Posted: 7:24 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013
By Mark Ennis
In 2011, FIU traveled to Louisville and beat the Cardinals in a Friday night game that was so infuriating, I managed to be trending on Twitter in Louisville because of my meltdown. Two seasons later, FIU is on its way back to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium a shell of its former self. The Panthers are 0-3, there’s no TY Hilton, no Jonathan Cyprien, and nobody making this a trendy upset special. FIU’s rapid decline got me to thinking about the other teams that have beaten Charlie Strong at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and after looking at the numbers, I can only conclude that if you beat Louisville at home, your program will die a painful death.
Kentucky – In Charlie’s first game at Louisville, the Cardinals played hard and the improvement was obvious, but it wasn’t enough as Kentucky held on for a 23-16 win. Since then, a near uninterrupted flow of misery was unleashed on Kentucky football. Even with Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke, and others, the ‘Cats limped to a bowl game, lost to Pitt who was being coached by its 73rd coach in 12 months (an interim), went 5-7 the following year, then flopped to 2-10 and fired Joker Phillips. The 'Cats haven't beaten a BCS conference team since they beat Tennessee without using a real quarterback in 2011. In fact, Kentucky's last two SEC wins came against Houston Nutt and Derek Dooley.
South Florida – BJ Daniels played one of his best games as a college quarterback as the Bulls prevailed over Louisville in overtime in a pretty cold game at PJCS. Since then? Skip Holtz followed up a successful opening season whipping up expectations with a hot start to 2011. The Bulls were 4-0 and ranked heading into a Thursday night game at Pittsburgh. They lost. Then they kept on losing. The Bulls finished the season 1-7 and missed a bowl. But, that still earned a Skip Holtz a contract extension! Skip showed his gratitude for the contract extension by turning around and going 3-9 in 2012 and getting himself fired. In conference realignment, the Bulls found themselves on the outside looking in. They were able to attract Willie Taggart only to watch him open the season with losses to McNeese State and FAU.
West Virginia – Bill Stewart fielded one of the nation’s best defenses and Louisville just couldn’t muster a thing anything offensively in another tough home loss. After that? UConn won the Big East’s BCS bid and went to the Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia looked sluggish in the Champs Sports Bowl and Oliver Luck decided to give Stewart a victory lap year and let Dana Holgorsen become the head coach in waiting. Only Stewart wasn’t ready to go, tried to sully Holgorsen to a newspaper in a rival town, was found out, and fired (He tragically passed away suddenly less than a year later). Holgorsen got off to a hot start, took West Virginia to the Orange Bowl where they scored 175 points on Clemson. Then, the Mountaineers lost the ability to play defense, limped to 6-6, were blown out by Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, lost a bunch more assistant coaches, had a new one named in an SI scandal, and will have to hustle to make a bowl game in 2013. The Mountaineers are still years away from receiving a full share of Big 12 money, lost money last year as they paid out the exit fees to the former Big East, can't find a quarterback, and open 2014 with Alabama.
Cincinnati – Nobody could really cover anyone for Cincinnati in this game. Bilal Powell couldn’t be tackled. So it was pretty even. The Cardinals couldn’t come up with one more stop and Cincinnati go away with a win. It was one of the only good moments of 2010 as Butch Jones stumbled badly out of the gate to go 4-8. He rebounded the next two years, taking Cincinnati to Liberty and Belk Bowls, but couldn’t win the Big East. Then, conference realignment exploded and despite all the on field success, Cincinnati was unable to find a place in the ACC or Big 12 and now is essentially back in the league it played in a decade ago. Oh, and Butch Jones left for Tennessee.
FIU – Ty Hilton is actually still open somewhere in Louisville. The Panthers won at Louisville 24-17 and actually scored another decent win the next week against UCF 17-10. They made it to a bowl game and then the wheels completely fell off. Last season’s team was decimated by injuries and finished 2-10, prompting the school’s administration to do the logical thing and fire Mario Cristobal for Ron Turner. Since winning at Louisville in week two of the 2011 season, FIU has only won nine games. Half of which have been over Akron and Florida Atlantic. The Panthers hit rock bottom last week by being underdogs at home to Bethune Cookman and losing the game 34-13.
Marshall – No pain, no gain. That’s how I view the 2011 Marshall game. It sucked to come home and lose to Marshall after winning at Kentucky. But hey, it got Mike Sanford fired! Marshall mustered enough to make a bowl game in 2011 but slipped to 5-7 last year. They lost both games with rivals Ohio and West Virginia, and now are left in a Conference USA that is even more of a shell of its former self. Oh, and the government mandated series with West Virginia is gone as well. Have fun with that schedule, Marshall ticket sellers.
Pitt – Louisville came home with tons of momentum after winning at West Virginia in the post-Big 12 battle bowl. They came home and looked dreadful in a loss where it seemed like Pitt only ran one play over and over again. After that? Well, Todd Graham went Runaway Bride on Pitt. Leaving for Arizona State after less than a year on the job and informed his Pitt players of his decision via text message to the football staff. The Panthers then made a good long term hire in Paul Chryst who was able to secure blue chip running back Rushel Shell. Then the Panthers opened 2012 with a loss to FCS Youngstown State, lost their bowl game, and Shell transferred to West Virginia this summer.
UConn – In a loss that I still don’t understand, Louisville was battered and beaten up by a tough UConn defense and even after Teddy with a badly injured wrist and ankle came back and forced overtime, it wasn’t enough. After that? Louisville still won five days later at Rutgers to clinch a Sugar Bowl bid. Less than two weeks later, in a very public head to head battle for an open spot in the ACC, UConn was beaten out, despite being a better academic fit and being in a larger television market. Defensive wizard Don Brown left to join Steve Addazio’s staff at Boston College. Worse, UConn kept Paul Pasqualoni. The Huskies then opened the 2013 season by losing at home to Towson in a game that really wasn’t as close as the scored indicated. To make matter worse, they were beaten at home by former head coach Randy Edsall and his new family at Maryland. Three weeks into the season, Athletic Director Warde Manuel is reminding fans he prefers to wait until the end of the season to make decisions about keeping or firing a coach.
Louisville has home games against FIU, Rutgers, Central Florida, Houston, and Memphis left. Consider the eight games above a warning to all of them.