Heading into its Saturday game against FCS opponent Samford, the Louisville football team has already tasted defeat three times by a combined 13 points. In all three of those losses, the Cardinals have had an opportunity to either win the game or force overtime late in the fourth quarter. In a weird way, that fact has almost made the defeats more difficult to stomach.
This hasnâ€™t been your typical disappointing start to a college football season. UofL has dealt with key injuries and played arguably the toughest early season schedule in program history. The Cards are also much younger than just about anybody anticipated, getting a whopping 63 percent of their offensive production thus far from the freshman class.
Still, one fact above all others defines the current state of Louisville football: The Cardinals are 0-3 for the first time since 1984.
I was less than a month old when the â€™84 Cards began their campaign with a trio of losses, so I canâ€™t tell you if folks back then were freaking out over offensive line play, quarterback indecision or the then non-existent party deck inside the then non-existent Papa Johnâ€™s Cardinal Stadium. I can tell you that the UofL faithfuls are freaking out about those things now.
In the Internet Age, folks tend to react to adversity in extremes â€“Â either all the players are awful and the entire coaching staff needs to be fired, or everythingâ€™s cool and the teamâ€™s not going to lose another game all season. As with most things in life, the healthiest approach to Louisvilleâ€™s early season woes probably lies somewhere in the middle. I didnâ€™t like when â€œEye of the Tigerâ€ was played during the game against the Clemson Tigers anymore than you guys did, but Iâ€™m also not going to shoulder it with the blame for UofLâ€™s 20-17 loss.
Utilizing absolutes when discussing sporting matters is typically an error in judgment, but hereâ€™s a definitive statement I feel pretty confident about: No one in the Derby City is more unhappy about Louisville football being 0-3 than Bobby Petrino.
During tough times, there is a strange tendency for some sports fans to envision their teamâ€™s head coach sitting on a stack of his contract money, twisting his mustache like a cartoon villain. Petrino is fully aware that his name is more attached to UofL football than anyone elseâ€™s and that itâ€™s his reputation taking the hit when the Cards start a season 0-3 â€“ not the anonymous guy on Twitter who wonâ€™t stop talking about how Tom Jurich needs to try and hire the ghost of Bill Walsh.
â€œIâ€™m certainly uncomfortable being 0-3. Itâ€™s not something weâ€™re used to; itâ€™s a new experience,â€ Petrino said at his weekly press conference. â€œI donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever been 0-3 before. But what I know is, you keep working hard, keep a positive attitude and good things will happen.â€
Glass half-empty folks donâ€™t like hearing it, but itâ€™s impossible to talk about Louisvilleâ€™s 0-3 start without noting that the Cardinals are four or five plays away from being 3-0. This isnâ€™t a team that appears completely incapable of making a bowl game for a fifth straight year or one that will assuredly be steamrolled by the bulk of their remaining ACC competition.
The other major coach on UofLâ€™s campus has seen the same thing and says that from his own personal experience, the person in charge of making sure the ship is righted usually feels more of that burden than they let on.
â€œThe biggest thing for a head coach during a losing streak is to not let it affect the way you do your job,â€ Rick Pitino told 93.9 The Ville last week. â€œPeople assume itâ€™s only the players who are affected, but coaches can get thrown off the path too. You have to shut out the noise and not allow it to change how you work. This is just a young football team that is going to wind up having a good season and then is going to be one of the seven or eight best teams in the country next year.â€
No one in this city wants to be 0-3 less than Bobby Petrino, and no one is going to work harder to rectify the situation than the man in charge of Cardinal football.
Photo by CHRIS HUMPHREYSÂ | The Voice-Tribune