Same Old Bobby?

If you follow UofL football, or college football in general, you know that this past Wednesday was National Signing Day — the day when high school players make their commitments final to their chosen colleges by signing a Letter of Intent.

As a rule, I dislike all the hype put into recruiting, especially the over-the-top attention paid to some 17-year-olds simply because they can do skillful things with a ball. I tend to agree with Mike Wilbon of PTI:

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Are We Really Shooting Worse?

Lots of people are saying this is one of the worst-shooting teams of recent memory. I know it seems that way, especially last weekend – but let’s look at some data and not trust our lying eyes.

So, using the great site Sports Reference, I pulled down game stats for the past five seasons. I then did some analysis.

First, I ran out FG% by game for the past five years, and did some graphs to see if I could see trends. The game-by-game graphs were too volatile, so I added four-game rolling trendlines. That seemed to show that this team was under earlier teams – but then I realized that our FG% was only part of the equation.

If you are a bad-shooting team, but your opponents shoot WORSE, isn’t that the stat that really matters?

So, I went back and added a rolling cumulative percentage, game by game, for both us and our opponents. THEN, I did a column showing the cumulative game-by-game difference.

Here are the results, both through 18 games and through the end of the year, showing both our FG% and the difference with our opponents:

2010-2011 — 47.7% through 18 (up 8.7%), finish 45.3% (up 5.9%)

2011-2012 — 43.2% through 18 (up 6.7%), finish 42.2% (up 3.8%)

2012-2013 — 45.4% through 18 (up 5.8%), finish 45.6% (up 6.1%)

2013-2014 — 47.1% through 18 (up 7.6%), finish 47.1% (up 7.5%) 

2014-2015 — 42.7% through 18 (up 5.7%), —

So, no matter how you look at it, this year’s FG% is lower through 18 games than any of the previous teams, AND their margin against their opponents is smaller as well.

Note, of course, that if you subtract the margin from our FG%, you can see our opponents are also shooting lower than any year except 2011-2012. So, this year’s defense is usually giving us a margin of safety. But not always.

Let’s hope that the offensive numbers go up at least a little, and that our defense continues to be strong. I’ll post updates on these stats as the season goes along.

Can A Loss Be A Win?

My wife and I traveled to a funeral on Saturday, and listened to the game on the way back to Louisville from Dayton. We were able to pick up the game at halftime, and listened to the end. And while I was disappointed in the loss, I have to say:

Outside of the score, this was a win for Louisville.

Yes, I know, that’s at best an oxymoron, and at worst one of those “moral victories” claims. But seriously, this game is going to produce more dividends down the road, I think, than if one of the two shots at the end had actually gone in and we had won.

Chris Jones continued his upward trajectory as a point guard. Terry Rozier was, once again, amazing. The 5 position finally showed some signs of life. All good things, all positives we can celebrate.

But you see, we have a HOF coach, and he is going to use this as a teaching-tool-slash-club-to-beat-you-with for probably the next three months. As in,

“See what happens when you don’t play defense?”
“See why you need to get stronger, Mango?”
“See what happens, Trezl, when you disappear?”
“See what happens, bench players, when we get nothing from you?”
“See what happens, everyone, when you lose focus and let a team back into the game?”

I’m going to predict that this team is going to make a deep run in March, and when they do, they are going to reference this loss. They are going to learn from it, over and over again. Because as a person who works in adult learning in my career, there’s a truism that definitely applies:

Adults learn more from failure than from success.

Reflections on Louisville-Kentucky

It’s the return of the Monday Morning Quarterback series, and what better way to start than by looking back at the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Governor’s Cup (and yes, we know how to spell “Governor”). Let’s get to it!

Negatives

Most of these have been talked to death, but we need to be thorough.

Kentucky’s mistakes. This is one of the two most obvious negatives from the game. If Kentucky catches that screen pass and reels off a big gainer, it would have changed the tenor of the game and perhaps led to a touchdown. If they convert more third downs, obviously they not only have a chance to score more, they keep Bridgewater and Company off the field. I’m sure they’re going to watch the tape and be sick all over again.

Louisville’s passing. For some reason, the UofL offense just couldn’t get into a rhythm, especially in the first half. Teddy had a decent game, but certainly not the video-game-Teddy we were expecting. Is it possible that UK’s defense was better than we thought? Perhaps. I think the real reason, though, was the scheme — more than one person noted that Kentucky came out with an unbalanced scheme that the Cards and their staff hadn’t seen on tape and weren’t prepared for. Kudos to Stoops and Co for coming up with it — it made a difference in the first half. Then in the second, Louisville obviously decided to rely on the run game, so the passing was not as important. Still, it was disconcerting to see the AFROS and Teddy not light up the scoreboard like we are used to.

