Petrino’s Shame: How Louisville Went from Playoff Contender to Overrated Disappointment

Posted on Nov 26 2016 - 10:26pm by Nick Burch
Photo - Getty Images

Photo – Getty Images

 

When Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich re-hired Bobby Petrino to be the football program’s head coach in 2014, the thought of his name being uttered in the same breath as a failed former coach like Steve Kragthorpe seemed beyond rational thought, but…well, here we are.

The Cards’ completion of their season collapse at home on senior day vs. 26-point underdog Kentucky 41-38 was certainly Kragthorpe-ian in nature. After a promising 2-minute opening drive that gave Louisville a 7-0 lead was soon followed by the picture of Louisville football fans had been used to seeing since the loss at Clemson. 

From Kentucky’s first touchdown, which occurred on the first play of their first drive on a deep ball over the top of a badly burnt Dee Smith, it became clear the Cards were in for a fight if they didn’t shape up. They didn’t.

Instead, they showed the same lack of discipline, lack of focus, and lack of resiliency they’ve shown since October 1st at Clemson. It was the same type of unfocused and soft style of football that Kragthorpe’s team displayed on a weekly basis for three straight years.

Very few people saw Louisville losing to Kentucky. After all, the Cards have dominated the Cats for five straight years, and with the clear Heisman Trophy frontrunner at the helm, even if they were at their worst, they surely wouldn’t falter against Kentucky, right? But maybe people should’ve looked closer.

Maybe the haters who had been so critical of Louisville since their flat performance vs. Duke were right. Nay, there is no maybe about it. Despite their disrespectful tone, these analysts were proven correct. The Cards 100% confirmed that the team who dominated Florida State like a lion on a sick gazelle died at the end of September.

The writing had been on the wall for nearly two months, but fans and certain members of the media had ignored all the signs.

The performance vs. Duke? It was a combination of good coaching by Duke coach David Cutcliffe along with still suffering a hangover from the Clemson loss. The bounce back domination of NC State showed it was a fluke. Then came Virginia. They needed a miracle from Lamar Jackson to beat a two-win team, but (a) it was on the road, and (b) UVA always plays Louisville tough. Overconfidence, maybe? A dominant win over Boston College answered that. But what about the first three quarters against Wake Forest? No matter, they dominated them in the fourth.

Even the embarrassing 36-10 loss at Houston seemed to get slightly overlooked leading into Kentucky. It was the ass kicking Louisville needed, some said. Now that the weight of the playoff pressure was removed, they should be able to focus, said others. As it turns out, they were nothing but excuses for a team who had apparently thrown in the towel in regards to preparation and determination.

None of Louisville’s previous underperformances were flukes. The loss to Houston wasn’t a fluke. The embarrassment vs. UK finally proved the Cards went into cruise control after September, and as good as Lamar Jackson was, his team and his coaching staff let him down.

There is a lot of hate being thrown around right now towards Jackson, whose fumble inside the opponent 10-yard line cost Louisville the win, but let’s not forget…It wasn’t him that allowed the defense to allow UK to march freely down the field after that. It wasn’t him that dropped a touchdown pass like James Quick did. And it certainly wasn’t him that opted to kick a field goal on the one-yard line instead of punching the ball in…like winners do.

Nevertheless, Jackson’s once concrete Heisman chances are now anything but. He had 452 total yards (including 171 yards on the ground) and four total TDs, but his turnovers were costly, even if two of them were not his fault. Should this loss cost him the Heisman, Petrino should offer him a public apology.

Speaking of Petrino, he has a lot to answer for. His team has lost more fumbles than any other team in FBS by a decent-sized margin. They commit more penalties than every team but five. They have become an undisciplined, unfocused team without true leadership, much like the days of Kragthorpe. It doesn’t take a genius to point out that something needs to change.

The defense was absolutely horrid against UK. There was no pressure on the QB, no decent coverage by the secondary, and plenty of missed tackles to go around. And the constant confusion among players, especially on third downs with no adjustments… For what defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is being paid, making the UK offense look like the New England Patriots is unacceptable. 

The offensive line, while far better than they were vs. Houston, was facing a defensive line that allowed 257 yards on the ground to Austin Peay (who has one win since 2013). And yet, Jackson was still under pressure several times and sacked twice. The Louisville offensive line has not improved in the three years that Chris Klenakis has been leading them. This year was supposed to be different. It was for a while, and then it wasn’t.

The lack of discipline of this team on both sides of the ball is an embarrassment to FBS level football. That falls on Petrino, and if he can’t teach discipline, he needs to hire assistants who will.

His decision making has also been incredibly suspect, most notably his decision to kick a field goal at the UK two-yard line rather than punch it in. It proved to be the difference in the game. He also allowed Jackson to continuously heave the ball deep down the sideline despite the fact it wasn’t working.

After the game, Petrino was asked about his QB’s tendency to stay in the pocket too long at times. Here was Petrino’s response:

“Really? That is a bad question right there.  Lamar competes his butt off.  He does everything he possible can to help us win.  He has had an amazing season alright.  He has used all the talent that God gave him and that’s a bad job of questioning.  Thank you.”

