- Things never end well when Bobby Petrino is involved, but after firing its head coach amid a 2–8 season, Louisville can make a run at a beloved native son. Plus, a wide receiver earns Big Ugly of the Week honors, the state of the current top four and the rest of this week's Punt, Pass & Pork.
Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra met face-to-face with Bobby Petrino on Sunday and fired him. Had he any sense of cosmic justice, he would have tacked a note to Petrino's office door that said this:
Out of my respect for you, I am letting you know that, with a heavy heart, I fired you today as the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals. This decision was not easy, but it was made in the best interest of the school and its supporters. While my desire would have been for you to finish out what has been a difficult season for us all, circumstances did not allow me to do that. I appreciate your hard work and wish you the best.
But Tyra didn't do that. Unlike Petrino, Tyra might actually be sincere. So unlike when Petrino bailed on the Atlanta Falcons in the midst of the 2007 season to take the Arkansas job, Tyra didn't simply leave a note. He looked Petrino in the eye and dismissed him. Petrino couldn't have been surprised. His team has lost its last three games by a combined score of 187–74. Either the Cardinals quit on Petrino, Petrino quit on the Cardinals or everyone quit on each other.
"If you want to say culture equals effort, there's something screwy going on there," Tyra said at a press conference Sunday afternoon. "The effort wasn't what it's been historically. I've told the kids that. I'm not bashful about that. They can't hide from it. It's on film. Whatever the root cause was behind that, it needed to go away."
But Tyra didn't just fire Petrino. He fired Petrino's entire family. Petrino's son Nick was Louisville's quarterbacks coach. Son-in-law Ryan Beard coached linebackers. Son-in-law L.D. Scott coached the defensive line. All were fired, as was Petrino's right-hand man, operations director Andy Wagner. Tyra said the family members were fired because he didn't want those men under extra scrutiny these last two weeks of the season. He did not criticize Petrino's apparent affinity for using position coach jobs as dowries.
Of course, we already knew Petrino's hiring practices were different. Though there was a motorcycle crash and a weird press conference in a neck brace, Petrino ultimately was fired at Arkansas because he placed his mistress on the Razorbacks' football staff and lied to then-athletic director Jeff Long about the fact that said mistress was also on the motorcycle when he crashed.
And of course everyone at Louisville already knew Petrino had a wandering eye. In 2003, during his first stint as head coach there, Petrino went behind the back of then-athletic director Tom Jurich to meet with a headhunting party from Auburn that was trying to hire Petrino to replace Tommy Tuberville.
Needless to say, no one felt any sort of sympathy for Petrino on Sunday. He's going to get $14 million from Louisville over the next three years to not coach, so even though he spent most of this year running the program into the ground, he'll still profit from it. Jurich, the AD who built Louisville into a big-time athletic department and led it from the Big East to the ACC only to be fired last year amid a mushrooming basketball scandal partly of his own making, had agreed to a bizarre contract with Petrino that guaranteed the coach would receive his next three years' salary if he was fired. That meant that the buyout would only have gone up had Petrino remained. Jurich did this in return for a big buyout in the other direction to combat Petrino's historic wanderlust. And this probably made sense at the time because Petrino had done nothing but win consistently as a college head coach. And he did the same once he came back to Louisville. He recruited an eventual Heisman Trophy winner (Lamar Jackson) and was six points at eventual national champ Clemson away from winning the ACC Atlantic Division—which probably would have prefaced an ACC title—in 2016. But once Petrino started losing this year, he and his staff seemed incapable of pulling Louisville out of the tailspin.
At that point, the Cardinals—who have had a line of football players heading to the compliance office to fill out transfer paperwork—might not have had any players or season ticket-holders remaining. So Tyra truly had no choice. After the Cardinals fell 53–24 on Friday night to a Syracuse team that they beat 56–10 last year, Tyra knew he needed to do it now instead of at the end of the season. "I don't think our talent slipped that far down and theirs slipped that far up," Tyra said.
Now Tyra, who has spent the past year picking up the psychological and financial pieces of an athletic department beset by various scandals, must find a football coach. Fortunately for him, a No. 1 candidate has rarely been as easy to identify as this one.
