Off to a Winning Start

Steve Kaufman: I thought Louisville looked a lot better than I expected them to look.

Mark Ennis: Yeah, I thought we got the opposite of the game I thought we would get. I thought we would see Louisville’s offense be “lights out” and hit the ground running and the defense sort of look a little messy and make people worry for a few weeks. So I was a bit surprised. But I think it was probably a little bit reassuring to people to see not a very big defensive dropoff from last year, so to see the defense still play well is a good thing.

Kaufman: I thought there was way too much optimism: a new quarterback and a new coach – at least new again. And they weren’t playing a cupcake. Ahis isn’t the old Miami that we all remember, but neither is it a Division II school.

Ennis: Everybody thinks the new guy is going to be just as good or maybe better every time, and never or rarely do fans rationally realize how different it is to go from someone who’s really good to someone who’s really never played before. In Louisville’s case, what you had was either a guy that had not played before at all or guys that had played before, but were being used in all new ways. So even with the returning guys, it wasn’t nearly the continuity you were used to seeing. I think to see the good play from those guys too is really assuring to people.

But Petrino has to win. That’s really to me the risk people aren’t talking about. You really can’t be patient and you really can’t accept mediocrity because you’re swallowing so much to hire him to be your coach again. You’ve got to win.

Kaufman: Yeah, and he’s got to behave himself.

Ennis: Yeah, that goes without saying.

Kaufman: Well, let’s talk about the other team: Kentucky. They weren’t playing Miami, I grant you. But they also weren’t coming off the kind of seasons that Louisville has had. And I think they too did what they had to do. But I think they showed a lot of reason for optimism. And I also think that’s a coach that has to win. And I don’t mean he has to win because there’s so much pressure on him. I think he has to win because he risks burning himself out if he doesn’t.

Ennis: Yeah, I think it’s a two-edged sword there, when you play a Tennessee-Martin or when Louisville plays Murray this weekend. On the one hand, you have to temper what you draw from that game when you blow somebody out like that. But if Kentucky was Alabama, how would they beat Tennessee-Martin? Well, they’d probably beat them 52-14. But that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Kaufman: And everybody would say, “Oh see, there’s Alabama, there’s Ohio State, drubbing the teams they’re supposed to drub.” So yeah, I agree with you.

Ennis: I think if people want to look at that game and be skeptical and say “I want to see them do that against somebody good,” I think that’s justified. And I will say this: remember last year, they didn’t look very good in the opener against Western when they lost. And the offense was lights-out in the second game. And then the offense went in the tank for the rest of the season. So I think that people think they won’t be able to continue to do that. And I can see that.

Kaufman: I am still saying it’s the SEC. And we will have really rough games at least four of the five weeks of the season. But every week is going to be rough. My confidence is no less, nor is it any greater. But what did you guys see in Louisville? Louisville is going with a lot of confidence into the ACC.

Ennis: Yeah, I think with Louisville, most people that were being reasonable looked at that schedule and said they’ll probably lose to Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame. And the fear is, how do you maybe avoid dropping a game to a team that you probably should beat, like Syracuse, N.C. State, Boston College? I think for Louisville to win this game, and then you look at the way that Boston College, Syracuse, NC State, Boston College played in the opener, I think if you’re Louisville when you look at the schedule, you don’t want to do any worse than 9-3. You can see the teams that are below you and you know you have to beat them.

Kaufman: Well, looking ahead to next week, Ohio had a good year last year. I think the trap for Kentucky is that everyone is going to expect another blowout and  50-point game, and we’re not going to get that against Ohio. But if we’re hoping to build on the progress we made, then we should count on another win. And it’s at home.

Ennis: Yeah, each of the past two seasons there has been that early-season non-conference loss, like last year to Western Kentucky. But I don’t expect that this year. I think Kentucky wins and does so by a pretty decent margin, but it won’t be as easy as it was against Tennessee-Martin.

For Louisville I think it’s kind of a flip side, where they just played a physical game. Dominique Brown ran the ball 33 times, so I expect them to air it out and expect a lot of reserves to get a lot of action against Murray. Charlie (Strong) used to like to sit on the ball and get these types of games against inferior opponent over, but I think Bobby will try to blow the lines and get as many points as he can and get as many guys into the game as he can, so that they’re fresh for Virigina.

Kaufman: Yeah, there isn’t a lot on the line for Petrino, but equally he doesn’t know what he has, unlike Charlie Strong last year or Stoops this year. He still has to put up big numbers.

And also, without wanting to be too cynical about Bobby Petrino, a lot of Bobby Petrino is Bobby Petrino. He’s writing his resumé with everyone of these games.

Ennis: Well, it’s up to Bobby to make people believe that he’s a different guy, and there is no way to fast-forward through that.

Mark Ennis can be heard Thursdays 6-8 p.m. on ESPN 680 and found online at and on Twitter @MarkEnnis.

Steve Kaufman can be read every issue in The Voice-Tribune in his weekly UK column “Catnip.”