveling to Alabama vs. Southern Miss just two days later in Tuscaloosa was like being in a library by comparison.

The Game

1st Half

Things didn’t start well for the Cards.  False start, sacked (Quarterman missed block), short punt.  Miami was only 40 yards away from the endzone to start its first drive.  But the Canes felt confident on 4th & 1 from the 3-yard line to go for it with Frank Gore, and Robert McCune and Bobby Leffew stopped that for no gain and dodged the 1st bullet of the afternoon.  But there would be more.

Backed up on the 3-yard line Louisville quickly punted back to Miami giving the Canes a shot at yet another short field.  When Brock Berlin hit Greg Olsen for a 9-yard TD to take a 7-0 lead, the noise and the quick biting sound of the Orange Bowl was beyond description. Louisville needed to respond, but things weren’t looking good when 11 minutes into the game the Cards had yet to cross their own 35 and a Stefan LeFors fumble played with the hearts of Louisville fans.  Huge plays by JR Russell & Michael Bush shook Louisville out of the beginning of the game funk before Lionel Gates tied the game scoring just the 2nd Touchdown Miami had allowed all season.

Kerry Rhodes intercepted Brock Berlin two plays later and gave Louisville the ball in Miami territory.  Josh Tinch was HUGE in this game, but the Cards had to settle for an Art Carmody FG after a throw from Bush to Brohm (trick play was off target).  The Cards took a 10-7 lead and would extend that lead on the next possession when Stefan found Tiger Jones with 10:03 to go in the 2nd quarter.

THIS IS WHEN THE CHANGE BEGAN……..Louisville now had the attention of the nation and the respect from Miami.  This Miami team wasn’t just the #3 team in the nation, this was a team that was 50-4 in their last 54 games! Stefan LeFors had started 10-11 in the air prompting Kirk Herbstreit to quip “That’s a good line against AIR”.   Miami continued to stall, and Louisville & LeFors kept making plays.  Two huge plays to Lionel Gates one for a TD pushed the lead to 24-7 just before halftime.  Up 17 ESPN was shocked, Canes fans were shocked and the nation had halftime to consider what had just taken place.  Louisville had arrived.  But it wasn’t over.

2nd Half

Devin Hester nearly struck right out of the gate of the 2nd half opening kickoff.  Hester went the distance on the opening kickoff but a holding call on Buck Ortega on Preston Smith nullified the play.  Miami didn’t get the instant impact of the Hester return, but the Canes would score on the drive churning out a 5 minute capped off when Berlin his Roscoe Parrish for 14-yard to pull within 24-14. To respond Louisville had a 59-yard TD from Eric Shelton curiously called back as JR Russell was flagged for holding away from the run with 9:11 to go in the 3rd.  The score would have pushed Louisville to a 31-14 advantage, but instead of punting Bobby Petrino called a classic fake misdirection punt with Michael Bush pulling the strings and slyly handing the ball off to Lionel Gates who rushed for for 39 yards and the 1st down.

The Hit

Immediately after the fake punt, Tight End Adam McCauley took a vicious hit from Brandon Meriweather over the middle.  The hit would be played for several years on ESPN promotional hype clips, and would be cause for ejection in today’s game with a 15-yard penalty.  This was before all of that, so just hard/clean football.  Two plays later, Louisville hit back with a beautiful fade to Tiger Jones to push the lead back to 17 at 31-14.  Listening to the Miami radio announcer at the time who said, “This Louisville team is for real.” A Montrel Jones unsportsmanlike flag on the TD helped the ensuing Miami drive, that was an impressive display from Brock Berlin moving the football.  Berlin was finally finding a rhythm and with 4:08 in the 3rd quarter the Canes Quarterback hit Akieem Jolla for an 11-yard TD.

