CRAWFORD | Pre-snap read: After Wakeyleaks, Louisville needs to exorcise some Demons
Since beating Wake Forest last year in what wound up being a controversial game after it was revealed Louisville had received Wake game-plan information, the Cardinals have had a rough stretch.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WDRB) – The paranormal is not a subject you see tackled very often in this space. Yet in the case of the University of Louisville athletic program in the year since the “Wakeyleaks” scandal of 2016, you might be able to sell me some stock in karma.
Consider the fate of the Cardinals since their 44-12 win over the Demon Deacons last season, after which Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson revealed that someone on his staff had discovered plays his team had been planning to run (but which it had not yet run) at Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium before their game had been played.
Former Wake assistant and current Louisville offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, it was later revealed, had received game-plan information from a former Wake Forest coach and then-radio analyst Tommy Elrod, even had dinner with him the night before the game.
It was a scheme more suited to Ian Fleming or Ken Follett than the Atlantic Coast Conference. In the end, Virginia Tech also wound up being implicated, after an investigation, as did Army. The ACC fined Louisville and Virginia Tech $25,000 and both handed out suspensions to the assistant coaches involved – but only after an awkward and inadequate statement from U of L athletic director Tom Jurich. Army suspended its assistant coach involved for two weeks and fined him $25,000.
This week, both head coaches said they’d put the episode behind them and were focusing on this season and this game – which pits Louisville against Wake Forest at 12:20 Saturday. Elrod was fired from his radio job, and when approached at his home this week by the Winston-Salem Journal, wouldn’t comment on the matter.
Now, it’s not as if nothing good has happened to the Louisville football team since that win over Wake Forest. Quarterback Lamar Jackson did, after all, win the Heisman Trophy, the first Louisville player ever to do it.
But that award wasn’t based on his work after the Wake Forest win.
The Cardinals lost their final three games after that Wake Forest win, including a 36-10 loss at Houston on national television that knocked them from the College Football Playoff discussion and a 41-38 loss to rival Kentucky at home – a game in which the Wildcats were 27-point underdogs.
They went on to a 29-9 bowl loss to LSU.
Dating back to that Wake Forest win, the Cards have gone 3-5 against Power 5 conference competition. They’ve lost twice as a 20-point or better favorite at home, including a loss two weeks ago to Boston College in which a freshman running back carried for more yards than any single player has ever gained against a Louisville football team.
The Cardinals, since the Wake Forest win, have lost by at least two touchdowns four times. They’ve been outscored by Power 5 opponents 292-248. And the combined record of the three Power 5 teams Louisville has beaten in that time is 6-16.
Literally, Louisville went from staring the College Football Playoffs in the face after that Wake Forest win to falling on its face, in large part, ever since.
The program essentially swapped defensive coordinators with Mississippi State. Todd Grantham, the beneficiary of the ill-gotten information a year ago, leads a Bulldogs unit that is ranked No. 8 in total defense. Louisville has given up more points than any team in the ACC’s Atlantic Division and has had to do some work to climb to No. 61 in total defense.
Who says crime doesn’t pay?
And athletic director Tom Jurich, who had rarely if ever been the subject of negative coverage from the national media, was blasted after his response to the Wakeyleaks story, had to adjust his course and take further action, and has had rough sledding ever since – though most of it was due to men’s basketball rather than football.
Whatever the case, Louisville had a new athletic director on the sidelines watching the Cards warm up in Winston-Salem this year, after Jurich, who once was named athletic director of the year by Street & Smith’s, was fired in a harsh letter that charged him with “dereliction of duty,” among other things, obtained by the media through open records requests.
Jaire Alexander, who put his hands on his hips and did a little prancing dance behind a Wake Forest receiver in last year’s game (the clip went viral on social media), has had a hard-luck season. Louisville’s first preseason All-American first-teamer entering the year, he has struggled with injury, injuring a knee when he picked up a punt that he never should have touched. Now, a broken bone in his hand will keep him off the field at Wake Forest. It’s been a major blow to the Louisville defense. Alexander is a terrific player and fortunately the injuries shouldn’t be a setback to his playing at the next level. But they’ve hurt this season’s team.
Now, I don’t believe in jinxes. I’m not superstitious.
But I’ll tell you this. Louisville needs to exorcise some (Demon) Deacons today.
The challenge will be tough, even if Wake Forest has lost three straight games. The Deacons have one of the better defensive lines in the ACC. They’re a Top 20 defense against the pass, though they have given up yards on the ground, where Jackson is especially dangerous.
They’re led by a four-year starter, John Wolford, who is consistent, accurate and doesn’t throw interceptions. He has only two on the season. And they have a redshirt freshman receiver, Greg Dortch, who has been the target of a third of the team’s passes this season and is dangerous once he gets it. He’s the kind of guy who has given Louisville’s secondary trouble all season.
Wake Forest has only four turnovers all season. Louisville has 14.
It’s a pivotal game for the Cardinals, who would gain bowl eligibility with the win.
Both teams say last year’s unpleasantness is long in the past. But the dark cloud that has hung over the program since last season’s game remains – either because of bad luck or bad karma.
I don’t know anything about this stuff. So I did what we all do when we don’t know about something. I went to Google. It gave these seven strategies for turning bad karma around (via mindbodygreen.com):
- Identify your karma.
- Sever toxic ties.
- Take responsibility.
- Heal your karma.
- Defy your weaknesses.
- Take new action.
- Forgive everyone.
To those, I’d add an eighth today at Wake Forest: Play good football.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.