Saturday, October 3, 2009
Losing has become routine. And when losing becomes acceptable, it's a gotsta go situation, as Kornheiser would say.
Another post from Eric Crawford on his thoughts from the game. Among them: Louisville played a pretty impressive first half, but everything that followed overshadows that. And what was up with all the country music at Papa John's? so asks Crawford, though I remember several in the CJ Live Game Chat commenting on it as well. Here also are Bozich's thoughts posted to his blog, and Charlie Springer's at Card Game.
We'll probably start dissecting this ornery bastard (a Howardism) in the next few days, after we recover.
Following the game, Eric Crawford made a few qualified predictions about the future of Louisville football. The situation is delicate enough that I don't want to put words in his mouth, so I'll just let you jump to the link.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"If we drop this first one, it becomes: When are we going to win a game? Last year we started out with Big East wins and that gets your confidence up...starting out with a win is huge for our momentum."Rick Bozich's blog provides us some stats to watch for, but I can't get past this condescending line:
"Just checked the national stat rankings again for Pitt and Louisville, the teams that play tonight at 8 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium."Thanks Rick, but what does stadium mean? And this link from the CJ can't be coincidence. Go Cards.
We'll see touchdowns from the Cards and field goals from the Panthers in the first half, field goals from the Cards and touchdowns from the Panthers in the second. If they can hang on to an early lead at home, call it for the Cards, 35-30.
I expect a wild one, and think special teams will be an adventure. I think a returned punt, a blocked punt, and two shanked field goals will be seen, but I can't say who will benefit. The Cards will move the ball easily, and despite a few hiccups, will break out of their red zone stupor. The Pitt Panthers will move the ball as well, but will not be able to score efficiently enough to compensate for their broken secondary. It's a scenario where our greatest strength (our receivers) is their greatest weakness (covering receivers). UofL wins a madcap game, and for one night at least, there is joy. 38-24 Cards. Book it.
"This team hasn't been as bad as its record suggests. Louisville twice led in the fourth quarter on the road against Kentucky before falling 31-27. Last week at Utah, the Cardinals fell behind 20-0 early after having a field goal blocked on their first drive and Trent Guy's fumble on a first-quarter kick return. They battled back to make it 23-14 in the fourth quarter but could get no closer. So at least they've been competitive, which is more than you could say for them at the end of last year during blowout losses to Pitt (41-7) and Rutgers (63-14). You could call it progress, but progress without victories isn't going to satisfy a fan base that seems to have made up its mind about Steve Kragthorpe."
Not much I would add to this analysis-wise. However, I think it's important to underscore how pivotal tonight's game will be. If we lose, I fear that despair and a sense of hopelessness will settle in among many of the faithful for the remainder of the season. But if we can somehow strangle a victory out of Pitt, then it will be morning again in Louisville. A run at the Big East championship would seem... possible. So cheer hard Cards fans! Wear your black proudly. The stakes couldn't be higher.
No excuses for this one. No respectable losses, no moral victories. This is an emminently winnable game against a solid but flawed opponent, with what will be the best home field advantage Krags can still hope for at this point. He must have this game to retain any credibility that we're moving toward the light. If we lose, we're looking at a future with few wins and an ugly coaching divorce. If we win, we begin Big East play with renewed optimism, and best of all--more meaningful football yet to play. Is it ideal? Is it pretty? Is it where any of us thought we would be three years ago? No. But it's Friday. And it sure won't be boring.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Pitt_s_It: Ray, can you explain what Stull and Wannstedt mean when they say they are going to put an emphasis on 3rd down this week? What in the world have they been emphasizing?!?
bennett8111: This D is a joke. They cannot stop anyone, but what I would like to know is, is this a personnel problem or a coaching problem? Last year's D was good and now, with several returning vets, we stink! Bad coaching or time to plug in freshmen, as Wanny hates to do??
SomalianBuccos: If Pitt finishes the season without winning the Big East does the AD department pull the hatchet on Wanny? This is year #5 and we are still losing to chumps.
Pitt_s_It: It is becoming pretty apparent that the Pitt players have been overrated and the coaching is mediocre at best...it is time to panic! Your opinion on this mess please.
Pitt_s_It: Paul: Are the Panthers ready to make yet another no name quarterback a potential Heisman candidate?
On Friday night you may bear witness to a rare alignment of 3rd down incompetence. UofL, managing a paltry 1.27 yards on third, will be going up against the Pitt D, who've allowed opponents to convert 43.1% of the time on 3rd down, good for last in the Big East.
On the bright side, don't leave your seat with all this punting going on! The Big East's two best returners, Trent Guy and Pitt WR Cameron Saddler will be looking to electrify under the lights. Saddler has averaged 30 yards a return on kickoffs (Guy avgs. 33.8) , and is anxious to take one to the house. Want to know a strange random fact? Cameron Saddler has a nephew. He's "Uncle Cam" to former Pitt b-ball bruiser DeJuan Blair. Don't ask me how.