The Concussion

Louisville’s offense didn’t respond and went 3 and out.  But more importantly, Stefan LeFors suffered a concussion on his 3rd down incompletion to Broderick Clark.  The training staff was unaware of this at the time. Before LeFors concussion would have an effect on the game. The punt following Louisville’s 3 AND OUT got Miami a 15-yard penalty for pulling an ole “Mike Tomlin” before Mike Tomlin when an individual impeded with a Louisville gunner on Punt Coverage.  As a result of the penalty, Miami would begin this drive on their own 6.  Berlin got the Canes out of that hole with a HUGE 51-yard strike to Greg Olsen down the seam.  Louisville’s safety communication left Olsen wide open for the big gain which allowed the Canes to get into scoring position.  William Gay had a tremendous pass break-up on 3rd down in the endzone to break up a Berlin/Leggett (6’4) jump ball TD which forced a Miami FG and pulled the Canes to 31-24 to start the 4th Quarter.

The Fumble

Clearly Miami had found some momentum.  Louisville needed to answer, and as Stefan LeFors entered the game with an unknown concussion one of the games’ biggest movements occurred when Stefan LeFors fumbled the snap with 14:05 remaining in the game and gave the ball to Miami on the 22-yard line. Losing the ball hurt and the Canes settled for a FG, but losing LeFors was a huge blow as he had been OUTSTANDING against the Miami defense.  Stefan would not return and finished with 17-22 for 242 yards and 3 Touchdowns with 14:05 still remaining!

Despite the fantastic field position, Miami did settle for a FG as the Louisville Defense held and the Canes moved to 31-27 with 12:03 to play, but the 6 quick points for the Canes absolutely played a huge role.

Enter Brian Brohm

Normally in 2004 Brohm would get a series in the 2nd quarter.  Not with 12 minutes to play in the Orange Bowl against Miami.  The true freshman took the field and looked the part.  I’ll probably never understand the holding called on Jason Spitz that negated a 16-yard Joshua Tinch reception, but Brian got some of those yard back and a 1st down with an uncharacteristic 16-yard scramble.  But an Adam McCauley penalty for holding doomed the drive forcing a punt and a Lee Corso comment: “People will think Miami is getting a HOMER job, which they are famous for.”

The Punt

The game plan handling punting has been well-documented in the last decade.  Brent Moody was instructed to punt to the sideline and out of bounds.  Petrino was determined to not allow College Football’s (and later the NFL’s) most dangerous return man have a chance to return.  As it was Moody punted to the middle of the field, with the coverage going to the right sideline, directly to Devin Hester. Hester took the ball straight up the middle of the field and with the absence of Lousiville’s coverage really only needed to beat Moody himself to the house.  Miami took a 34-31 lead with 8:11 remaining in the game.  Brent Moody would never punt in another Louisville Football game and would later transfer.

The Answer

True Freshman QB, 4th Quarter, Down 3, at Miami. This is not typically a great situation.  But Louisville answered and in doing so the perception of LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL CHANGED.  Brian Brohm connected with Montrell Jones and then a BIG run by Lionel Gates set the table for a crossing route for Broderick Clark a the 1-yard line.  Gates finished things off from the goal line for the Cards to take a 38-34 lead with 4:30 remaining in the ball game.  Now the Louisville defense needed to hold.

The Drop

Another huge return by Devin Hester gave the Hurricanes fantastic field position and plenty of time to answer.  But the game could have easily been sealed on the 3rd play of the drive when a Brock Berlin pass sailed over his intended receiver of Roscoe Parrish and into the chest of Kerry Rhodes……which bounced into the ground with 3:26 remaining in the game.  HEARTBREAKING.

Despite the drop by Rhodes, the Cards had forced a 3rd & 10.  Maybe it was the deflating nature of the previous play or just a great play by Miami, but Berlin was able to take advantage of Gavin Smart playing much too softly on Lance Leggett for an easy completion for a 1st down.  Elvis Dumervil was a step late from a sack that would have gotten the Cards to 4th & 10 from the 45.

