In Friday Feedback 86 last year, I asked the question, “What happened to WVU v. Louisville?” I got a lot of responses from Louisville fans, most of them agreeing and putting blame on indifferent players and coaching that didn’t make the most of the talent … and I think Bilal Powell’s season might justify that gripe. Those fans were sad the series had slipped because when the Cardinals joined the Big East, they did so looking forward to games like WVU v. Louisville.
When Louisville signed on a few years ago it was a program on the go and it seemed to be able and willing to keep pace with WVU’s ascent. As such, they had some anticipated and memorable games that were nationally significant. It was good for everyone. Then Bobby Petrino bolted and players graduated and things changed.
Last year’s game just kind of sneaked up on us and that was a shame because there was so much excitement and, I guess, angst in the recent history. Then came a wisecracking lame duck coach and his 5-foot-9 third-string quarterback, a combination that, despite being yawned at, actually had the ball and a chance to drive and tie the game in the final moments.
Now things seem to be crawling back to normal. Kragthorpe’s reign of error makes one reluctant to crown his successor, Charlie Strong, as anything but a successor, but the guy does seem to have a clue what he’s doing. The offense is creative and effective. The defense has gotten better and better and has been flat-out rude for a month now — none of the past four opponents have managed 300 total yards. There’s youth, recruiting and a respected staff. The pieces are in place.
And along comes WVU, a team with offensive struggles that make it hard to take last week’s win as anythig more than one at home after an open week against a bad defense. Saturday the Mountaineers play a noon game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Senior Day. There are 24 seniors on Louisville’s team and many of them have known three coaches and been through severe ups and downs. The Cardinals are 3-3 at home this season and Saturday can not only become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, but also assure they are not the first team with a losing home record since 1997.
WVU is 1-2 on the road season and 5-8 in Bill Stewart’s two-plus seasons. A loss Saturday makes it three straight seasons with a losing road record. WVU hadn’t had one since 2001 and hasn’t had three consecutive losing road records since 1976-78, which would be the first three of Frank Cignetti’s four seasons as coach. Not only that, but the 37-10 win against Cincinnati soothed the pain of two losses and had everyone feeling good again. Saturday’s game also comes a week before the Pitt game which, by virtue of its loss to UConn, suddenly means WVU is again alive in the conference title race, so long as it beats Pitt.
Can you say “trap game?” Bill Stewart can. Bill Stewart did.