Jody Demling

A Monday Morning Quarterback column looking at the weekend for Louisville football

Monday Morning Quarterback: A look back at Louisville's home-opening loss to Houston

The University of Louisville football team is 0-2 for the first time since 1998 after a 34-31 loss to Houston on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the season at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Cardinal Authority publisher Jody Demling was in the stadium and has this look back at the home opener with some positives and plenty of negatives - and players of the game - in our new feature - the Monday Morning Quarterback.


The disappointment

It was a major downer for the opener.

While the atmsophere was electric to start the game, Louisville just never seemed to get into the groove it needed to win the game. The mistakes, the penalties, the miscommunication. Once again, all the little things added up.

And while Houston is not a bad team - they could start 8-0 or 9-0 because of a weak schedule - Louisville should have won.

There's no way to look at that game and think they shouldn't have won it. After winning all the statistical categories against Auburn in the opener, the Cardinals this time just didn't tackle and made too many mistakes. Still with 4 turnovers and 2 missed field goals and dozens of misses tackles it was just a three point loss to the Cougars.

I know it's not a consolation, but still crazy how close U of L was with so many mistakes.

The Cardinals are 0-2 for the first time since John L. Smith's first season in 1998. The Cardinals will need major improvement in just a few days to avoid starting 0-3 for the first time since 1984 when Clemson visits on Thursday night.

Just no way around it, a major disappointment.

The QB situation

Reggie Bonnafon started against Auburn and was relieved by Lamar Jackson, who gave the Cardinals a lift in that game.

In the Houston game it was Jackson who started but as Bobby Petrino put it "Lamar struggled," throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice in the contest. He was replaced by Kyle Bolin, who Petrino said "gave us a lift."

A revolving door? Or one starting QB?

The staff had a hard time in the preseason pickign a starter because not one of the four guys stepped up and grabbed the position and said, "I'm the guy,' like Petrino and Garrick McGee said they wanted to happen.

All four are good at what they do best. But all fiur have flaws in their games as well.

It will be interesting to see what Petrino does against Clemson. The obvious thought is to start Bolin, but his weakness is not being able to runt he ball. And with this offensive line where it's at against Clemson, you might need a running QB.

But both Jackson and Bonnafon have struggled.

Houston did a nice job of putting a lot of pressure on Jackson, making him have to think more than just react. It made it tough on him.

"I thibk he was trying to do too much," Petrino said. "It's something he needs to learn, 'I have the ability to take off and run and get positive plays and not try and make the great play and don't throw the ball over the middle.' There's a lot for him to learn."

On Monday, it would surprise me if Petrino names a starter. I think it will be another game-time decision and Bolin will be the guy.

The defense tackling

While Houston moved the ball and many figured they would get some yards, the Tom Hermann offense is pretty good and Greg Ward Jr., is a very nice player for the Cougars.

But the Louisville tackling was just atrocious.

And it was all the way around. Sheldon Rankins missed one on a key third down where he had Ward in the backfield, while even Keith Kelsey and James Burgess missed tackles. Whatever it was, it was contagious with the defense.

Todd Grantham will have to get the defense back to the gang tackling style they had last season. Could it have been effort? Maybe. Petrino and several players said they felt like the practices were not as sharp as they needed to be.

Let's hope the tackling gets corrected in a hurry.

The offensive line

OK, you know me and I'm not one to blame anyone. It's just not what I do because normally it's not the person who gets blamed who is the reason for whatever the problem might be.

But with the offensive line, I do have to put some blame on Charlie Strong and his staff. We have talked about it before but they did just an awful job of recrutiing the big guys up front - basically they had 3 good ones the entire time they were here.

Remember, Mario Benavides and Alex Kupper were here from the previous staff. Jake Smith was in the first Strong class, while John Miller and Jamon Brown are both guys who were inked by the strong staff.

After that, it's pretty bleak. They had guys who came and left, guys who came and failed and it always seemed like they were one short in the class. With that said, the current staff hasn't been great with JUCO linemen, but at least they have signed a few high school kids that will help.

It's just going to take time with a true freshman and redshirt freshman starting on the line.

Moving forward

I'm not going to say Clemson is a must win, but Thursday night would be huge if they can get the victory.

The Cardinals don't want to start 0-3 and it's on national TV. The game started out as a pick-em in Las Vegas but is now listed as Clemson as a favorite anywhere from five to six points.

Will be a short week, but let's hope for some major improvement.

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