I am one of the most positive people you will ever meet. I also call it like I see it. I try not to be a homer but sometimes my heart overtakes my head. Coming into the UK game I didn’t really think there was a chance Louisville could lose. Then I listened to the talk shows, read the tweets and listened to everyone’s over exuberant confident proclamations about the outcome of the game. I kept hearing “we are going to make it six in a row” and thinking how hard it is to do that and how UK was due to win one. I quickly brushed that thought out of my head and carried on with my own confidence. I figured there is no way we lose at home with the Heisman favorite. There is no way we come out uninspired or flat after the beat-down from Houston and Bobby doesn’t lose to Kentucky. Right?
I figured if we get the ball first and score there is no way we lose. Well, we scored first and my first thought was how much will we crush the spread by. Will we score 70 or 80? My mind was overtaken by my heart and my desire to destroy the hated rival. The perfect game was off to a perfect start.
Then Kentucky snapped the ball on their first play of the game. I was sitting in the endzone behind the UK offense. I saw the play develop and as the ball flew in the air destined to find the hands of an open UK receiver 30 yards downfield, I started having all theses thoughts creep into my mind. What if we actually lost to UK? Just as the UK receiver crossed the endzone for a 75 yard touchdown, my mind went back to the last two years where we spotted them plenty of points only to come back and win. We got this. Just a small mistake that we can recover from. Then to start the second half, UK scored to take the lead and for one very brief second I thought we better get serious or we could lose this game. That thought quickly dissipated. My faith was fully behind Bobby, Lamar and the boys. When UK scored to take the lead in the fourth quarter that ever so slight feeling of fear in my gut reared its ugly head. I quickly dismissed it and said ” we got this.” I figure I would just cheer a little harder and everything would be alright.
As I watched the ball sail through the upright directly in front of me with :12 left in the game, I couldn’t help but wonder if what just happened was a direct result of poor coaching or was it a result of a culture we had developed from being so close so many times. Besides Henderson saving us vs Wichita State and Luke saving us vs Michigan, thing haven’t been as good as they could have been. The Mangok missed put back and free throw vs Michigan State. The second half superhuman performance of Jameis Winston and Dalvin Cook running around untouched like Usain Bolt. Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson stomping on my heart in those ugly white uni’s. William Gay jumping offsides and Judge ITO celebrating with half of Piscataway. Aaron Harrison hitting a three pointer with :39 left in the 2014 NCAA tournament game. One yard short at Clemson in two different games and a missed game tying field goal in PJCS. The fair/foul homerun vs Fullerton and the walk off grand slam loss from last season. Being so close to the CFB playoffs this year and getting the respect we thought we deserved.
Have all these close moments created a culture that prevented us from beating UK this year or was is totally on the coaches?
I’m not one to bash student athletes for their play but million dollar coaches are fair game and I believe Todd Grantham is to blame for the loss. I have never been a huge fan of his and if he doesn’t return next season I won’t lose a wink of sleep. That being said, if he is our defensive coordinator next season I will fully support him. Regardless of how I feel about any of our coaches, I will always support them.
I feel Grantham did not have this team ready and he didn’t put his players in position to make plays. This defense has plenty of individual talent but you have to put them in position to make plays. As DC, Grantham has to know the opponent and adjust accordingly. The scouting report on Kentucky quarterback, Stephen Johnson, was that he threw a great deep ball and he hands the ball off to one of two really good running backs. The Kentucky coaches said after the game that when they saw how Louisville reacted to their pre-snap motion on their first offensive play of the game, they knew exactly how Louisville would react and that they would not have safety help over the top leaving the corner in man coverage. There is absolutely no excuse for that. There were also many times that Louisville defensive players were confused as to where to line up. I heard people making excuses saying that it was mainly subs that didn’t know where to line up. I say in the last game of the season that there should not be any player on the team that isn’t prepared for any situation that could be thrown at them. That lack of preparation is on the coach, not the player. If the player still hasn’t grasped the defensive scheme by the last game of the season then the coach should not have put him in. Grantham also has all his guys trying to strip the ball on every tackle. While I like the aggressiveness, you have to make the tackle. I wish I had a stat on how many yards UK had after first contact. I believe that number should be multiplied by 1000 and deducted from Grantham’s absurd salary. Kentucky, the 57th ranked offense in the country, had 581 yards of total offense and converted 10 of 18 third downs. Bobby Petrino said “We knew they were going to run the wildcat and we needed to tackle better and we let them a couple of times get on the edge. Our defensive end/outside linebackers are supposed to set the edge and move the play back in. And then they threw the ball deep. We knew coming in they were going to take shots down the field and on the first play of the game we didn’t have our safety in the right position and hung the corners out there with no help in the middle. You’re not going to win a lot of times if you do that. ”
So my opinion is that the loss to UK is not a direct result of culture but rather the lack of preparation on the defensive coordinator. I also feel that all these so close moments are starting to add up to the point of acceptance. We are dangerously close to being at that point where just saying “here we go again” is acceptable as an excuse. If we reach that point then we have created a culture of acceptance for mediocrity. Getting close and coming up just short is Okay if you learn and grow from it. It’s part of becoming a perennial national contender. Let’s continue to learn, grow and show unwavering support for our beloved Cardinals all while not settling for a culture of mediocrity.
As Always, GO CARDS!