Cardinal Football

Louisville Football: The Good, The Bad & What’s Next

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Damn! Just 44 points? I was hoping they’d score 60…

The Good – The Governor’s Cup Returns HOME

With Bobby Petrino as the Head Football Coach at UofL the Governor’s Cup has practically lived at the Schnellenberger complex, as Louisville has gone a combined 6-1 against the University of Kentucky. So excuse me if I say there might have been a bit of luck in last seasons 41-38 Kentucky win at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. On Saturday it was time for big brother Louisville to give Kentucky a harsh reality check.

After winning two straight games in convincing fashion, Louisville came out again on fire from the first drive, connecting on nearly everything on offense. Reggie Bonnafon put up the first seven points for Louisville, as he took a handoff from Lamar Jackson 18 yards into the endzone.

Things got extremely interesting on the team’s second drive, this time for all the wrong reasons. Lamar Jackson drove the offense 69 yards in 9 plays, including 6, 9, 16 yard passes to Jaylen Smith, ending in a 1 yard Dae Williams touchdown. But after Lamar Jackson was tackled out of bounds by UK safety Jordan Jones, the two exchanged words followed by some shoving and then take downs to the ground before both teams had to get involved to separate the two players and countless others. It was clear after watching the replay that Jones was the instigator, even though Lamar Jackson did push Jones first and slam him to the ground. Several flags were thrown, but the penalties were offset. The chippiness between the two teams would continue as Kentucky looked to instigate Louisville. More of that in a bit.

The offense would go on to score on every single possession from there on out, meaning Louisville punter Mason King NEVER TOUCHED THE FIELD. How about that for a day’s work?  Lamar Jackson took advantage of a weak secondary throughout the entirety of the game, torching the Cats with both with his arm and his feet. He continued to play at a level that transcends anything ever seen at the College Football level, prompting Bobby Petrino to say post game, “Lamar Jackson ‘is the best player that you’re ever going to see.” Petrino wasn’t lying, and if anyone got to see that up close, it was the UK defense. At one point on a basic 3 step drop back, Lamar was unable to find any open wide receivers, so instead of throwing the ball away he spun away from the pass rush only to encounter more defenders. In typical Lamar fashion he spun away again, getting outside from the rush escaping completely, picking up a first down and 25 extra yards in a play that left your jaw on the floor.

After posting his 12th straight game with 300+ total yards, an amazing feat in itself, Jackson finished his 2017-18 campaign with 3489 passing yards, 1443 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns.

Louisville’s defense also came out ready to play on Saturday against the Cats. The matchup to watch coming into the game was Louisville’s front seven going up against UK running back Benny Snell. Even with 7, 8 and 9 guys stacked in the box on defense for Louisville, Snell was able to run straight up the middle out of the unorthodox wildcat offense for Kentucky, rushing for over 100 yards in the first half and 211 total in the game. Snell was phenomenal for the Cats, rushing six, seven, and even eight times in a row, pounding the Cardinals defensive line right up the middle. But no matter how much Snell pounded, the front seven did a great job of never giving up that big play that broke the game open. Because of that, Louisville was able to keep control of the game throughout. Louisville was also able to keep the rest of the Kentucky offense under control, specifically Stephen Johnson, something they were not able to do last season. Led by Jaire Alexander and Tru Washington, the secondary of Louisville allowed just 110 yards passing on only 19 attempts. The corners did a great of keeping coverage and the pass rush did a great job of getting after the QB, led by Jonathan Greenard, who finished with 2 QB hurries and 1 sack.

Another thing I think all Louisville fans can get behind is the fact that my daughter was born 27 days ago.. Since then UofL has gone 3-0 in football. Before those 27 days, UofL held a mediocre record of just 5-4. Ruby Lane is the 10 pounds, 15 ounces of perfect fear that this team needed.

The Bad – Kentucky’s Terrible Sportsmanship

I never had that pesky annoying little brother that wouldn’t  go away, but I know plenty of people who did growing up. They always wanted to be around whatever was going on and would never take no as an answer. So when the answer was no, which it always was, they’d do whatever they had to do to stick around, even if it meant throwing a couple of cheap shot punches or doing some pushing. Kentucky came into the biggest game of their season with a game plan centered on being allowed to play with their older brother who wanted no part of having them around.

I’ll be the first Louisville fan to take a shot at the Kentucky football program when I get a chance, who wouldn’t after all. But what I saw on Saturday from the coaches and players was straight garbage, literally. (a starting DE tried to hit a UofL offensive lineman on the sideline with a garbage can during the game. If you don’t believe me search Denzil Ware throws a garbage can)

It was the MMA style brawl between UK safety Jordan Jones and Lamar Jackson in the end zone early in the first quarter that set the tone for the rest of the game for the two teams. From there on out it was quite clear that UK came into the game with a game plan consisting of plays that tried to get under the skin of Louisville players. This backfired quickly on UK and could be seen on the sideline. At one point after a Louisville score, former Louisville coach Lamar Thomas was congratulating Lamar Jackson only to be met and pushed by UK safety Jordan Jones. Yikes. Jones was out of control throughout the entire game, yet the coaches continue to let him play, which backfired again and again.

Sometime soon Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops will learn that trying to play dirty and fight rough is not the way to beat Louisville. Sorry little brother.

What’s Next – Wait For The Bowl Game Announcement & Enjoy Some Basketball

We won’t know the fate of Louisville football for another 6 days, but it looks like Louisville will be heading a second tier bowl with The Pinstripe Bowl, Camping World Bowl, Taxslayer, and Sun Bowl being the most likely options.

None of those game are ideal when you think about the aspirations this team had coming into the season with the Heisman Trophy winner returning for his Junior season, but with where this team was just a few weeks I hope no one is complaining.

All weekend I’ve told anyone who would listen, how appreciative I feel towards Bobby Petrino and Peter Sirmon. While I don’t believe Peter Sirmon is the right man for the Defensive Coordinator position at Louisville moving forward, I must give him and Petrino props for the way they have figured things out down the stretch of the season. This defense was terrible for most of season, but for the final three weeks they banded together and played like one of the better units in the ACC. That deserves praise.

I don’t know who UofL will play (likely a SEC or Pac 12 school) but my biggest question mark heading into the bowl game will be about whether Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander will play. If you remember last season big name NFL draft prospects like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipped their schools bowl games in order to avoid injury and to train for the NFL. And while Lamar Jackson has said he is planning to play in the bowl game, I do know that things can change quickly. This will be something worth monitoring over the next few weeks.

While we wait for the bowl game which will likely be in mid to late December, UofL has two HUGE basketball games on the docket this week. One this tuesday at Purdue and one on Sunday at home against #23 ranked Seton Hall. This will be a great opportunity for fans who have been in “football” mode to get familiarized with the team and to get prepped for the ACC with two great games.

Somewhere, Lamar Jackson just scored again…

Jacob Lane

Jacob Lane joined The Cardinal Connect in August of 2017 after previously writing for CardinalSports.com on the Rivals Network. Jacob covers anything and everything Louisville Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Lane08

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