As it was a new set of downs allowed Miami grind more clock on their march towards the endzone.  With 1:52 remaining, the Cardinals had another shot to close the game on 4th & 4 Miami had no choice but to attempt a conversion from the 8-yard line.  Darnell Jenkins had a small opening over the middle and Brock Berlin hit him as did Brandon Johnson & Robert McCune immediately right at the first down marker.  So close, but 1st down for Miami and it took just a few yards of work for Frank Gore to put it into the endzone to take a 41-38 lead  with just 49 seconds remaining.

Despite the limited time Louisville did have 3 timeouts.  A 14-yard rush by Brohm and a 17-yard 4th down converstion by Montrell Jones moved the ball to mid-field.  With 5 seconds remaining the Cards were out of field goal range and needed one fianl heave towards the end zone which was intercepted by All-American Antrell Rolle with 0:00 on the clock.  Miami wins.

Louisville Wide Receiver J.R. Russell, who had tussled with Rolle all night, slammed Antrell to the ground and both teams squared off in disagreement similar to how the two teams squared off to begin the game 2 years later in Louisville at mid-field.

After the Game

It was a loss.  But Louisville Football and its perception had changed.  Miami was the big kid on the block.  Louisville was from Conference USA and an outsider.  The Cards had taken the Canes to within an inch of defeat on its ‘virtually unbeatable’ home turf.

As we were exiting the stadium countless Miami fans approached us and offered praise for the Louisville program and good luck for the rest of the season.  All expressed shock and remarked at how ‘lucky’ the Canes were to escape with the victory.  In the end, Canes fans offered expressions of respect.  And in the parking lot the ‘U’ faithful that opened their tailgates to us Card fans were the same in the end we shared a great night of football.  Louisville gained by somehow losing a game that they should have won.

Predictably though, the players in the game were devastated in the loss.  As was my custom, I traveled down to the players’ exit tunnel to speak with my good friend Chad Rimpsey following road games, “Kerry has hands like glue.  He never drops a ball like that and I’ve seen him make so many much more difficult catches……he has hands like glue.”  There was a lot of disbelief, talk of the Rhodes drop, Stefan’s concussion, punting to Hester, wondering if the Cards had subbed enough prior to the 4th quarter…among other things.

But there was RESPECT.  In the AP Poll, Louisviille moved UP from #18 to #14 after a LOSS.  Unheard of.

Alabama game two days later I was in Tuscaloosa, AL for Alabama vs. Southern Miss (one of the benefits of playing Week Night Football is the ability to see new places) and the Bama fans kept commenting on just how surprisingly good Louisville was on Thursday Night.  College Football was watching and Louisville Football was changed. It finally had the game’s respect.

Louisville would cap off their 12-1 season with a thrilling victory over future BCS Buster Boise State in what was an outstanding and overly unappreciated game.  The Cards finished #6 in the Nation in 2004….it’s only loss was on October 14, 2004.

BACKGROUND

Schellenberger Era (Bill Olsen AD)

Every program has its milestones.  For Louisville the first step is often cited as the (1990 season) 1991 Fiesta Bowl when the Cards thrashed the Alabama Crimson Tide 34-7.   It was a milestone victory over a traditional program in an iconic bowl, the Cards finished the season 10-1-1 and were ranked (#14) in the Final AP Poll for the 2nd time in history (previously in 1972, 9-1 team coached by Lee Corso finished #18, did not go to a bowl). But like in ’72, the ’90 success was not sustained.  The Cards went 2-9 in 1991 and then 5-6 in 1992.  Alabama on the other hand finished #5 in the Nation in 1991 and won the 1992 National Championship.

Louisville remained an Independent in College Football and were at the mercy of which programs would agree to schedule them.  The win over Bama brought instant euphoria to the program and was the 1st indication that Howard ‘The Pipe’ Schnellenberger’s “Collision Course” with the national championship might actually be a mountain worth climbing. But conditions with Louisville’s place in the evolving College Football Landscape was NOT advantageous.