Jeff Brohm was a legend at quarterback for Louisville's Trinity High. Brohm then played quarterback for Louisville. After a seven-year pro career, Brohm got into coaching. From 2003-08, he worked at Louisville for Petrino and then for Petrino’s successor Steve Kragthorpe.
See a pattern here?
Brohm, who went on to win as the head coach at nearby Western Kentucky, now coaches at Purdue. Last year, he took over a program that had gone 8–28 in its previous three seasons. He is currently 12–11 with the Boilermakers, but that record doesn't do justice to the job Brohm has done turning players who seemed sure they couldn't win into the type of people who can lay a 29-point beatdown on Ohio State. From a program culture standpoint, Brohm has done exactly the opposite of what Petrino did this season at Louisville.
The Boilermakers finish their season Nov. 24 at Indiana. Don't be shocked if Purdue wins and someone from Louisville drops an offer to Brohm into the Old Oaken Bucket. The question is whether Brohm will take the job. If he continues to build at Purdue, he'll be pursued by football programs with bluer blood. But the millionaire who still drives a 2004 Honda Accord might not be swayed by prestige or tradition. He may want to find the place that makes him comfortable.
And the fact that Louisville was so close to an ACC title just two years ago suggests Louisville is a program that can win conference titles and compete for playoff berths. Brohm wouldn’t have to wait for a traditional power. He could reach those goals in his hometown.
If Brohm doesn't want the job, there will be no shortage of qualified coaches who do for the reasons listed in the previous paragraph. Troy coach Neal Brown grew up in Danville, Ky. He recruited the state as Kentucky's offensive coordinator. He went 11–2 last year, and the Trojans are currently 8–2 and eyeing a Sun Belt Conference title. And what about the man whose team ultimately vanquished Petrino? Dino Babers took over a moribund Syracuse program in 2016 and has the Orange fighting for a New Year’s Six bowl game this season.
As bad as things are at Louisville right now, Tyra does have something exciting to sell to coaches. The fact that he could lure basketball coach Chris Mack from Xavier following the messy firing of Rick Pitino suggests Tyra can convince a coach to leave a relatively comfortable situation for one that may have its initial bumps but ultimately has a much higher ceiling than the candidate's previous job.
"I don't think we're that far away. I really don't. Talent-wise, we've got enough to win with," Tyra said. "You can see on the younger end of this that there's a lot to build on in terms of skill. I'm excited about that part of it. But we've got to draw it out of them and teach them what it's like to play their ass off in a Cardinal uniform."
That sounds like the sort of thing this guy would love to hear.
A Random Ranking
It's a readers' choice week. I asked for a topic, and Tyler provided a beauty.
90s one hit wonders— Tyler Gleaton (@TylerGleaton) November 12, 2018
1. "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand", Primitive Radio Gods
2. "Laid", James
3. "Tubthumping", Chumbawamba
4. "Life Is A Highway", Tom Cochrane
5. "I Touch Myself", Divinyls
6. "Closing Time", Semisonic
7. "Ditty", Paperboy
8. "Groove Is In The Heart", Deee-Lite
9. "Fade Into You", Mazzy Star
10. "Not An Addict", K’s Choice
11. "In The Meantime", Spacehog
12. "I Got A Man", Positive K
13. "Breakfast At Tiffany's", Deep Blue Something
14. "Steal My Sunshine", Len
15. "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)", Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz
16. "How Do You Talk To An Angel", The Heights
17. "One Of Us", Joan Osborne
18. "Bittersweet Symphony", The Verve
19. "Hell", Squirrel Nut Zippers
20. "I Wish", Skee-Lo
1. Alabama (10–0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 24–0
Next game: Saturday vs. The Citadel
Mississippi State's defense made Tua Tagovailoa look like a normal quarterback Saturday. After a season of superhuman numbers, this had to give some confidence to the defenses who might see Alabama in the future. (Though not the one that faces Alabama this week.) There’s just one problem. Even if Tagovailoa puts up normal numbers, a team still must score on Alabama to beat Alabama.
2. Clemson (10–0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Boston College, 27–7
Next game: Saturday vs. Duke
Dabo Swinney at 3:30 of the video below, paraphrased: COLD WEATHER AIN'T PLAYED NOBODY.