On the bright side their secondary is a disaster.
* Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine at Pitt University
* Was coached by Glenn Scobey Warner, better known as Pop Warner, who introduced the screen pass, shoulder pads, and the spiral punt to the game.
* Has claimed 9 national championships and 8 undefeated seasons in its 119 year history
* The Pitt campus has been largely wiped out by fires--twice. This hasn't stopped their tradition of holding an annual bonfire pep rally.
* Notable alumni include Dan Marino, Mark Cuban, Gene Kelly, Mike Ditka, Mister Rogers, Senators Rick Santorum and Orrin Hatch, Tony Dorsett, and Larry Fitzerald.
"U of L ranks last in the Big East in scoring offense, sacks, tackles for loss, red zone scoring percentage, rushing defense, opponent kickoff returns, rushing defense and passes defended."
Had enough yet, Big East?
However, the stats also show that we are 6th nationally in kickoff returns, thanks largely to Trent Guy. Maybe we should allow our opponents to score more often, so that we can get Trent and the kick return team back out on the field...
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"Hi Paul. The most disturbing thing about the loss on Saturday was that there were so many things going wrong that shouldn't have - terrible defense, a stalled offense, too many costly penalties, and the inability to put it in the endzone from the 8. Without some miscues from the other team, it could have been a lot worse. Eliminate any one of those four things and we probably win the game. Where does the blame fall here, and how does this team move forward?"
...and this answer:
"So I would say that most of the blame falls on the players but coaching decisions and coaching philosophy also comes into play. I mean, honestly, when you have a ball on the 8-yard line and four shots and only one of those four plays has a prayer of working, I'm not sure that is the entirely the players fault. So it is a combination of things, but I do think this -- this one game and we don't know yet if it was just a bad day at the office or more than that so I wouldn't overreact just yet. Wait a few more games and see how things play out before you decide to throw everyone under the bus."
Sound familiar? Actually, it seems like Pitt last Saturday endured more follies and sloppy play than even what we've come up with using the toss-option-sweep or defensive delay-of-game. (To be fair, our defense has been reasonably solid and occasionally spectacular, so no gripe there). This is a big game for the Cards because it is our best chance for early season course-correction, but the game must equally be important for Pitt. If they lose to us, then their program is truly stumbling (nice to be that barometer). For our sake, let's hope that Dave Wannstedt is headed for some Steve Kragthorpe-like heat, biblical-style. (or is it non-biblical? I still can't figure out what the hell he was saying...)
"They are very physical. They've got an outstanding running back. I like their quarterback. I think he ran for 50 yards last week. He is not a Russell Wilson, but he can get out of trouble and make things happen on his feet. They have a receiver that didn't play against us last year. Scott Long, number 84, he's a big time player. He's their leading receiver and this guy is very impressive. Defensively, they are doing a good job. They are similar to us. They will mix in a little pressure here and there. They are physical. They are sound. It's going to be a big challenge for our football team, there's no question."
On the offense:
"I think their offensive line is going to be the most physical, by far, that we have faced this year. They will run the ball. They've got big play guys. They've got a junior college All-American at tight end. They've got three receivers. They bring in number three (Trent Guy). He comes in and is their big play guy. He had a 66-yard pass play. He can break it and take it the distance. So they have a nice compliment of power and speed. I definitely think they have gotten better from week one to where they're at now."
"As another aside -- think about how far and how fast Louisville has fallen. I mean, in 2006 they won the Big East and a BCS Bowl. And that year after they played Pitt and won 48-24 in a game that wasn't even that close, I remember talking to some people in the press box and wondering if the Panthers would consistently be able to compete with the Cardinals because they had that thing rolling. Just two years later Pitt beat Louisville 41-7 and just three years later [meaning, this year] a lot of people picked them to finish last in the Big East. It is an amazing free fall and one which, sadly, has probably hurt the Big East's credibility in some ways because this is one of the programs that was on the brink of competing for a place in the top 10 every year."
Ouch. As if our decline isn't bad enough in its own respect, now we've got to consider the damage done to the friggin' conference? Yeah, well, at least no one shot a film in our town because it has "such a pleasing array of post-apocalyptic scenery"! (Actually, the fact that "The Road" was shot in and around Pittsburgh makes the Steel City even cooler in my book. That movie comes out Nov. 25, and I can't wait... by that point in our season, tales of the apocalypse may seem only appropriate).
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
"Sitting up here in the press box and watching the plays develop - I’m not sure if Pitt’s secondary has any idea what it is doing. There are plays when some guys are in man, some look like they are in zone and after every reception there seems to be at least one guy waving his arms as if to say “what the heck just happened?” I don’t know what the problem is, but it needs to get solved quickly."
Is it just me or does Dave Wannstedt look uncannily like actor Dennis Farina?
Here's 5 other things you may not know about the Wannstache:
1) Because of his close ties to Jimmy Johnson, the Steelers almost hired him for the head coaching position that went to Bill Cowher.