In 1992 the Bowl Coalition was put in force wherein 5 conferences (SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC, Big East and Notre Dame) aligned with the  sport’s most elite group of bowls.  This was the 1st step toward the College Football Playoff that will begin with the 2014 season.  The Bowl Coalition evolved into the Bowl Alliance (after the Big 12 was formed & the SWC disbanded), and when the Big Ten & PAC-10 got onboard the now defunct BCS ruled college football from 1998 through the 2013 season. The Bowl Coalition and the need for Conference Affiliation to earn bowl berths ended the Howard Schnellenberger era at Louisville.

Howard left the Cards to coach the Oklahoma Sooners after the 1994 season and later recalled: “I didn’t leave because of money. I wasn’t looking to go anywhere until that president (Dr. Donald Swain) pulled that baloney and put us in that conference that I didn’t want to be in. I wasn’t going to coach in a conference where I didn’t have a chance to compete for the national championship.” Howard left behind a vision for the program that included both the ‘Collision Course’ & a new facility.

The Big Transition

Ron Cooper to John L. Smith, Bill Olsen to Tom Jurich, Independent to C-USA, Cardinal Stadium to PJCS

Athletic Director Bill Olsen used some of Schellenberger’s momentum following the Fiesta Bowl & the 1993 Liberty Bowl to obtain permission &  private funds to build Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Shovels hit the dirt on June 19, 1996 following Ron Cooper’s 1st season (7-4 in 1995) and Louisville’s last year before joining Conference USA. Current Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich was hired on October 21, 1997 in the middle of a 1-10 season with Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium set to open the following Fall.  Jurich made the switch to John L. Smith and the Cards quickly turned around going to 5 consecutive bowl games under John L. and finished in the Top 25 for just the 4th time in school history in 2001 (17th).

Bobby Petrino

It was announced that Louisville would join the Big East on November 4, 2003.  Louisville nearing the end of the 1st year of the Bobby Petrino era in which the Cards would finish 9-4 with a loss to Miami (OH) & Ben Rothlisberger in the GMAC Bowl. Petrino would take college football by storm while at Louisville with the maximization of talent and fantastic preparation.  Petrino would later accept the Atlanta Falcons Head Coaching position for double the salary than Louisville and a chance to coach Michael Vick.  Petrino had previously entertained offers from the Oakland Raider, Notre Dame, LSU, Auburn, and others and chosen to remain at Louisville.

Petrino 1.0 at Louisville finished 41-9 with 5 of the losses by 3 points or less.

2006

This time the landscape was much different. Louisville came into the season with HIGH expectations and this game was at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on one of the most picturesque days for football you can imagine. #12 Louisville vs. #15 Miami. Miami remembered 2004, and so did Louisville. Louisville fans knew that 3-point loss on the road cost the Cards a chance at a BCS bowl and an undefeated season. Then Miami jumped on the bird. Things got personal and Louisville dominated the afternoon. Urrutia stiff arm will always be a thing in Louisville after this game.

2013

Louisville dominiated Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl last December. At this point you probably remember the game, but here are the highlights from CrumsRevenge for your pleasure.

2013 FB, RAB: Louisville 36 vs. Miami 9 from @CrumsRevenge on Vimeo.

DJ K Dogg Tailgate Remix WEEK 1

Sunday Pep Rally 

Folks if you are looking to make Labor Day all about Cardinal Football we have your Sunday covered.

University of Louisville & the folks at 4th Street Live are hosting Cardinal Kickoff.

  • 2:00pm;  Re-live the Sugar Bowl. Photo ops with cheerleaders and lady birds. Yowza. Yepeers, Yesch.
  • 3:30pm;  Spirit teams perform some dances and cheers. Game Announcements. Former players will be      on hand.
  • 4:00pm;  A Pump up video (Hint, Hint, Hint, its mine) and then finishing with a concert by Kirbies Dreamland.

Ends about 6 – just in time for dinner, drinking and enjoying the evening.

Is there a better way to soak in the opening eek of Louisville sports?

