--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals aren’t living up to people’s expectations.
That’s putting it lightly. Louisville has a record of 2-4, and is playing some of the worst football in recent history. If the current trend doesn’t change; and change rapidly; athletic director Vince Tyra will face a tough decision.
In the most recent installment, the Cardinals lost 66-31 to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets aren’t known for being a good football team. It was the first time Louisville allowed more than 60 points sine 2008, and the first time the Cardinals allowed more than 500 rushing yards since 1932.
Georgia Tech only attempted two passes. Entering the game, it was obvious Tech was going to run the ball; and the Cardinals weren’t prepared for it.
While the defensive play-calling was from Brian VanGorder; the failure ultimately falls on head coach Bobby Petrino. Petrino hired VanGorder, who was the third defensive coordinator in as many years.
Todd Grantham, Petrino’s coordinator in 2016; is leading the 19th overall, and 6th passing defense. The Florida Gators, Grantham’s new squad; went from giving up over 27 points in 2017 to just 14.8 this year.
Meanwhile, Louisville went from surrendering 23.8 points in 2016 to 27.4 in 17, to an abysmal 32.7 in 2018.
Petrino isn’t a defensive-minded coach. He was known for having a high-power offense during the rest of his coaching career. Louisville went from averaging over 38 points the past two years to just 20 in 2018.
The drop-off in points scored show how obviously important Lamar Jackson was to Petrino and company. Louisville has good pieces on the team. Petrino hasn’t found a way to use them.
With a 2-4 record, and uneasy feeling about the rest of the schedule; it may be time to look at other options at head coach. But Petrino’s near 14-million-dollar buyout becomes a difficult obstacle to hurdle.
If Cardinal Stadium keeps emptying, Tyra may not have a choice. The 14-million-dollar buyout may become a viable option. The opportunity cost of lost ticket sales and concession revenue may become too great for the athletic department to retain Petrino.
At the same time, this is the first truly awful season Louisville has had under Petrino. And there is still time to win a few games, and become close to, if not, bowl eligible. Petrino hasn’t finished a season with a losing record since 2008. The Cardinals started 2-4 in 2015; the year that Louisville passed and rushed for over 200 yards against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
There’s still time to have a strong finish to the season. But if Louisville doesn’t, fans will vote with their feet on whether Petrino stays, or if he is paid to leave.
If things don’t change, Tyra could be forced to make a difficult decision.