Now that a few hours have passed since the game ended, I feel like sitting down to write about it. I have gotten much better over the years as to how I take losses. I do realize that I have no impact on the game whatsoever, and it is just that, a game. It is entertainment and a distraction from everyday life and real problems. So realizing that helps move on from losses. However, getting back to being the huge fan that I am, this one hurt!
In every game, there are good things and bad things that happen. This game seemed to be full of both. I would normally get on here and write about how things are just fine and this team will be ok, and no worries. That is just how I am now, Mr. Optimistic. The proof of that is that a few minutes after the game ended, a text came in that started with “I know you are the positive fan but…”
But I won’t be 100% positive talk here. I will address the problems that stuck out to me, no need to hide from them. So I will look at things from both sides. And since I am the positive one, I would prefer to end my post on the good things, so let’s go ahead and get the bad stuff out of the way. Before my negativity starts, just know that I still 100% support this team, including coaches and players. I love my Cards and one halfway critical post does not change that.
The Glass is Half Empty
*The spike – This is one of those plays that will be talked about for a long time. Well, hopefully not. I really don’t want to talk about it after this at all. As the team was lining up quickly, it looked like a spike was coming, and I was surprised, thinking there was no way that was about to happen. Then it did. And it was 4th down. And just like that, we went from having two plays to win the game, to just one. Bobby Petrino said that he called the spike so they could huddle up and set up “their go-to TD play.” Problem is, Clemson’s defensive coordinator knew exactly what was coming. Apparently, Petrino ran the same play at WKU to win a game last year. So ouch, that makes it hurt even worse.
If you know me, or read my stuff here, you know I don’t criticize the coaches or their play-calling. I don’t get paid millions of dollars to do it, so who am I to question their decisions? But I do have to say I think that was a bad decision. If that really was the go-to play, then the players should know it without having to huddle. Couldn’t they just call the play out and run it on 3rd down? That still gives you the two chances.
I had absolutely no problem with running it on 2nd down. In fact, I wanted them to run it. See if Dominique Brown can move the pile and score, and if not, you still have time for two plays. Guess not. That play stings. It will haunt us all season long. I question it, but I am certainly not going to be one of these people saying that Petrino has lost it, or he is to blame for the loss. Move the pile and score on 2nd down, and it doesn’t matter.
*James Normal? – Another thing you usually won’t see me do is harp on the performance of an individual player. They are kids and can do way more on the football field than I can. So again, who am I to judge? But this is my “glass half empty” portion, so I am allowed to. Is James Quick really THAT quick? That spike should have never even happened. Quick should have scored that touchdown. It looked as simple as he should have run up the sideline and not stayed in his path. But also, he is supposed to have world class speed. How did he get caught in the open field?
Even on plays where the QB throws a quick pass to him and he is in open space, he doesn’t really get away from defenders. There is a big difference between Trinity High School and the ACC, and I think he is learning that. He can’t just get the ball, hit the L1 or R1 buttons (throwback to Playstation 2) and shake his man. As soon as he got tackled on the long pass play, I thought oh no, it’s going to be very tough to score on them from here.
What seemed like the impossible, marching down field in under a minute and a half and scoring a TD, was suddenly right there happening as Quick was on his own and heading for the endzone. Then just like that, he was tackled, and Clemson forced the Cards to make an offensive play, which they couldn’t do.
*Penalties – Not much to say here. The penalties HAVE TO STOP!!! Our penalties aren’t even pass interference where a defender gets beat and saves a TD by grabbing the receiver. They aren’t holding penalties where the lineman is about to get his QB hurt so he has to hold. They are false starts and too many men on the field. You all see it, so I don’t need to go any further with this one. Just stop the penalties!
The Glass is Half Full
*Defense is for real – All season, this defense has been great, but playing against below average offenses. Against Clemson, we knew they would be tested. And I don’t care if most of it was against the backup QB. That backup was the starter for the first few games this season, so it’s not like this was his first time playing. And on top of that, Dehaun Watson, who everyone on ESPN was saying will be the face of college football for the next 2-3 years, looked like he had never played a game before against this defense of the Cards.
Clemson scored on a punt return, a sack fumble in the endzone, and 3 field goals. The defense did not give up a touchdown, and they haven’t since the 3rd quarter of the Virginia game. That is 17+ quarters of football without allowing an offensive touchdown. Pretty impressive. Not to get ahead of myself, but this defense will give Florida State everything they can handle. And if the offense has made some progress by then, watch out.
*Will Gardner – I haven’t really had a solid opinion on who should start at QB until now. I believe that in order to win now, Will Gardner is the guy for the job. He gives us the best chance to win now. Sure, you could look at Reggie Bonnafon, who is a great athlete himself, and see the potential for down the road and see his playmaking abilities. Maybe you want him to get big-game experience for the future.
But then I ask myself, why? Don’t worry about next season or the year after. Win games now. As far as I see it, there will be a big QB competition next season anyway, and it will include Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson. So there is no guarantee that the starter next season will be Gardner or Bonnafon. So you can’t play games to plan for that and give someone experience. Win games now. Will Gardner gives the Cards the best chance to do that, and I finally feel comfortable saying that.
*This team is right there – Just think about it. For years, Louisville fans have wanted to be in a real conference and be tested by better teams. Dominating the weaker conferences and then only proving yourselves in bowl games got to be old. We wanted big games every week. Now we have that. And the Cardinals went to Death Valley, one of the toughest places to play in all of college football, and were a play away from leaving with a victory.
Clemson was a 9 or 10 point favorite. Their two losses this season are to Georgia and Florida State. All of the “experts” picked them to win. Their offense was going to score a lot of points and ours just wouldn’t keep up. Remember all of that? This team was on the doorstep of victory. The grumpy old man just slammed the door in our face. It happens. Watch big-time conference games around the country. In all of the big SEC or Big 12 games, someone loses. And there are many heart-breakers. We just happened to have one against Clemson, but we were right there in position to win it, even after all of the penalties and lackluster offense.
The beautiful thing about being in this here ACC conference is you better move on from this, because NC State is coming to town next Saturday! They are struggling as of late, but that’s the same team that led Florida State 24-7 in the 1st quarter. So this team has to regroup and take care of business at home next weekend. And we as fans have to regroup and support the team and the coaching staff. You may not agree with everything they do, and you are entitled to your opinion, but these are our Louisville Cardinals. You can’t give up on them.
The ACC is a whole new animal compared to any other conference we have been in. You have to enjoy it, but you also have to be realistic. We weren’t going to just come in and roll over everyone. We will take our lumps. Last year after 7 games, our remaining schedule was USF, UConn, Houston, Memphis, and Cincinnati. This year, it’s NC State, Florida State, Boston College, Notre Dame, and Kentucky. It’s not a step up. It’s about a flight of steps up.
Well clearly you can see it’s easier for me to write about the glass being half full, huh? I just think that when you are a muffed punt (Virginia) and a spike away from being 7-0 on the season in your FIRST SEASON in the ACC, there is reason for optimism. So I will continue to be that way.
No reason to stress out about it or be angry. I will let the guys who are making millions do that part. 🙂
Go Cards. Go Krogering. See you next Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium!
P.S. Just remembered after I finished typing this: we STILL haven’t had DeVante Parker out there. No excuses, but don’t forget that.