        /quickly looks up answer in the index located in the back of the cardinal fan handbook.

Answer: no.

 

Cardinal Kickoff

Bobby Petrino: Polls, Rankings, Stars, and Records

Bobby Petrino has been a Head Coach 9 seasons at the Collegiate level during his career.  In those years Coach Petrino has won 8+ games in 8 of those 9 (88.9%) seasons, finished in the Top 20 in 5 of 9 (55.6%) seasons, 3 of 9 (33.33%) in the Top 6, and also 3 of 9 seasons in Bowls associated with the College Football Playoff (Orange, Sugar, Cotton).

That’s impressive.

Taking a look at Petrino’s teams using Scout.com’s Recruiting Rankings and it is easy to see the real VALUE of Bobby Petrino as a Head Coach.  Using 4-year averages (2 years for 2003 Louisville, and 3 years for 2004 Louisville because historical data prior doesn’t exist) Bobby Petrino has never coached a team with a 4-year Average Ranking of better than 25.25….that year (2011) Petrino’s Arkansas Razorbacks won the 2012 Cotton Bowl and finished #5 in the Nation. That 2011 4-year stretch is also the best average Player Star rating that Petrino has had at his disposal as well at 2.825.

Why is that important?  Louisville’s Average 4-Year Star Rating going into the 2014 season will be THE HIGHEST average player 4-year stretch that Bobby Petrino will ever have the pleasure of working with at 2.9425.  In 2004 that metric was 2.300, in 2006 2.465…both teams finished #6 in the nation and combined went a total of 23-2.  Also both at Louisville & Arkansas Petrino’s recruiting improved significantly year to year as both programs’ profile continued to rise.

However, some of these ratings are difficult to really place value upon.  Recruiting rankings & evaluation has expanded among the scouting services and so has Louisville’s place within the landscape in college football.  When Petrino took the helm at Louisville in 2003 the Cards were a Conference USA school and since that time the program has elevated to the Big East, the American, and now the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s quite a rise.

Also, like it or not recruiting rankings and player evaluations can be influenced by reputation.  Players from well-known areas and high schools going to traditional College Programs will be rated higher than an unknown Safety who didn’t camp very much, from say a place like Port St. Lucie?

Bottom line, scouting is more important than recruiting rankings.  John L. Smith understood that, Charlie Strong exercised that, and Bobby Petrino knows that today. In the end, Louisville has recruited VERY well the last 5 seasons and thanks to some small class sizes the Rankings are down……but the stars are UP!  And Bobby Petrino has never had a roster with as many average stars in his career as the one he will coach in 2014.

What’s the expectation for the 1st (5th) year Head Coach for the Cards?  Who knows.  But I’d bet on Petrino winning 8+ games, lighting up the scoreboard, and absolutely obliterating whoever has the courage to jump on the bird.

4-year Avg Recruiting Ranking Avg 4-Year Stars Final AP Rank Record Bowl/Result
2003 Louisville 57th *2 years 2.365 NR 9-4 Lost GMAC Bowl (Miami OH)
2004 Louisville 56th *3 Years 2.300 #6 11-1 Won Liberty Bowl (Boise St.)
2005 Louisville 52.75 2.3925 #19 9-3 Lost Gator Bowl (Virginia Tech)
2006 Louisville 42.75 2.465 #6 12-1 Won Orange Bowl (Wake Forest)
2008 Arkansas 30.5 2.7125 NR 5-7 No Bowl
2009 Arkansas 27.75 2.755 NR 8-5 Won Liberty Bowl (East Carolina)
2010 Arkansas 29.5 2.7825 #12 10-3 Lost Sugar Bowl (Ohio State)
2011 Arkansas 25.25 2.8525 #5 11-2 Won Cotton Bowl (Kansas St)
2013 Western Kentucky 105.5 2.1025 NR 8-4 No Bowl
2014 Louisville 42 2.9425 ? ? ?
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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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