CRAWFORD | Citrus Bowl Notebook -- with free (Buffalo Wild) wing - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Citrus Bowl Notebook -- with free (Buffalo Wild) wings!

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Lamar Jackson with a young fan in Orlando. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Lamar Jackson with a young fan in Orlando. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Camping World Stadium in Orlando, site of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Camping World Stadium in Orlando, site of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

ORLANDO, Fla. (WDRB) — The world of college bowl games is driven by corporate sponsors, and bowls are pretty particular about media outlets using the corporate names for their bowls. When one media friend of mine — who I won’t identify except by his initials (Jody Demling) — went to pick up his pass and said, “Citrus Bowl,” they said, “We don’t have a Citrus Bowl.”

But they did have a corporate bowl name they wanted to emphasize. While Mike Lacett and I were shooting a live shot Thursday afternoon in front of a side of Camping World Stadium that still had “Russell Athletic Bowl” branding on it, a bowl rep jokingly noted as she walked by that we ought to go shoot on the other side where there was much more of the Citrus Bowl sponsor signage.

All of which is well and good. I’m happy to call the bowl in which the University of Louisville is set to face LSU on Saturday by its official name — the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

But I do feel it important to mention this detail.

I haven’t seen a chicken wing since I’ve gotten here, as of 6:45 p.m. on Thursday. And this isn’t a pampered media guy rant. The sponsor held a media luncheon today and served sandwiches. No wings. At the news conference, all were invited to a media hospitality room — which is outstanding — but again, no wings.

I’m not on a hunt for free wings. I’d buy them. I’d rent them. I’d trade for them, within reason. I’m just saying it seems strange for a company that wants me to mention its wings place in every story or live shot I do not to at least drop a spare wing or two somewhere in the media’s general vicinity, just as a reminder.

Because I have to tell you, sometimes I forget.

Wait a minute. With apologies to my boss, I have a breaking news update. Wings were just delivered to the media room. So I guess we can move forward with the actual Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl business. . . . 

TEAMMATES SAY JACKSON 'STILL THE SAME GOOFY GUY' AFTER HEISMAN:’ The Heisman Trophy hasn’t changed their starting quarterback, Louisville players say when asked about Lamar Jackson.

Wideout Jamari Staples said he’s no different today than he was before leaving for New York for his Heisman experience.

“He's still the same goofy guy,” Staples said. “I mean, nothing's changed really. He won the Heisman. Yeah, we know, but Lamar is still Lamar. The first day back at practice was a little iffy, like he said. But we got it together and we know what's at hand, so we're trying to win the game.”

Linebacker Keith Kelsey said the team took pride in what Jackson did.

“It's amazing, you know, that he won Heisman,” Kelsey said. “He deserves it. I mean, it's a great feeling. It felt like the whole team and coaching staff won the Heisman. Nothing’s changed. He’s the same person, as Jamari said, and we're just expecting him to go out there and play like he normally does.”

LOUISVILLE PLAYERS SAY MOTIVATION ISN’T LACKING: Much of the battle in bowl games is wanting to be there. For a Louisville team that was considered a playoff contender for much of the season, then was knocked out of even a chance to go to the Orange Bowl, you have to wonder what the motivation level is for a trip to the Citrus Bowl.

As a fan base, with a basketball game already having sold nearly 9,000 tickets for a game at the same time as the bowl game, generating excitement has been an issue. Louisville, one source told WDRB, barely sold the 4,000 tickets it committed to selling for the game.

But senior linebacker Keith Kelsey says motivation isn’t an issue for the players.

“It's a lot of motivation,” he said. “This is the last game I get to play with my teammates, and I want to have a good memory. A lot of us are from here as well, you know, families, friends, everybody in the stands. I mean, you don't want to go out like that, you know, with the university on your back as well. We've got a lot to play for. You've got to play for the guy next to you.”

CARDS MEET KIDS: Lamar Jackson might or might not have much chance to move around in the pocket against LSU’s highly-rated defense, but he definitely had little room to maneuver in a one-hour session with local kids at Camping World Stadium on Thursday.

Jackson was approached by groups of kids at every turn, but there was one difference between his photo requests and those of other players. Often, parents then wanted pictures with him too.

It's all part of life as the Heisman Trophy winner, but Jackson appeared to have fun with it.

Each player was paired up with a child from the local area, and Jackson spent time with a young girl at the various stations, talking to her.

“Lookit! She’s got an arm,” he said when she hit a target at a passing station.

The Cardinals spent an hour at the activity.

THE RETURN OF WAKEYLEAKS: Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a script for his response to questions about “Wakeyleaks,” and he stuck to it Thursday, the first time Louisville coaches have been available to the media since athletic director Tom Jurich suspended co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway and the ACC fined the school $25,000 for their part in the leaked Wake Forest game plan scandal.

Wake Forest coaches found play cards containing plays the Deacons were planning on running but had never run before a game against Louisville in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in November. An investigation by Wake Forest found that a former assistant coach and Wake player had leaked elements of game plans to three schools, including Louisville.

Play cards including the Wake Forest plays would indicate that Louisville’s defensive coaches had incorporated the ill-gotten information into its game plan — though Wake Forest found out about it when it discovered the play cards and didn’t run those plays in the game.

