Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

CardHelmetIn the pleasant aroma of Louisville’s 41-17 evisceration of the Syracuse Orange, there is but one question.

And it is not where in the hell were all those U of L is a football school fans on a photogenic, weather immaculate, Howard Schnellenberger-perfect, leaves aglow, Grantland Rice crisp, autumn afternoon? Because they sure weren’t at Papa J’s, where the empty faded red seats just about equaled those filled with the base that chose to attend.

No, the real question is, what factors contributed to the first sighting this season of the Bobby Petrino offense fans have been expecing since Tom Jurich cut the devil’s bargain to bring the scandal-prone coach back for a second go round?

As usual, there are many reasons for the offensive onslaught that played out yesterday, each responsible in a greater or lesser percentage, depending on your personal perspective.

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Before I mention Kyle Bolin, whom I suppose to be most fans immediate factor numero uno, I must go to what has been the major offensive flaw all season. The offensive line.

U of L’s 3d string, soon to be first string QB was sacked but once, and officially hurried only twice more. There were far fewer False Starts than in recent weeks.

All good signs.

So, since I have been relentless with my criticism of the Cards’ big uns in the trenches, let me give them props after their best effort of the season. I do feel compelled to point out they were playing against the ACC’s worst total defense, worst passing defense and second to worst scoring defense.

That reality notwithstanding, the Klenakis Krewe was clearly improved, at least against the iridescent orange helmeted ‘Cuse rushers.

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Yes, Kyle Bolin, as has been his wont since this stunning relief performance against UK last season, came in and “overachieved.” Quotation marks required because his offensive savant coach has relegated him to #3 on the depth charts, choosing to go with the athleticism and potential upside of Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson over the precision and instinct of Lexingtonian Bolin.

The Cards #1 (ankle) and #2 (concussion) weren’t available High Noon Saturday, so Bolin got the nod.1

The offense looked more Petrinoesque, not only because KB had a few more nanoseconds each down to find his receivers, but also because he goes through his reads quicker and way more analytically and gets the ball out faster than Jackson and Bonnafon.

Louisville opening drive was as heartening as it was immaculate. 4 plays. 75 yards, including a strike from Bolin, who can throw the out pattern, to LJ Scott for 52 down the sideline. With only 1:41 having elapsed, U of L led 7 zed.

What ensued, besides a runaway W, was a splendid stat line for its QB that reads: 24/35. 3 TDs. 362 yards.2

Eight different Cardinals were on the receiving end of KB’s completions. Juco transfer Cole Hikutini grabbed three of them, two of which for scores.

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That O Line improvement, and the Orange’s defensive ineptitude, were also responsible for the Cardinals’ best rushing game of the campaign.

The Cards actually had a 100 yard game. From recently MIA Brandon Radcliffe, whose always present 110% effort resulted in 117 net yards in ten carries, including consecutive blasts of 46, 16 and 7, during U of L’s third 2d half drive.3

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The most important play of the game was, duh, Trumaine Washington’s pick six at 5:42 of the second. He jumped the route, and scampered untouched for the Cards’ go ahead and stay ahead score.

He also led the team with 12 tackles, including a sack and three other TFLs.

After a slow start, including relinquishing a 2 play, 46 yard, :36 TD drive, Louisville’s D tightened up. The two fourth quarter stops, one in the red zone, showed the first teamers were locked in until the end.

For the third straight week, Grantham’s charges essentially dominated. To be rigorously objective, perspective requires mention that the last three foes have a combined 2-16 league record. And the trio all started freshman QBs.

Nonetheless, former Cardinal Elvis Dumervil, honored at the game, had to be impressed.

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Louisville’s four turnovers — three lost fumbles and a pick — are a blemish.

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Next Saturday: U of L’s final home game against hapless 3-6 UVa, whose coach Mike London is working on his fourth straight losing season, and appears to be a Dead Man Walking. A W, and U of L, which has won 5 of 6, will achieve that hallowed status known as “bowl eligible.”

It’s another nooner. How many Cardinal football fans will show?

The evening before, U of L hoops opens its season against Scott Padgett’s Samford, the school Cards’ pigskinners throttled 45-3. Will the Cardinal Nation fill the seats for two games in 24 hours?

The football season winds down with two tough road tests, @ Pitt, and @ arch rival Kentucky.

— Seedy K