1. Welcome back to reality. All this talk of BCS bowls was light years premature. This is a team that barely beat Toledo, Tulane, and Rhode Island, and may very well have lost to Wake Forest had its starting QB not gotten injured. While the West Virginia win was as impressive a victory as I can remember, it is just one game. As is every game. Not sure why some folks want to live the roller coaster. We're a good, not great, team. We can beat most anyone. But we can lose to most anyone. Teams like that do not go 10-2. Teams like that have a legit over-under of 7 wins.
2. This game was nearly the opposite of last week. Last week, if we all took a drink with every poor play call, poor execution, or stupid penalty, we would have had a sober night (no less fun). This week, we all would have been drunk before halftime. There was a lot that happened today that wasn't merely bad luck. This was just a stinker. We followed up an epic win with a stinker. Nobody on that plane ride home can feel "well, I did my job." Nobody.
3. Feel free to disagree with me... but I consider Charlie Strong and his staff to be excellent coaches. They recruit well, obviously. The rankings bear that out. I don't care about 2009 and Kragthorpe. In 2010 and 2011, this Louisville team has just looked well coached against us. I know Lville is 4-4 now. But that is a team that lost 25 seniors and had 7 true freshmen starting--that is more youth than us. They have beaten Kentucky. They have beaten Rutgers. Now they have beaten us. It's not a fluke. They are the next big thing in the Big East. This was NOT an upset. This was a team with equal coaching and comparable talent (better, but younger) winning a home game against a good, but not great opponent.
4. Nassib. I get that there was a lot of pressure. HCDM told us on Monday that there was going to be a lot of pressure. That was not a surprise. I also get that Nassib is the best QB we have had since McNabb. I agree with that. But I also think that he did not have a good game, even relative to the pressure that he was under. On one sack, he stepped into the rush. On a few occasions, he didn't seem to sense the pressure. In a few other instances, he sensed non-existent pressure and made a rushed pass. The best play, IMO, was the one where he tucked it and ran for 18 yards. Just a great decision. So much better than forcing a pass or waiting another few seconds and getting sacked. None of this criticism means he is a bad person or terrible QB. I think we all need to temper our expectations. He is someone that can win a game for us. He is also someone that can have a pretty off game.
5. Hackett. I was disturbed after Rutgers. I was elated by WVU. I am disappointed by today. What worked against WVU was success on first and third down. We had a lot of 3 and 3 plays against WVU. Our game plan was short plays and long drivers. Today, it seemed like we lost our patience. We were trying to get big plays, rather than drive up and down the field. If we got 4 or 5 yards on first down, we would follow that up with a slow developing, east-west running play that lost 3. We tried a few long passes on first down. Sure, a TD is great. But our offense is not that dynamic. We didn't have any medium looks to Provo until late in the game. And did anyone really think that the Express on 3rd and 2 was going to work? I would have much preferred Nassib under center in that situation. Too many three and outs this year. Just way too many. And too many offensive funks. We cannot have 15 minute stretches where we can only punt. That falls on him.
6. Defense. Oh how the game might have been different. We had 3rd and relatively long and allowed a 44 yard pass. We made Bridgewater look great that first drive. It's hard to really point to specifics. There were the usual issues like missed tackles and secondary gaffes. But after that first drive, there was no sensation that the defense was overmatched. We just needed our offense to show up also. Our defense made stops in the third quarter. 14 points allowed after 3 quarters. Not totally unreasonable.
7. Bridgewater. I liked what I saw. I think he was more impressive than our defense was poor. Unlike Geno Smith, he moved to avoid the pressure. He showed good composure. He did not force passes--did we even come close to an interception? He showed nice touch on the TD to Chichester. He didn't look like a freshman. At times, I thought he looked more composed than Nassib. Give the kid credit.
8. The penalties. You had to know this was coming. First, incompetent refs tend to favor home teams. if I am not mistaken, this was the same crew from Toledo. Second, I thought most of the calls against us were pretty reasonable. Just need to play smarter. Unbridled aggression is the lazy person's substitute for hardnosed football. We don't need punches in the pile, we need hard blocks and solid tackles. Third, I know they missed a few calls against us... but that is just part of the game. And the refs did call back TWO Louisville TDs based on penalties. It is what it is. Not the reason we lost.
9. The bright side. Like last week was one week, this week is only one week too. Other teams will be looking to the Lville game plan. But we are also going to know that other teams will be doing so. Our coaches will be able to look at what went wrong today and come up with a plan to prevent that from happening next week. Football is a game of adjustments. Hackett and Shafer will go back to the drawing board and do better next week. I think this loss will be a motivator for the team too. We are somewhere between the teams that played the past two weeks. That in between team can win any of the remaining games.
10. The brighter side. Chew returned. West had a nice TD. Smith had a great run on 4th and 1. Another sack for Jones. Nice guts by HCDM in going for it there. We got to practice an onside kick. I was disappointed not to see a backup QB get some PT, but I liked the idea to practice our 2-minute drill. We scored a TD in less than 2 minutes.
11. The brightest side. We get a second chance at this "HCDM has never beaten" thing. We get hated UConn. Maybe the players will rise to the occasion this time and get that first win over UConn for the coach. I mean... if we can't outcoach Pasqua-Deleone... I don't even want to think about it. Let's go beat UConn and get bowl eligible.