Very rough, as these things tend to be when written filed at the final horn.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The time has come for some answers.
The University of Louisville suffered its most lopsided loss in two decades last night, 63-14 at Rutgers, and the questions can no longer be addressed as the product of an unreasonable fan base or a knee-jerk media.
The thing is broken. Whatever it was, or however it got here, the ship, to use a favorite past metaphor of second-year coach Steve Kragthorpe’s, has run aground and been boarded by pirates.
The time has come for some answers.
I’m not necessarily talking about a frank explanation of how things got to this point, though that would be nice. When a program goes from winning an Orange Bowl to being the butt of ESPN jokes in two seasons, fans reasonably want to know why.
Last nights’ game was the kind that U of L fans used to enjoy, watching their team try to score with restraint in the fourth quarter while the announcing team essentially talked their way through a half-hour U of L infomercial.
U of L used to be the team that was accused of running up the score. Last night, ESPN reported that Cardinals defensive coordinator Ron English had words with Rutgers coach Greg Schiano at halftime about Rutgers running it up in the first half.
Perhaps a solution can be found in assessing how things got here, but it should be noted that these things happen at programs even more established than U of L’s (see, Michigan, Auburn, Notre Dame). And at this point, there are more useful questions.
Like, for starters, what is the plan for fixing it?
What is the recruiting strategy? What is the offensive philosophy moving forward? What are the short-term goals and long term?
The time for generalities and insinuations of past mistakes has gone, and fans want to know why they should have reason for hope?
Just as worrisome as the undermanned team on the field — and last night’s team that brought just 25 defensive players thanks to injuries had little chance of competing with a hot Rutgers offense — are questions about where the replacement players will come from.
For a second straight year, Kragthorpe is looking at the junior college ranks to fill immediate needs, and eventually, leaning on jucos will lead to a crash. Even worse, recruiting footholds that U of L established in talent-rich states like Florida, Alabama and Georgia appear to be drying up, and years of entrenchments that began with Howard Schnellenberger are in danger of being abandoned.
English is a capable defensive coordinator despite the gaudy numbers U of L gave up in its final games, figures to be gone now that the season is over. He’s being mentioned with several head coaching positions and deserves his chance.
And then there are the turnovers, and the penalties, and the toss-sweep on 4th and 1 last night, and the questions mount.
And they deserve answers. Not generalities. Not “we have to do better.” But specifics. And perhaps the toughest questions should be asked in those offices on Floyd Street, about whether this is working.
While he inherited a program with momentum, Kragthorpe did take over a difficult job, keeping a program on a high plane during a transition year. In some ways, the situation meant that fans here never embraced him. But the situation he is in now is even tougher, and the fan base is fractured.
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich has declared his support for the coach, and that’s fine. Now it’s time to show a plan of action. And offer some answers.