Louisville coaches haven’t answered questions about it since the suspension and fine were handed down, and Grantham had little to add on Thursday when questioned about it.

“When that issue came up, our athletic director, Tom Jurich, as well as our ACC commissioner, they both investigated the situation,” Grantham said. “They dealt with it and they really handled the situation. And you know, we really consider the matter closed and right now. We're working to prepare for the bowl game.”

The ACC fined U of L and Virginia Tech, two schools found to have gotten information, the maximum it is allowed under league bylaws, $25,000, and said it would have no further comment on the matter.

Questioned again about it, this time asked if he felt his or his staff’s integrity had taken a hit from the scandal, Grantham went back to the script.

“No. I think pretty much, like I said, our athletic director addressed the situation,” Grantham said. “The ACC Commissioner addressed it. They handled it. We consider the matter closed

and we've really just moved on.”

Given all of that, LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger was asked what precautions he takes with his game plan information, in light of the Wake Forest story

“I don't have a damn clue what you're talking about,” Ensminger said. “I don't get on a computer. My assistant right over here, she does all my stuff, so she protects it but I don't do none of that.”

Is there more to this story? Likely. Will we ever know all that went on? Doubtful. How much does it matter? That depends on your tolerance for such things. At West Point, it would appear this is a serious issue.

But how far do you want to go with it? Fire somebody? Fire a head coach? I was fine with apologies and suspensions. We got fines and suspensions. That, in my view, is all anyone is going to get.

LSU PLANS FOR JACKSON: Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is the man charged with stopping Jackson, and he says the month-long bowl prep has been a help in that regard. He said it’s less a physical challenge for his defense than mental, in terms of reacting to the way Petrino does things offensively. Asked about his game plan for defending Jackson he mentioned a little bit of everything, but finally got around to saying that it’s mainly about getting his defense dialed into what to watch for in certain situations.

“You have to have try to take away what he does best,” Aranda said. “I think so much of what he does is, if you try to rush him where it's going to contain him, keep him in the pocket, I think he's a fine enough passer to complete balls on you. If you try to rush him and be creative with your pressures and whatnot, you can get him out of the pocket, and he can hurt you with his feet. So that has shown up consistently throughout the games that they've played so far. I think the other thing they do very effective is, they get you thinking it’s run, and they call passes and vice-versa. Third down, the quarterback run, I think is a major, major weapon and something, you know, we've been hit before with Alabama and various other games, and so the ability to get everyone thinking the same, on the same page of, this is what we're defending, and this is our job description and getting guys to buy into it. I think the month-long bowl prep allows for that. We're going to have to execute it.”

Jackson, without question, is going to have to deal with LSU loading “the box” with defenders. Whether it’s eight, nine or 10, it’s going to look like everyone is coming his way. What LSU does out of that may differ from play to play, but he’ll have to figure it out. And Aranda says his players will have to make sure they know what they’re doing in that case, too.

“Well, I mean, we've shown the ability to play assignment defense and I think we're still striving to do that for four quarters,” he said. “We have not accomplished that. But I think it's going to take that for this game. You know, whenever the quarterback's a runner and they’re using all 11 guys and if we've got 10 in the box or 10 near the line of scrimmage, then there’s assignments that have to be divvied out, whether it's a middle field player getting involved, whether it's the guys that are in the box two-gapping. And so there's going to be a little bit of each of those things in this game and so the ability to fulfill those things, you know, to start the game, to end the game, that's the -- that's the challenge. Now, we've shown we can do that. We've got to do it on Saturday.”

LSU COORDINATOR IMPRESSED WITH LOUISVILLE DEFENSE: When Ed Orgeron was elevated to head coach after Les Miles was dismissed earlier this season, he tapped Steve Ensminger to fill the offensive coordinator slot. Ensminger, a former player at LSU and a well-known assistant, said he originally said no, but eventually agreed to do it to help Orgeron get the full-time job.

“I was doing it for our school, our state and Coach O and that's it,” he said. “I have no -- I could care less about being the offensive coordinator at LSU, OK?”

Ensminger is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. Asked about his impression of the Louisville defense, he was candid.

“They're very underrated,” he said. “When I put the film on, I saw a lot more than I wanted to see, I promise you. Their front seven is outstanding. They're big inside. Their nose guard I think is a special player. Both their outside linebackers are 250 pounds. They're good against the run. So looking at them, underrated, yes. I can guarantee you that. You look at the stats and what they've given up in the running game and you look at our strength, it's going to be strength on strength. We didn't change a game plan, but I'm kind of curious to see how good our guys play up front and -- but they're a very good defense, especially the front seven.”

He did say LSU had taken a close look at what Kentucky was able to do against Louisville’s defense, and said the Tigers may try some of the same things.

“Well, Kentucky made big plays on them,” Ensminger said. “They really did. But they're a totally different offense than we are. Basically, what we got out of the Kentucky game is when we go to three-wide and stuff like that, the things we feel like that can be effective on them. . . .  Kentucky made big plays on a screen play, on a deep ball and everything else. And I think through all that, you know, we just -- we've got to take our shots too. They're going to be up there to stop the run and we're going to run the football. But we've got to be successful. We've got to make some big plays against this defense and I don't think we’re going to take the football and run it down to throw 80 yards or whatever. You're going to have to mix it up and you're going to have to make some big plays.”

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