Louisville’s poise. This hasn’t been talked about, so maybe I’m way off here, but it seemed to me that in their first away game, the Louisville team was thrown off by the Commonwealth crowd. (Well, since the game wasn’t sold out, “crowd” may be an overstatement.) You’re supposed to be a veteran team, you’re supposed to know how to tune out the noise — so why did it look like you weren’t on your A game?

Going deep. I understand the need to get vertical in order to stretch the defense and stop them putting everyone close. Got that. But it sure seemed to me like Watson dialed up the deep ball too often. It felt like we were trying to get it all in a rush, rather than taking what was available in the short and medium game. Normal Teddy is completely capable of picking a defense apart; Long-Ball Teddy is cool, but the third or fourth time you see it miss, you wonder why we’re wasting downs on it.

Positives

Kentucky’s preparation. It was obvious that this is not the “same old Kentucky.” They were prepared, they were disciplined, they didn’t give up, they came to play. I wasn’t sure about Stoops when he was hired — how much does a famous football last name get you? — but I think they’ve got it going in Lexington, and if they can recruit a few more high-end players, they can make some noise. Stoops and Co seem to know how to coach them up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this year’s team pull some upsets along the way.

Louisville’s running game. After last week, everyone was wailing about the lack of run production of the Cards. Well Hello, Running Game! It was nice to see the offense decide in the second half to establish the run, and then drive the ball down the field through good blocking and good running. Great to see Perry be the workhorse he was before the injury. Good to see Dyer and Dom get their licks in too. And did you know this was Louisville’s first 200-yard rushing game since … last year’s game against Kentucky? In other words, this was a needed turn of events. It wasn’t the Fun and Gun, but it was a needed addition to the offense going forward.

The win. It’s cliche to say so, but when your highly-touted offense is sputtering some, and the opposing team looks better than you thought, and you’re on the road, to be able to make adjustments at the half, then tighten the chinstrap and just grind out a win says a lot about the determination of the team. Louisville did not look as good as we expected, Kentucky looked better than we expected, yet the Cards still got the win. We’re all picky, picky, picky, but the poll voters just saw the victory and the score, and kept us about where we were last week.

This season, we need to pay attention to what Coach Strong said last year — enjoy the wins. People (including me) are all atwitter about Teddy’s Heisman run and the possibility of an undefeated season and the National Championship and which bowl will we play in and …

Just stop it. Dial down the hype, dial down the pickiness, and let’s just enjoy the fact that the Cards are 3-and-0, ranked in the Top Ten, and looking like a really good football team. Throw down some beers, throw up some Ls, and let’s enjoy this fun season.

Kentucky Got Petrinoed

Yes folks, it’s a new verb: “Petrinoed.” It’s what happens when you play a team coached by Bobby Petrino, and you’re not ready for it. You get Petrinoed.

What are the signs that you are being, or have been, Petrinoed?

  • An opening drive that is scripted from start to finish, moves the ball with certainty, and almost always scores.
  • A passing attack with pinpoint accuracy that makes your defenders look two steps slow, and that moves the ball consistently.
  • Play calling of a variety and complexity that leaves your defense and your coaching staff shell-shocked.
  • The feeling of being run over by an unstoppable force — and you ain’t no immovable object.

Watching WKU on Saturday was like watching UofL when Petrino was there: amazingly efficient offense, clockwork play execution, and enough defense to get the job done. The opening drive was all I needed to see; it was obvious from that point forward that Kentucky was going to lose.

Of course, the Wildcats brought their own set of issues to the table. Once again, the defense looked uncoached. I don’t think that’s the case, but as one coach noted, they regressed under pressure. I’ll say they regressed — all the way back to last year.

And the offense was hampered by their choice of starting quarterback. Perhaps he looked the best in practice. Perhaps his shortcomings weren’t obvious until game time. But boy, they sure were obvious on the field Saturday. When they put in Maxwell Smith, that so-called Air Raid progressed from sputtering biplane to at least a Cessna.

And what of Bobby P? I’m still not convinced he has changed; let’s see him stay at WKU for more than one season, and not lie every time his lips move. But as everyone admits, he’s a hell of a coach. And he said all the right things after the win on Saturday. If they go to Knoxville and knock off the rebuilding Vols, he will move right to the top of every AD’s list. Let’s see how he handles that.

I’m already looking forward to the WKU-UT game on Saturday. Let’s see if the Vols wind up Petrinoed as well.

