The Circus is now in town. Bobby Petrino is the ring leader, Lamar Jackson is the main attraction but there are plenty other of freaks that Louisville has to offer the fans of college football. Check the Covers of the Magazines, Heisman odds, the polls. Cardinal Football started the season #19 they are #3 now. Lamar Jackson began the season 100/1 to win the Heisman…. he’s now the favorite. The ascent has been dramatic and while some may warn of a sharp fall against such a sharp rise, I say enjoy it. This Cardinal football team is the real deal and it may be something the football landscape has never seen before with Lamar Jackson. What we saw on Saturday was somewhat incomprehensible in the scale of the beat down against the #2 team in the country. It was the most points Florida State has ever allowed, their 3rd largest defeat, the 3rd largest defeat for an AP #1 or #2 in history, UofL’s largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent….. and they did it on national television with College Game Day in attendance, AT NOON for the entire country to talk about it for the rest of the day.
The Circus can’t be a circus without a crowd. UofL fans were out in force at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium starting Friday afternoon. The party continued overnight and when the Game Day pit opened at 4:00 a.m.fans flooded in. The enthusiasm continued for the next few hours as Cardinal fans continued to arrive earlier than ever for a noon kickoff. By the time CardMarch happened at 9:45 a.m. the rain had arrived and so had the crowd and provided one of the best welcomes Louisville Football’s ever seen. Once Lee Corso threw on the Cardinal Bird head and UofL hit ‘play’ on the ‘Champ is Here’ intro video the crowd was fully ignited. The Louisville fans brought the energy to PJCS and Petrino & Co rode the wave of enthusiasm to resounding victory.
A lot of national publications are going to focus on Louisville’s main attraction in Lamar Jackson. But the circus is a collection of freaks and the Cards have plenty more to go around. Jaire Alexander is one of those. 3 tackles, a pass break-up, a fumble recovered, 130 yards returned in 2 punts…one for a TD. Alexander was all over the place for UofL on Saturday and while the people around here likely knew that Jaire was special for some time now, he got to put that on full display Saturday in Louisville’s breakout game.
The Louisville Defense
It’s hard to understand why this unit is still so under the radar nationally…and has been for several years. The Cards have finished the last 6 seasons in Total Defense and returned 5 players that could have opted to go pro after the 2015 season. Last Saturday the Cards DISMANTLED the Seminoles. They held former freak show Dalvin Cook in check throughout and rendered the Nole phenom QB harmless. Keith Kelsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons, DeAngelo Brown, James Hearns, Drew Bailey, De’Asian Richardson, Trumaine Washington, Shaq Wiggins, Chucky Williams, Devonte Fields & the rest of the Cardinal Defense is BALLING.
The nation might tune into Louisville Football because Lamar Jackson is on the marquee……but the foundation of UofL’s success on the gridiron this decade has been defense.
The Offensive Line
What a difference a year makes? This group has attitude. During a timeout break vs. Florida State the Cardinal front line stayed on the field (as usual) but antagonized the Seminole defensive huddle. Out of the timeout….one play…. TOUCHDOWN. Louisville’s Offensive Line has been DOMINANT, particularly rushing the ball. Last year the Cards could barely get the edge and had trouble protecting the Quarterback. This year the Cards are averaging 333.33 yards per game on the ground and have given up just 4 Tackles for Loss (2 sacks) in 3 games. The stark contrast in performance is due to a variety of conditions, but Tobijah Hughley, Lukayus McNeil, Kiola Mahoni, Khalil Hunter and Geron Christian are playing some NASTY football upfront for the Cards.
Bad Rad leads the nation in yards per carry with 10.96 yards per carry. Brandon has 296 yards on just 27 carries. In circus terms, Radcliff is the guy in the motorcycle doing loops inside the ball. It’s nearly impossible to stop his momentum and the weight that Radcliff has relived himself off from a year ago has the young Cardinal running back running faster and more powerfully than ever before. With Radcliff & Jackson out of the backfield picking up huge chunks of yardage Defenses have to account for TWO extremely dangerous runners…..and no one has been able to check either one of them yet.
The Circus is Just Getting Started
The stakes might be fresh in the dirt. But the circus could be here to stay. Jamari Staples didn’t catch a pass vs. Florida State. UofL is playing just 2 of its freshman from the 2016 signing class, Trevon Young is on the mend for next season, Dee Smith didn’t see much of the field vs. the Noles and there are A LOT of games left to be played in 2016. But now the national media is here….. it’s what Cardinal fans have wanted since the beginning of its existence.
The circus is in town. The music is just beginning to play. The Cards have their ringleader, their headliner, and they’ve got an entire roster of freaks to let loose on college football. Cardinal fans would do well to make sure they see it all, STEP RIGHT UP!