--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals dropped their second game of the season on Saturday. Against a team they previously owned.
Not only did they lose, the Cardinals were owned by the Virginia Cavaliers. The final score was 27-3. While it was a close game for the first half, the defense fell apart in the fourth quarter, allowing 136 yards; and two touchdowns. The 136 yards were 20 shy of the entire first-half total.
After that performance, the question begs to be asked: Is it panic time for Louisville football?
All four games haven’t been easy. First, the Cards were trounced 51-14 against Alabama. Then, Louisville won a close 31-7 game against Indiana State, and 20-17 against a reeling Western Kentucky.
All three games led up to a 27-3 blowout against the Virginia Cavaliers.
Nothing is going right for Bobby Petrino and co. They have one of the worst defenses since Bobby came back. There’s no clear answer for Lamar Jackson’s replacement. The team can’t make a stop or big play on third down, both offensive and defensive.
Entering the game, the defense allowed 386 yards per game, and 46.94 percent of third downs to convert. Brian VanGorder’s defense allowed 401 yards and 9 of 16 on third to convert.
It’s about as bad as Peter Sirmon’s defense just a season ago. While the Alabama game bloated the yards per game and points some; Louisville allowed 428 yards against Western Kentucky’s second-string quarterback.
It’s not all bad. One difference between Sirmon and VanGorder has been the aggressiveness up front. The 2018 defense blitzes. It was a rare sight in 2017.
Having a new defensive system takes time to get used to. VanGorder’s defense has been rumored to be a steep learning curve; which has become apparent in recent weeks. It’ll take time to get used to the new system.
Similarly, the offense has not lived up to what was expected. Jawon Pass was advertised as the Heisman winner’s replacement. Malik Cunningham started over him in week four. The offense built around Pass isn’t working. Pass has running ability, but oftentimes remains in the pocket for far too long- by the time the decision to scramble has been made, it’s too late.
Ultimately the offense falls on Petrino. He was an offensive guru for his first Louisville stint, with Arkansas and Western Kentucky. While the Cards are now in the ACC, he had time against power-five teams with the Razorbacks in the SEC.
Louisville is averaging just 17 points per game. The average is worse than Steve Kragthorpe’s final season.
Where’s the offensive genius?
Louisville has time to prove themselves. The one greatest silver lining is that the team is just four games in. The defense has some time to get used to VanGorder’s system, and the offense has time to get used to the new QB play.
If the Cardinals perform well against Florida State next week, then they could have the momentum they need to win another game, then another.
In 2015, the Cardinals started out 0-3 before catching fire against Samford and Florida State. Louisville ended the season winning six of their last seven.
Give Louisville a few weeks. It’s not panic time just yet. If the Cards drop Florida State, then fans can begin sweating a little more.