That’s admirable of Bobby to defend his player like that. It’d be even more admirable if he led his team with the same vinegar. It’d be more admirable if he could channel the anger he shows the media for asking basic questions and put it into efforts to creating a more disciplined team. But hey, you can’t get everything in life, I suppose.

Make no mistake about it, Saturday’s loss to UK was a complete and total narrative changer for Louisville.

Playoff team? HA! All those disrespectful comments by talking heads? Completely proven true. The “it’s just Lamar Jackson and a bunch of other dudes” BS? Today, that was somewhat the case. 

Rick Pitino once had a practice where if his team didn’t perform as he wanted, he would remove the “Louisville” name from their practice jerseys. Perhaps the Louisville football staff should take the same approach…with themselves.

The players certainly underperformed, but they were also underprepared. That’s on the coaching staff. When a team is continuously underprepared, unfocused, and unmotivated for six out of the past eight weeks, there is something wrong. Someone is not doing their job. Someone is not doing what they’re paid big money for, and someone has made excuse after excuse week after week with very little change in attitude. 

For the program’s sake, Lamar Jackson needs to win the Heisman. He still is likely the frontrunner, although now, due to the back to back losses, it may slip through his hands. Petrino and staff have already undone nearly all the hype they created following Florida State, and if Jackson loses the Heisman, the circle will be complete.

It wasn’t even two months ago when people were saying a one-loss Louisville team deserved to be in the College Football Playoff. Now? They are a national punchline. The UK loss was the boiling point, but the consistency in which Louisville played with so much apathy post-Clemson has been rather incredible. 

So hopefully Bobby Petrino is happy and content with his work since returning. As a disgraced individual who once gave Louisville a very loud and public middle finger, one would think he would have a little more enthusiasm for keeping a team with national championship aspirations hungry and determined. The evidence on the field proves otherwise, and now, he can’t even beat Kentucky, the one team he has had basically no trouble with his entire career.

He owes the Louisville program, fans, and community much, much more. Florida State was nice, but never in program history has a Louisville football team fallen apart like this during the last half of a season. This season has gone from a letdown after Houston to an utter humiliation. Only he and he alone has to answer for that.

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Petrino's Shame: How Louisville Went from Playoff Contender to Overrated Disappointment, 8.2 out of 10 based on 58 ratings

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9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Matt November 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Stopped reading at "the cards have dominated the cards". Terrible editing.

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    • John November 27, 2016 at 8:50 am - Reply

      Also "The writing had been on the will…"? It's wall, not will.

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  2. Doug November 27, 2016 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Angry tirade after a difficult loss. This team over achieved some of the year and under achieved the last two games. We were better than UK but the defense had a lot of break downs. Lamar is beat up. After 11 sacks at Houston, he is caught from behind on a long run. That tells me he isn't as healthy as he was

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  3. Chaz November 27, 2016 at 8:56 am - Reply

    This article is unfair. I agree that the team has not lived up to the early season performance that people expected to see all season long, but to even compare Petrino to Kragthorpe's pitiful coaching is irresponsible. Shame on you.

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    • EricShelton November 27, 2016 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Disagree. The team got worse as the season went on, not better. The fact that fans won't admit this and hold Petrino accountable is irresponsible. I'm glad the media is not willing to give him a pass this time.

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  4. Kerr November 27, 2016 at 9:05 am - Reply

    petrino was busy kicking the tires on a return to the nfl

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  5. Kabone November 27, 2016 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Stupid article trying to act like Louisville had an awful season. 2 weeks ago we were the first team out of the final four. I am disappointed in the last three games, but to spew all the ignorance that this article did is laudable. We are 9-3 and headed to a good bowl.

    Listening to the UK call-in show after the game and the UK fans were acting like this was the one of the greatest wins in their history. After losing to Looserville for 5 straight years, fans were coming out of the woodwork. I guess I have been spoiled being a CARD fans because I was unaware of how pathetic and irrelevant Kentucky football had become.

    Continued success to the doormat of the Sec, while I'll enjoy our continued rise in the ACC and the possibility of a heisman winning QB leading the team next year.

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    • EricShelton November 27, 2016 at 10:32 am - Reply

      It's tough when people point out that your baby is ugly.

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  6. srwade November 27, 2016 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Arrogance was the undoing of Louisville yesterday, and I would lay the blame on the feet of Petrino. Three things happened that I had never heard of happening at a major sporting event. At Louisville's press conference earlier this week, the Louisville coach and players would not show enough respect to UK to refer to them by Kentucky, UK, or the Wildcats, instead just referring to the team as "them" or "that team". Second was the half time show with their running back Radcliff asking his GF to marry him. Then there were Lamar Jacksons Heisman poses he would make after making a big play. If this were a high school game, you would never allow so many side shows to be happening. Whether trying to win a game, win an award, or win an election, you had better treat your opponent with respect from the beginning till the end.

    Let me put this another way. The number 1 team in the country, Alabama beat UK by 26 points, and they had none of the side shows going on that Louisville did. Nick Sabin would have nothing of that. Until Louisville can learn to handle success, they will always fall short. I think this part of Petrino will always prevent him from a national championship.

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