On Saturday the Cards dropped to 0-2 to start the 2015 season and Louisville has also lost 3 games in a row dating back to its bowl game vs. Georgia. The last win was November 29, 2014 vs. Kentucky. The last time UofL Football dropped 3 consecutive gridiron match-ups was in October of 2011 when a Teddy Bridgewater led squad lost 17-13 to Marshall, 14-7 to North Carolina, and 25-16 to Cincinnati. After that 3-game slide in 2011, the Cards went on to win 5 of 6…..can this Cardinal team in 2015 do the same? The 3 game slide is the 1st under Bobby Petrino and the last 4-game losing streak for Louisville was in 2008 under Steve Kragthorpe preceded by Ron Cooper’s final 1997 season that actually extended into the 1998 slate with John L. Smith.
This week the Cards host Clemson at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in a short turnaround. If Louisville loses it will be the first 0-3 start for UofL Football since 1984, already the 0-2 start is the first since 1998. In ’98 Louisville started 0-2 with its new head coach John L. Smith & offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino after losing to UK, at Utah and then went on the road and lit up Illinois in Champaign for a thrilling victory. In ’84 the Bob Weber led Louisville opened with losses to Murray, at WVU, and SMU before tallying a 2-point win over Houston.
Where Do the Cards Go From Here?
Play Louisville Defense
Louisville has to get back to playing great defense. Most notably, it needs to get back to great tackling. What fans saw on Saturday vs. Houston was nothing short of disappointing, personally I’m not exactly sure what that was. It wasn’t Louisville defense. The Cardinals’ tackling showed a lack of pride in their craft. This unit is simply too talented to not bring ball carriers to the ground when contact is made. Houston did it on the edge, inside, in the secondary. The entire defense didn’t tackle up to par and as a result, the Cardinal defense (that is accustomed to Top 25 rankings) is 77th in Total Defense.
That’s not acceptable when you have Josh Harvey-Clemons, Devonte Fields, Keith Kelsey, Sheldon Rankins, James Burgess, DeAngelo Brown, and a defensive coordinator making $1.4 Million guaranteed for 5 years. So there needs to be more leadership defensively and there needs to be more pride in tackling. Game 2 is not a time where tackling should erode and it should never happen with this much talent.
Louisville Football needs to get back to playing Louisville Defense.
Louisville’s offense may be limited at the moment with a huge number of freshman seeing action early in the season. There will be growing pains, but the Cardinals CAN NOT CONTINUE TO TURN THE BALL OVER. Louisville is 111th in turnovers lost so far in 2015 and they’ve lost two games by a total of 10 points. If UofL can stop turning the ball over it will give itself a chance to get on the winning side of these close games.
Freshman are going to make mistakes, but there has to be a greater emphasis on ball control and understanding when to force the ball and when to play more conservatively. This also pertains to Quarterback/Running Back exchanges where the Cards have had two lost fumbles in the Red Zone in both of its losses.
James Burgess said, ‘We are either going to lay down or stand up.”
I think Cardinal fans would like to see the ‘Stand Up’ version of its Louisville Football team. It’s important for everyone in the program (fans, players, administration, coaches) to remember that playing young players is an investment and dividends aren’t always realized immediately. There is a delicate balance of playing young players and winning/losing, fan interest, recruiting, and viability of a program. But Louisville lost by 7 to Auburn and 3 to Houston. Losing is never easy or fun, but we’ve done this before in 2011 and enjoyed an incredible ride thereafter.
Bobby Petrino is trying to craft this program into his mold. The program lost 10 players to the NFL Draft and 7 others made NFL Training Camps after last year. That’s 17 players in a single year out of the program good enough to at least be considered by the NFL. Louisville is 0-2, but a few plays here or there and the Cards could be sitting at 2-0. The best thing UofL can do is accept coaching, stay positive, and rally together.
Also, it’s important to note that Louisville starts its conference slate on Thursday and while UofL has lost 2 games, none have been in the ACC. UofL can still accomplish most of their goals for the season. A positive attitude will go a long way to turning things around.
It’s your program. These are young guys mixed with players who have done some incredible things on the football field for Louisville Football. It’s your program’s future on the field for the rest of the season. The best thing fans can do: Support them. Pick them up. Make Thursday’s CardMarch on Thursday Night vs. Clemson the best ever, and create a winning environment inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium vs. the Tigers.
Bobby Petrino is the man for the job. He’s had great success here at Louisville before, he’s had great success elsewhere. If you believe in the program, if you believe in the coaches then go out and support your team like they are 2-0. The veteran players have earned that and the young players deserve your energy.
If you can take the fan glasses off and look at things objectively it’s easy to see that Louisville is making correctable mistakes that time, coaching, and experience will alleviate. There isn’t a lack of talent, it’s only a matter of time before the tide turns and why not give the program you love the same level of support when it is struggling that you would while it is winning?
Louisville will get on the winning side of things again. Will it be on Thursday Night vs. Clemson? Maybe. Magic at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium has happened before on Thursday Night. But no matter when it happens you will want to say you were there…and the program needs you now more than ever.
See you Thursday.
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