Petrino inspires confidence, excitement in fans

ITV special contributor, William Geoghan, a University of Dayton journalism student and sports editor of the Dayton Flyer, explains why Coach Petrino has fans bursting with excitement and confidence since arriving in December.

It was simple. So very simple.  

 

With every easy third-down conversion and every long pass, with every 400-yard passing game and every 100-yard rushing performance, with every touchdown and with every win, the reason for success was simple.  

 

Bobby Petrino. 

 

Petrino was the reason behind the University of Louisville's miraculous resurgence in 1998. Head coach John L. Smith was the orchestra conductor, but his offensive coordinator, Petrino, was the one behind the scenes, writing the music and making it sound beautiful. 

 

The Cardinal offense put up numbers that former coach Ron Cooper could only dream about.  

 

Quarterback Chris Redman routinely recorded 400 yards through the air. 

 

Running back Leroy Collins sprinted and juked his way to regular 100-yard games.  

 

Receivers like Arnold Jackson and Lavell Boyd suddenly become some of the best in the country. 

 

And most importantly, there were wins, seven of them. That's six more than the year before when the hapless Cardinals were 1-10.  

 

Smith was rightfully praised. His famous "Get on the boat" motivational speech was well-documented, both for its powerful quality and for the results it produced.  

 

But behind it all was Petrino. The offense he ran was the stuff of legend. To see the same players that could do nothing the year before suddenly look like All-Americans was a testament to Petrino's play-calling and to his philosophy.  

 

If it was Smith's offense, then Petrino was firmly at the controls. And he never pushed the wrong button.  

 

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and Petrino's tenure was no different. After one short year, the man behind the offense was gone, pursuing greener pastures as an assistant with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.  

 

Still, the Cards were in good shape. The cupboard was far from bare, and Smith's offense was still there and going strong, albeit with a different man behind the wheel.

 

Things only got better. The Cards built on another 7-4 season in 1999 to win the Conference USA title in 2000 and again in 2001. Everything was perfect.  

 

But I always felt like something was missing. While the defense steadily improved, the offense seemed to backpedal with each passing season. Explanations were plenty. Redman was gone and Dave Ragone wasn't the kind of quarterback that would put up such prodigious numbers. Teams in C-USA were catching on to the Cards' attack, figuring out how to stop it. The running game wasn't as good, and therefore picking apart a defense through the air was not nearly as easy. 

 

These were all true, but they never fully explained what was happening. The offense that in 1998 simply couldn't be stopped was gone. The confidence that the offense would score every time it touched the ball was out the door as well. 

 

The simple reason was that the offense was without its leader—Petrino.  

 

When everything went south last year behind another new coordinator, John Pettas, I often found myself harkening back to the days of Petrino, when I was completely confident that every third down conversion would be made, that every venture into the red zone would result in a touchdown.  

 

Those days were gone. The offense sputtered behind a porous offensive line. But I couldn't help but think that even with the struggling line, a Petrino offense would have at least had some semblance of order. Throughout the season, I said to myself that Smith should pay Petrino the biggest salary any assistant had ever seen to get the man back to Louisville.  

 

He didn't have to. Smith left for M


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