The University of Louisville took to the road for its 1st ever ACC road game on Saturday in Charlottesville to face the University of Virginia. The Cards lost, the Hoo students rushed the field and the nation’s 2nd longest winning steak snapped. But it was a little more than that……
When Petrino first saw his wife after the game, despondent he said, “We just blew it.”
He’s right. But it wasn’t completely because James Quick fumbled a punt return that would have given the Cards the ball with a 21-20 lead, but instead gave the Cavaliers the ball with 5:06 remaining on the Cardinal 25. Michaelee Harris and Keith Brown interfered with Quick on a fair catch and a special teams turnover put Virginia in scoring position and ultimately provided UVA with the right situation to take the game’s final lead.
The Quick turnover was the 4th of the day (and 6th of the Year) inside the Cardinal 30-yard line. That is EASY MONEY for any team in College Football, but the Hoos managed to score just 13 points off turnovers. That is a ridiculously good job by the Louisville Defense and a horrid job of ball security for the Louisville offense.
Louisville’s Will Gardner started the game 5-5 for 64 yards and then went on an abysmal stretch where the sophomore QB was 1-13 with 2 INTs and just 23 yards during a stretch starting in the mid-1st quarter until Gardner was pulled late in the 2nd Quarter. That is not good quarterback play. That isn’t even average Quarterback play. Virginia’s Defense rattled the young QB making his 1st ever road start and batted down 7 balls from Louisville Quarterbacks at the Line of Scrimmage on the day.
There were penalties too. Louisville had 7 penalties for a total of 50 yards on the day. Virginia’s Punt Returner was able to catch several short punts on the run. The Cardinal Offense line allowed the tough UVA defense to get pressure throughout the day, earning 3 sacks and 5 Tackles for Loss in addition to the 7 balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Still Louisville was in position to win….on the road….despite 4 turnovers inside its own 30. But they didn’t execute. They didn’t pull away. And they didn’t win field position. Louisville had an average starting position on its own 23 and had SIX 3 AND OUTS. Compare that to Virginia’s average starting position of 47 and just TWO 3 AND OUTS.
Louisville didn’t execute and the Cards were OFF for much of the day. Even Mr. Reliable Eli Rogers dropped a crucial pass and was called for a penalty. Rogers finished with just 2 catches for 25 yards.
The defense was outstanding. Depsite the 4 turnovers inside the 30, Louisville allowed just 13 points from those, and UVA was only able to manage 10 points otherwise. Louisville on the other hand DIDN’T and scored ZERO points off Virginia’s THREE turnovers.
Virginia played the bully in this game. Max Valles, Brandon Phelps, Eli Harold asserted their will over the Louisville offense. James Quick was a big target and that was on full display at halftime. Louisville didn’t protect its team or its teammates. There were hanging heads in frustration. Louisville was trying to win this game with skill….but this was a street fight.
In the end, Louisville had a chance to win. Will Gardner was able to re-group and slow his brain down during the Reggie Bonnafon relief appearance (6-9, 39 yards) that featured Three 3 AND OUTs in the 3rd quarter for a total of NEGATIVE ONE YARD. Will Gardner led the comeback and showed growth in the 4th quarter, but the damage was done. The 2nd & 3rd quarter was wasted time and the Cards put themselves in position to be doomed by one mistake. And that’s exactly what happened.
The Cards now travel to Miami to face Florida International and must take a serious look at themselves in the offensive mirror. 6 turnovers on the year inside its own 30 yard line. Will Gardner with 2 INTs vs. Virginia (3rd negated by roughing the passer) and a fumble on a handoff exchange. Bobby Petrino’s offense is grounded with bad decision-making & poor execution all the way around. Simply getting two of the Cards primary weapons in DeVante Parker & Michael Dyer will not solve UofL’s problems on offense. It has to be a holistic and cultural change.
There is time to fix the Cardinal offense. This is a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, and an entirely new league filled with more talent that Louisville has ever had to deal with. But bad football is bad football and right now the guilty party is the Cardinal offense. The good news for Cardinal fans is that Bobby Petrino, an offensive guru is at the helm……and some of you wondered why he is taking every quarterback he can get.
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