BOZICH | Some Louisville (Petrino) and Kentucky (Stoops) numbers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Some Louisville (Petrino) and Kentucky (Stoops) numbers to compare

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Rick Bozich takes a different look at the 4-4 football seasons at Kentucky and Louisville. Rick Bozich takes a different look at the 4-4 football seasons at Kentucky and Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If you’re ranking the Kentucky football coaches over the last three decades you start with Rich Brooks. Second place can be debated. First place cannot.

After the first 32 games of his seven-season stay at Kentucky, Brooks won 9 games and lost 23. Mark Stoops is 11-21 over his first 32 games. Just thought I would mention that.

If you’re ranking the Louisville football coaches over the last three decades, you start with Bobby Petrino, Chapter One. Second place is Charlie Strong. But first is Petrino, Chapter One.

After his first 21 games at Louisville, Petrino was 16-5. Over his last 21 games at Louisville, Petrino is 13-8. Bobby Petrino in the Atlantic Coast Conference will always be judged against Bobby Petrino in Conference USA and the Big East.

Those are fun numbers to chew on and fuss about as we try to evaluate the .500 seasons that Stoops and Petrino are delivering at Kentucky and Louisville, seasons that are making a slice of the faithful howl.

Stoops has discovered what nearly every Kentucky coach has learned. Substantial improvement is a slow and challenging process. Prepare to have your nose bloodied, ribs bruised and play-calling cross examined.

Any love that you earn by defeating South Carolina (in consecutive seasons) and Missouri (the two-time defending SEC East Division champion) will be yanked if your team gets overwhelmed by Mississippi State and Tennessee.

That’s where we’re at with this 4-4 Kentucky team as the Wildcats prepare to visit struggling Georgia Saturday. The Wildcats have been unable to sustain the enthusiasm stirred by their early wins against South Carolina and Missouri. It’s fair to wonder why they looked so overwhelmed by the Bulldogs and Volunteers.

I’ll tell you why: Mississippi State and Tennessee had more talented players.

History reminds us of how challenging the Kentucky job has been. Here are the records of the last six Kentucky coaches after their first 32 games.

  1. Hal Mumme 17-15,  .531 winning percentage. *
  2. Jerry Claiborne 13-17-2, .438.
  3. Joker Phillips 12-20, .375.
  4. Mark Stoops, Bill Curry (tie), 11-21, .344.
  5. Rich Brooks 9-23, .281.

*Guided the program to NCAA probation.

Brooks did not take Kentucky to a bowl game in his first three seasons – and Brooks took control of a program that went 7-5 during the season before he arrived.

Patience and perspective are casualties in an era when offensive and defensive coordinators routinely earn more than a half million dollars per season. I understand that. I don’t agree with it. But I understand it.

The lesson of the Rich Brooks era is that a football coach at Kentucky deserves time to breath and develop his product. If Stoops wins six games in year three, he’s achieved something. Six wins are certainly possible. Maybe seven.

I’ve heard occasional grumbling from the Louisville faithful, too. Cards’ fans watch the offense the team has played the last two seasons and wonder why it has not been as spectacular as the offense that Petrino coached at Louisville from 2003-06.

Do you really have to ask?

The offensive line is a mess. Charlie Strong left Petrino a splendid collection of defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. But apparently Strong’s staff lost interest in finding and developing guys that can block.

Add a freshman quarterback (Lamar Jackson) who is too eager to tuck the football and run into the dynamic. That explains why Louisville’s offense is not putting up numbers as good as the disappointing numbers they posted last season.

When Petrino coached at U of L from 2003-2006 his teams made the scoreboard tilt. Over 50 games, the Cardinals averaged nearly 496 yards and 43 points. This team, which has split its first eight games, is averaging about 379 yards and 24.4 points.

Take another look at Petrino’s offensive depth chart. There is evidence that Louisville is playing for 2016 and 2017, even though Petrino has not issued a press release announcing that.

The only senior listed with the first team offense is center Tobiah Hughley. Five offensive starters are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Three more freshmen are listed with the second team.

Rebuilding is a 1995 word in the 2015 culture, but rebuilding is what Petrino is doing with his offense. Let Jackson make mistakes this October and November so the mistakes are not repeated in 2016 and 2017.

How do Petrino’s first 21 games measure against the last five Louisville coaches?

  1. Petrino (2003-04), 16-5, .762.
  2. John L. Smith, Petrino (2014-15), 13-8, .619
  3. Ron Cooper, 12-9, .571.
  4. Steve Kragthorpe, Charlie Strong,  11-10 .524

Mark Stoops does not have the Kentucky program where he wants to take it, but he’s ahead of where Rich Brooks was after 32 games. Bobby Petrino has work to do, too, especially compared to his first term as the Cards' coach. But this is not a defining season for either coach.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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