2) Once landed #7 on a list of best mustaches in NFL history.
3) Tore his Achilles tendon while walking. He required surgery and a knee scope.
4) As the Bears head coach, he traded their first round draft pick for QB bust Rick Mirer. A move still lamented in the Windy City.
5) Soon after getting married Wanny broke his hand and couldn't wear his wedding ring, so he got a tattoo of a ring on his finger instead.
1) I still feel like our defensive players are playing as good as we can ask them. It's got to be draining to be out there making big plays but not seeing any point production on the other side of the ball.
2) The good news is that team penalties seem to be decreasing -- 6 for 35 yards against Kentucky, 5 for 50 yards against Utah. The bad news is that the ones we're still getting are nullifying key plays and getting kind of weird. There was the solid punt pinning the Utes deep in their own territory, nullified because we had too many men on the line. A personal foul on another kickoff. And a delay of game penalty against the defense? How does that even work?
3) Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. The Guy fumble after carrying the football in the wrong hand. Broken plays. Burning timeouts because we can't get the play-calls in.
4) The heroics during the Kentucky game now seem attributable to the fact that it was a rivalry game, the rule of thumb of which is that anything making a tight contest can and will happen. There was no clutch play on display against Utah. The two performances were alike in terms of mistakes and red zone fatalities, but different in terms of intensity. At Kentucky, there was the feeling that we brought it despite all the mistakes we made. At Utah, after the blocked field goal in the first quarter, there wasn't much intensity felt the rest of the way.
(Hat tip: cbcard)
Monday, September 28, 2009
I think Kragthorpe throws himself completely into the Xs and Os of coaching as an escape. He watches the tape, puts in the hours, and goes through the motions. The result, however, is that he seems to live only on week to week basis, with no grand vision of where he wants the program to be. He prepares the team as best he can, takes a loss, and immediately moves his mind to the next opponent. He says all the right things about the team getting better, even to a ludicrous degree. That's somewhat admirable (he's never stooped to Jurich-level cheap shots to the fans) but it also furthers the impression that he just doesn't get it. The goal is not to steadily improve throughout the season. You have to create a playoff mentality on week one, at all levels of the program, fans included. Kragthorpe's vision, or lack thereof, does not seem to encompass this. He seems to be in survival mode at all times with no real identity or goal to attain. No vision. And judging from his demeanor today, he doesn't seem to be having much fun either.
The point being: we've come full circle. This season can be, and will be, entertaining, but there likely will be few wins, so we better learn how to enjoy things alternatively. A larger-than-life figure helped, but those shoes sadly will go unfilled. Our guys are a likeable, admirable bunch and will be easy to rally around, but the game-plan is never going to be there. However, this post is less about giving Krags a hard time, and more about Cards fans making a stark realization early on.
Saturday demonstrated fully the shortcomings of this squad, less to do with the players and more to do with the plays and especially the play-callers. Some might therefore be encouraged to believe that the challenges are surmountable (I can already see we're going to hear a lot of "we're so close" coming from the program this week, as we did last week). I hope they are right, but for me, the problems this season are the same ones that have dogged the program for three years, with no easy resolution in sight. Analysis, breakdown and reactions will all follow in the coming days, but suffice it to say that this year is shaping up to be a tough one, though hopefully not without a few surprises.
"And this UofL team, minus many of its mistakes, is not far from Utah or UK."
Here here. I never felt watching Saturday's game that we were the lesser team. Nor did I against the Cats. We had the athletes and the talent to win both games. What do you call it when a talented teams underperforms? Poor coaching. Poor coaching. Poor coaching. I can't say anything else on the matter that hasn't already been said here and here. But despite my frustrations with the headset, this team has got heart, and I'll stay behind them till the end. Go Cards. Now let's break down the tape...
Sunday, September 27, 2009
"SUNDAY COLUMN. You won't find today's column on the web this morning. It's available in the hard-copy print edition only. You can also find it in the subscription E-edition of The C-J, information on which may be found by clicking here."
I don't know if this refers only to the Sunday edition or if it is part of a more expansive change. The demise of print media and the pros and cons of a subscription service to generate revenue have been debated far and wide, by people more expert than I am. For my part, I can only tell you that I will not be subscribing, and that news on Cardinal athletics will come from somewhere else. On this blog and others, the CJ will remove itself from the conversation.
"Strange scene after the game. Sophomore kicker Chris Philpott wandered over to talk to somebody in the stands, when coaches trotting across the field after coming down from the booth spotted him. One of them yelled over, 'Philpott come on.' He broke it off and started walking toward the locker room where the rest of the team was, and wasn't in too much of a hurry even when the coach shouted, 'Come on, jog it off! Coach is talking!'"
Cards fans who already suspect that Kragthorpe's "players' coach" mantra has lead to the lack of discipline in the program will not be encouraged. I mean jeez, he's the kicker!
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About the Bloggers
Mr. Red is also known as Timothy Johnstone. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.
Mr. Black is also known as Christopher Cunningham. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.