Zero people expected Louisville to beat Clemson in Death Valley. The spread was a luxurious 39 points, 15.5 points bigger than the margin Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals faced in Week 1 against preseason No. 1 Alabama. Things have gotten that much worse for his team over the past two months.
It wasn’t that the Cardinals lost — the score ended up 77-16, the first time the Cardinals had ever given up 70 or more, and it could’ve been worse — but rather how completely hopeless they looked for all 60 minutes. The score reached 63-3 in the third quarter.
Clemson averaged 11.6 yards per play vs. Louisville today, best in Clemson history. Previous record 11.2 vs Georgia Tech in 1903. John Heisman was Clemson coach.— Tim Bourret (@TimBourret) November 3, 2018
The head coach’s son, who entered with five catches and usually holds extra points, scored his first touchdown at one point:
Touchdown WILL SWINNEY! 77-16— Spookin the Southland (@STSouthland) November 3, 2018
Petrino’s team was already on pace for 2-10 after dropping what might’ve been its only winnable game in the back half.
S&P+ predicted the Cardinals to lose at Clemson by 34 points. S&P+ had Louisville ranked No. 99 out of 130 FBS teams. Petrino’s Cardinals disappointed even that No. 99 ranking. It’s almost certain that S&P+ will now rank Louisville comfortably into the 100s, perhaps even better than only Illinois, Oregon State, and Rutgers among Power 5 teams.
I trust Mark’s opinion on all things Louisville, and:
I think firing Bobby Petrino after this game would be justified.— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) November 3, 2018
Two long years ago, Lamar Jackson’s Cardinals nearly beat Clemson.
Thus for the second time in Petrino’s career, his team is completely useless when it finds itself without the most explosive quarterback in the game.
He said before the year that he hoped Louisville’s offense — Petrino’s personal side of the ball and traditional expertise — would actually improve without Jackson. It, like the rest of Petrino’s team, entered the game against Clemson ranked No. 99 in the country in S&P+.
Petrino inherited from Charlie Strong parts of a team that’d won 23 games in two years. Petrino then topped out at 9-4 with a Heisman Trophy winner under center.
It gets worse.
After some decommitments, Louisville ranks No. 70 in 2019 recruiting, below Illinois, Rutgers, and so forth. The Cardinals appear unlikely to secure signatures from any of Kentucky’s top 10 prospects, continuing a trend.
(It gets worse still. Freshman QB Jordan Travis transferred out before the Clemson game.)
A coach who has recruited Kentucky well further raises the heat on Petrino.
Jeff Brohm, a Louisville lifer and former Cardinals QB, is the head coach at Purdue, whose Kentucky players include star Rondale Moore, an athlete U of L appeared minimally interested in. Brohm is about as close as you can get to a no-brainer hire for Louisville.
Brohm is considered essentially an updated version of Petrino who lacks all the ........ Petrino-ness. His hire would be viewed as something similar to Scott Frost’s return to Nebraska, minus the claimed national title part: the native son returns to clean up the mess, with a proven track record of doing so previously.
The big issue to figure out: that stupid-big buyout.
Louisville’s already got money tangled up in its whole discarded regime from the basketball coach on up, and Petrino’s contract calls for an inexplicable $14 million upon his ejection.
But with Brohm very likely available and only figuring to draw more interest from top Power 5 programs, biting that bullet is just about the only option that makes sense.
Petrino does not leave programs looking better than he found them, and Louisville will go down as no exception to the rule.