Realistic expectations kick in as Louisville loses in Virginia, 23-21

By on September 15, 2014

-By Sam Draut

Maybe the bar was set to high for Bobby Petrino’s return to Louisville. Maybe the expectations were too high for a team losing three NFL first round picks including one of the program’s greatest quarterbacks.

As the ball fell out of James Quick’s hands setting up the 23-21, game winning field goal by Virginia’s Ian Frye, the grandeur of Petrino’s second tenure fell with it.

The realism that Louisville began the game with a quarterback starting just his third game and his first on the road set in.

Sophomore quarterback Will Gardner led a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, but then struggled mightily until leading a furious comeback in the fourth quarter.

Virginia’s veteran defense rattled and rushed Gardner around the pocket while batting down seven of his passes during the game.

“As a group on offense we need to do a better job of keeping our poise,” Petrino said.

Gardner finished the game completing 14 of 34 passes for 164 yards, throwing a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

He was replaced by true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon in the Cardinals last series of the first half, but Bonnafon was unable to lead scoring drives too.

Trailing 20-7, Gardner returned for Louisville and led consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinals a 21-20 lead.

In the three scoring drives Gardner led, he was confident and in control as he marched his team down the field. He was the quarterback that Petrino, offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, and former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson so highly praised.

Going forward, whether it be Gardner or Bonnafon directing the offense, the team will live and die on their play.

“We had a great game plan, but we just weren’t executing,” senior running back Dominique Brown said. “We are behind whoever is playing 110 percent, whether it is Will or Reggie.”

Despite a poor offensive output on Saturday, the defense that lost several playmakers from last year kept the team in the game.

“We played really well as a defense, but there is always room for improvement,” James Burgess said. “We feel pressure every time we go out on the field to make a play. We try to hold the team to zero points every time.”

Though the Cardinal defense has played well throughout the first three games, it has still yet to face a proven quarterback.

Louisville will try to bounce back against FIU on Saturday, but leave behind a golden opportunity to start 2-0 in the ACC.

“When we recap on the losses that I have had at this school, we just talk about how we need to build off of them. If we carry today over to next week, we’re not going to be happy,” Lorenzo Mauldin said. “We just know we have to build on our losses and mistakes. We start working again on Monday so we have to keep grinding.”

After the game, Petrino said it was a tough loss, but what might be even tougher was the realization that this team needs more development before it can be an ACC title contender.

Photo by Porter Dickie / The Cavalier Daily 

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