3. Notre Dame (10–0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Florida State, 42–13
Next game: Saturday vs. Syracuse in New York
Quarterback Brandon Wimbush celebrated Senior Night by filling in for Ian Book—who replaced Wimbush as the starter earlier this season—and leading the Fighting Irish to a blowout win. Book should be back for Notre Dame’s most dangerous remaining game, but it should give the Irish comfort as they make their final push for the playoff to know that they have two capable quarterbacks. And given the class with which Wimbush handled the situation, it’s great that he got a chance to shine one final time at Notre Dame Stadium.
4. Michigan (9–1)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Rutgers, 42–7
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana
This is the best Michigan team of Jim Harbaugh's tenure, but just to make sure the Wolverines don't slip up ahead of an Ohio State game that they should win, don't be shocked if he mentions once or twice that each of Michigan’s last three meetings with Indiana has been decided by between seven and 10 points.
Big Ugly of the Week
We like to be inclusive here, so this week we're going to honor one of those skill position glory hounds because he threw a block that will make all his offensive linemen shed a tiny tear of joy when they watch it during film review. When you watch the video, you'll understand why. Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb is great at catching passes, but he definitely has a fat guy inside him just screaming to get out. Look at this amazing block on a Kennedy Brooks touchdown run during the Sooners' 48–47 win against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Three And Out
1. It's becoming more and more difficult to imagine how Clay Helton survives this season at USC. A 15–14 home loss to Cal on Saturday dropped the Trojans to 5–5, meaning USC must beat either UCLA (possible) or Notre Dame (highly unlikely) to make a bowl game. The team that, according to recruiting rankings, has the most talent on the West Coast is a barely middling Pac-12 South outfit at this point.
Two weeks ago, Helton fired offensive line coach Neil Callaway and demoted offensive coordinator Tee Martin. Helton took over playcalling duties from Martin. That was supposed to invigorate the USC offense. In Saturday's second half, the Trojans gained 40 yards on 31 plays and scored zero points as they gagged away an early two-touchdown lead. To make matters worse, the architect of the Cal defense is Bears head coach Justin Wilcox, whom Helton declined to retain as defensive coordinator after Helton was named USC's permanent head coach at the end of the 2015 season.
2. Congratulations to the Northwestern Wildcats, who clinched the program's first trip to the Big Ten title game thanks to a combination of their win at Iowa, Wisconsin's loss at Penn State and Purdue's loss at Minnesota.
The other teams that have clinched spots in their conference title games are Alabama (SEC West), Georgia (SEC East), Clemson (ACC Atlantic) and Alabama-Birmingham (Conference USA West).
3. Yes, you read that correctly. UAB, the program that was murdered by its own school just four years ago, is thriving since its return to the field in 2016. With a 26–23 overtime win against Southern Miss on Saturday, the Blazers ran their record to 9–1 and 7–0 in Conference USA. The win clinched the West division, and on Sunday the Blazers were ranked in the coaches' poll. UAB has only been ranked once before (2004).
UAB's Bill Clark might just win every coach of the year award this season.
What's Eating Andy?
Gamblers were understandably upset when LSU tailback Nick Brossette went down on purpose twice near the end of a game that LSU—a 13-point favorite—was leading 24–17.
But Brossette was only doing something the Tigers practice every Thursday during a period LSU coach Ed Orgeron calls "The Winning Edge." This is when the team goes over a variety of end-of-half/end-of-game situations such as Mayday field goals—getting the field goal team on the field with the play clock running—and Victory formation. In this case, Brossette was executing something most teams call Down, Down. This instructs a player to purposely stop short of the goal line to keep milking clock. A 14-point lead is nice, but the surest way to win is to keep the other team from ever getting the ball back.
One of these situations came up in another LSU game this season. After the Tigers' loss at Florida, Gators coach Dan Mullen lamented cornerback Brad Stewart's decision to take an interception of Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow all the way to the end zone with 1:45 remaining. The score gave Florida an eight-point lead, but it also gave LSU the ball back down eight. The smarter play, Mullen pointed out after the game, would have been to go down, run out the clock and win by one.