What Part of “Public” Does UofL Not Understand?

I’ve been following the hospital merger story from the outside, just like most of you, and I’ve got just one question:

What part of “public” does UofL not understand?

I mean, here is a teaching hospital owned and run by the University as part of its medical school. It receives public funding for indigent care. And now it wants to carry out a merger where medical decisions will be made by a church? By a non-doctor, no less?

Obviously, the driving force behind all of this is money. The hospital, apparently, is hurting financially, and the university doesn’t want to pour money into it to make up the difference.

But that doesn’t excuse allowing a public institution to be controlled by a church. What next — Kentucky Baptists buy Manual High School and require everyone to be baptized?

UofL needs to unwind this ill-advised merger and look for another means to deal with its money problems.

Opposite Time in The Ville

Does anyone else feel like we’re living in a succession of Opposite Days here in The Ville, Greatest College Sports Town in America? Let’s take a look at all of them, beginning with Brian Brohm’s non-jump to the NFL.

Just a few years ago (circa John L days), if a Cardinal team had gone 12-1 and won a BCS bowl, not only would the star QB have gone pro — every person with any connection to the team at all would have tried to leverage the season into some sort of move upward. Why? Because everyone would have assumed it was a once-in-a-decade event, so you’d better get yours while the getting was good.

Football Opposite Days
The coach leaves, the star running back leaves — and yet, not only does the star QB stay, he stays amidst talk of Heismans and national championships. Next year. And people talk this way without either crossing their fingers or saying “just kidding.” The University of Louisville: legitimate national championship contender and Heisman producer. Imagine that statement, say, ten years ago.

Women’s Basketball
The Lady Cats and Lady Cards are kicking butt and taking names, and both are getting some notice. I knew when Mickey Demoss left Tennessee for UK that they would have a good-to-real good team in a few years. Didn’t know much about Tom Collen, but like all the rest of us I have almost shaman-like trust in Tom Jurich. So, I wasn’t surprised when the Lady Cards team went from good to pretty good as well.

But, would anyone have expected the following:

  • The women’s teams are ranked higher than the men’s.
  • The leading scorer in the Big East is a Lady Card. (This is the league, remember, that annually produces more NCAA bids than any other except the SEC, and is the home of UConn, among others.)
  • The women’s teams playing each other in Freedom Hall drew more than UK’s men’s team did the night before in the same Freedom Hall.

Men’s Basketball
This post is getting a little long, so let’s just cut to the chase.

  • UK’s men’s team is happy again about their ranking in the polls. What, did they finally move back into #1? No, they’re finally ranked at all. Do I think they may make some noise before the year is over? Yes, but there’s no doubt that right now there are at least four other teams in the SEC that strike more fear in their opponent than the Cats. Not only is the SEC no longer their playground, they can’t even count on the SEC East any more. (See: Florida and Tennessee, for starters.)
  • Then there is U of L. The men’s team lost their 12th straight to a ranked team. Before last night, I had hope that Pitino Ball was back. Last night looked like a bad night at Boston Garden. I don’t know what the real cause is, because I’m not on the team or in the practices. (And as just a fan, I’m not sure I’d know any more if I was there.) All I know is that when we say “U of L is a national championship contender” and we’re talking about football, or “leading scorer in the Big East” and we’re talking about women’s basketball, it’s definitely Opposite Time in The Ville.

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Cliches Become Truth

One of my interests is sports — but only certain sports. College football, college basketball, pro football; that’s about it. As for team, that’s easy: Tennessee Tech (alma mater), Tennessee (grew up there), Louisville (live here), Kentucky (live here too). I follow Indiana to some extent, just because it’s close by.

So, today was pretty good. Louisville beat Cinci by 3 after being pummeled in the first half. It was a great game, and a great win. Indiana beat Purdue in double overtime, and that was a great game too.

Why do I love sports? These two games are examples. The teams didn’t give up, even though they were in difficult settings and difficult situations. Saying the teams didn’t give up really translates into a lot of individuals not giving up. Francisco Garcia, Louisville’s leading scorer, was heavily guarded and not getting his shots, so what did he do? Keep working hard, make assists, get rebounds, and make his teammates better through his attitude and support. The Indiana team should have won at the end of regulation, then again at the end of the first OT, but when they didn’t, they just sucked it up and won it in the second OT.

Why do I love sports? Individual effort, team effort, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, discipline, unselfishness — all the cliches that actually come true on occasion. This weekend, Louisville and IU turned the cliches into truth, and it was a joy to watch.