The trajectory of Louisville football may have never taken a steeper curve than in the last 365+ days. And it may never stoop lower than the humiliating loss Louisville suffered on Saturday.
A 45-42 loss to Boston College has left fans stunned, disappointed and moreover, angry. Louisville lost to a team that was 115th in total offense, entering the game. A team that was 2-17 in its last 19 conference games.
A team that, last year, Louisville pulverized in a 52-7 blowout in Chestnut Hill. Despite Louisville playing Jekyll & Hyde football throughout October and November of last year, they still added a landslide win. There were comments made about Boston College’s head coach possibly losing his job, and the Eagles program taking a lot of backward steps.
On Saturday, and seemingly throughout this season, Louisville has looked like the program that is taking steps backwards.
There’s no shortage of reasons to find out why Louisville has underwhelmed. Quarterbacks are proverbially granted tax exemption status, shredding the self-dubbed Tax Boyz for easy yards. Tacklers bounce off of ball-carriers like the X-Men trying to take on Juggernaut. An offense with the dynamic capabilities of theirs struggles with inconsistent drives, putting an already vulnerable defense in precarious positions.
Since that loss at Clemson, the team just has not been the same. That said, it’s come to a breaking point. Bobby Petrino was once a heralded figure at Louisville; with a 41-9 record in his first run, they had offenses that produced gaudy arcade numbers, several big wins and two top-ten poll finishes. No matter how he leaves Louisville, I think fans will always look upon him with that in mind.
But that fabled nostalgia has almost eroded. And so, too, has the goodwill fans had in his second tour as Louisville’s head coach.
Tom Jurich brought him back in 2014 with one goal in mind; to get Louisville ready for the ACC gauntlet, and perhaps even compete for the conference championship. This was never about public relations, it was a football move to win now in the ACC.
All of that sounds ambitious here. But after the success of Charlie Strong at Louisville, could anyone have blamed the fans?
Strong finished his four-year run with a 37-15 in four years, 2-1 record against ranked teams. Also consider that with each successful year, the team’s record got better. What started as a 6-6 season in 2010 culminated with an 11-2 record in their 2012 Sugar Bowl season, and a 12-1 mark in Teddy’s final year.
“We know that our fans have high expectations,” Petrino said. “But our players and coaches have high expectations too.”
You can’t blame fans for feeling like they were ready for the ACC. And it seemed like Louisville was well on their way; they gave Florida State all they could handle in 2014, but fell short. They had a moderately successful stretch from November 2015 to September 2016; rallying on the road to beat Kentucky, pulling out a bowl win, and stomping #2 Florida State with College Gameday in town.
Those moments now seem distant in the rear view mirror, especially after the loss to Boston College. Those fans didn’t want to go 1-9 against ranked teams in his second run. They didn’t want to lose to Kentucky, ever. And they didn’t want to go from the #1 defense at the end of 2013 to 62nd, and has looked anything but their ranking would suggest.
It shouldn’t be that way. With a reigning Heisman Trophy winner, a passionate fan base and an expanding stadium, it should be an upward trajectory. Not necessarily to the level that Clemson and Florida State find themselves at currently, but at least a ten-win season and a regular staple in the weekly top 25 polls.
Instead, they’re backsliding and given the remaining schedule, it’s very real Louisville ends up missing out on a bowl game.
Given that, there are no more excuses for Bobby Petrino at Louisville. He was brought here to win football games and make Louisville football a force in the ACC. As I mentioned, it was never about the PR; it was about the desire to compete on the gridiron.
And if Louisville can’t do that, maybe it’s time to reconsider what they signed up for.