At LSU, the reasoning for that particular scoring situation dates back to the Outback Bowl following the 2013 season. LSU's Jeremy Hill scored a 37-yard touchdown with 2:02 remaining to give the Tigers a 21–7 lead. The Hawkeyes then scored a touchdown 20 seconds later after a 96-yard Jordan Cotton kickoff return set them up on the LSU four-yard line. LSU recovered the ensuing onside kick, but there never would have been any nervousness had Hill simply gone down after getting the first down and kept going down until the clock expired.
What's Andy Eating?
I wasn't sure any sandwich would ever unseat the magnificent pork belly creation at Cochon Butcher in New Orleans as my favorite. I never dreamed the one that did would only be a few miles down the road. And if you'd told me my new favorite sandwich would have bologna on it, I'd have had you tested for drugs.
Yet all of this happened earlier this month in New Orleans*. It started with a tip in the press box before the Alabama-LSU game. Aaron Suttles, the excellent Alabama beat writer for The Athletic, suggested I visit the sandwich shop where his friend Nate Barfield works as a chef. Aaron mentioned that Bon Appetit had written about Mason Hereford's Turkey and the Wolf last year, calling it America's best new restaurant. Usually, that means pricy, too-precious dishes that don't live up to the hype. But Suttles, who shares a body type and knows my gastronomical predilections well, assured me the place was exactly what I wanted in a sandwich shop. "Get the fried bologna," Suttles said. "It's amazing."
*My trip to Louisiana for the Alabama-LSU game was an epic adventure for my stomach. You read about Toups Meatery last week. You're reading about Turkey and the Wolf now. I have one more place to share from that trip, so stay tuned in the coming weeks.
I have a complicated relationship with bologna. While I realize that done right, it's one of the better deli meats, I can't hear the word without thinking of the sad little bologna sandwiches they served when I was in day care as a kid. These came preloaded with mayonnaise. If you read this space regularly, you know mayo is Satan’s pomade. I would try to wipe off the mayo and eat my sandwich, but I could never get it all off. I looked like Lady Macbeth trying to wipe off the blood, but the mayo oozed into every crevice and attacked my taste buds while I should have been enjoying a perfectly good cold cut.
So that's why I'm hesitant to order anything that uses bologna, but I had to try here. The Turkey and the Wolf fried bologna sandwich uses a thick hunk of Leighann's bologna. Who is Leighann, you ask? Leighann Smith used to run the butcher and charcuterie department at—wait for it—Cochon Butcher. She now runs a new place called Piece of Meat, and it only seems fitting that one of the people involved in my previous favorite sandwich is involved in my new favorite one. What else comes on the sandwich? Hot English mustard, shredded lettuce, potato chips and mayo.
Turkey and the Wolf is not one of those snooty "You'll eat it the way we make it" places. I asked for no mayo, and they happily omitted the fail butter. Also, the menu uses only the phrase "on white" to describe the bread. This does not do justice to the thick slices of toasted white bread that so lovingly cradle the salty, savory bologna, the sweet and tart mustard, the cool, refreshing lettuce and the shockingly appropriate chips. It sounds gimmicky, but the chips soak up the juices, keeping the bread from getting soggy and ensuring the perfect bite every time. Plus, a little crunch just makes the sandwich more satisfying.
Here's the only problem. You're still going to want to try everything else on the menu. The lamb neck roti is the best gyro you’ve ever eaten thanks to the tender shredded neck meat cooked in chiles and carraway and the soft, hot roti. Gyros come on pita bread. Roti is a flatbread native to India and surrounding countries. It’s thinner but not crispy, which makes it an ideal base for the lamb and Turkey and the Wolf's version of tzatziki.
If you don't want another sandwich, order the hog's head cheese tacos. These feature head cheese slices mixed with jalapenos, sour cream, American cheese and Valentina hot sauce on corn tortillas. They're so addictive that I still wanted more even after a taco, a fried bologna sandwich and a lamb neck roti.
Even after all that, I still had to try the vanilla soft serve ice cream with key lime crunk chunks. This is exactly what it sounds like: A giant bowl of soft serve with a-little-bigger-than-bite-sized chunks of key lime pie scattered throughout. Sometimes, we forget how delicious something as simple as soft serve vanilla can be.
And sometimes, all we need is a fresh perspective to forgive a lunchmeat that never did anything wrong in the first place.