If you asked someone to describe the game Saturday you probably heard the word speechless. And immediately following the game that’s how I felt about what I had just experienced. After having some time to reflect I’m still left with just one word. IncREDible!
I remember how excited I was back in July of 2014 when the University of Louisville was officially welcomed into the ACC. I knew that it would be transformational for the athletic program. I also knew that it would really benefit the Louisville Football program in a big way. Over the last three seasons we’ve seen first-hand how impactful the move to the ACC has been. That magical day inside Notre Dame Stadium during the 2014 season and the FSU game yesterday are two of the biggest moments ever and I don’t think either happens if we aren’t in the ACC.
Just because a College program is given a platform to succeed doesn’t mean that it will. It still takes a great administration, great student athletes and great fans. The University of Louisville football program has taken full advantage of the opportunity. On Saturday Louisville was the epicenter of College Football. All eyes were watching as the administration showed off our first class facilities, and as a record number of Cardinal fans showed up to cheer for their team. The nation also watched the Louisville football players outshine those red chrome helmets as they beat traditional powerhouse Florida State.
There is a lot that goes into having a college football game especially when hosting the nation’s premier college football pre-game show. We have the best athletic director and SID in the country. Tom Jurich and Kenny Klein are the example of excellence in their profession and their leadership reflects in their staff. They know how to put on a first class event like yesterday and make it special. I want to give Kudos to Tom Jurich and his staff on the Muhammad Ali tribute. I really thought it set the mood inside the stadium. From the inspirational intro to start the game to the half-time dedication. The pride Ali had for his hometown echoed yesterday in all of us.
"That's one of the greatest cities in America, Louisville, KY."
— Louisville Football (@UofLFootball) September 17, 2016
The hospitality and the catering inside the Louisville press box is second to none. You might get popcorn and a hot-dog if covering a game at most stadiums in the country, but at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium it’s sliced prime rib. I want to give Kudos to Kenny Klein and his staff for showing the National Media Saturday that the University of Louisville knows how to be a winner on and off the field. Anyone in the media who experienced it on Saturday will want to come back and look forward to it. You don’t have a day like Saturday without the hard work of Tom, Kenny and their staff.
Louisville's press box meal is running up the score on FSU's press box meal. pic.twitter.com/dM1ttJQBsQ
— Ira Schoffel (@IraSchoffel) September 17, 2016
Bobby Petrino and his staff are among the best in the country. They have built upon the winning culture re-established by Charlie Strong and taken it to the next level. Coach Petrino’s play calling yesterday was superb. He had the FSU defense on their heels all day and hung the highest point total ever (63) on the FSU program. A “methodical dismantling” is how one Florida journalist described it.
And how about the job Coach Klenakis has done? He has had the toughest job rebuilding the offensive line but has got it done. His guys protected Lamar Jackson yesterday and gave him time to complete 13 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown. They also opened up running lanes big enough for him to get into open field where he cut, spin and dashed for 146 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Cardinals rushed for 314 yards total behind the Louisville offensive line and they only allowed one sack on their QB. I said in my pregame article that big football games are won in the trenches and that Saturday was the proving ground for the Louisville offensive line. They got it done.
Coach Grantham has built one of the most versatile defenses in the country. He’s got guys that he can move around and come at opposing offenses from every angle. His group held one of the best running backs in the country Dalvin Cook to just 54 yards. The Louisville defense held one of the most explosive offenses in the country to just 284 yards of total offense. They also held them to just 20 points. It was really 10 because Coach Grantham pulled most of his starters in the second half.
I listened to the post game show on 790am on the ride home Saturday. Howie Lindsey called-in to the radio show and was telling a story about how he witnessed Coach Grantham getting all over one of the second string guys after giving up that late FSU score. It’s that kind of coaching, discipline and demand for perfection that has put the Louisville program in position to win big games like they did Saturday.
You can’t use the word incredible when describing Saturday without mentioning the incredible play of Lamar Jackson. He clearly put himself in position to win the Heisman Trophy with 362 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. He did it all while facing one of the best defenses in the country. Jackson epitomizes program changer and he has put this Louisville team and program on his back.
Brandon Radcliff has been described by coaches as one of the hardest working guys on the football field. The guy has so much passion for what he does and for the team he does it for. In my opinion Brandon had the best game of his career yesterday and out staged Dalvin Cook big time with 118 yards and a touchdown. I was great seeing this young man succeed in such a big game.
On a day where Louisville celebrated and honored one of the greatest hometown athletes ever it was another hometown athlete who was catching big passes and moving the chains. James Quick had 122 yards receiving and was a top target for Jackson all day. His best play came on a reception that he completed after the ball bounced off the leg of a defender. Quick made athletic catches all day but that one really stood out to me,and showed just how focused he was. I know that he was proud to represent his city yesterday in such a big way.
I was very critical of Josh Harvey-Clemson last year and felt that at times he took plays off. But yesterday he was one of the hardest working guys on the defense. He was flying around all over the field making big plays. And talk about versatile. I watched him play line-backer and safety yesterday getting 8 tackles and a sack. He was a big key in keeping FSU from ever gaining any momentum and helped keep QB Deondre Francois from getting into any kind of rhythm. If he keeps playing like he did Saturday Harvey-Clemons will hear his name called in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft.
One of the most electrifying punt returners in the country was on display Saturday. They didn’t have any answers for him. FSU’s special teams allowed Jaire Alexander to return two punts for 139 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown. Alexander is a special athlete with exceptional speed and his field vision along with his instincts are next level. He was fun to watch.
I mentioned the stand out performers but every guy in a Louisville uniform helped pull off the biggest win in program history. They are a focused bunch and that showed in their performance. You don’t have days like Saturday without great players and this Louisville team has them from the top to the bottom of the depth chart. Maybe the best depth chart ever.
Mark Ennis of Card Chronicle mentioned last week that the national media would be surprised to learn that every Louisville fan wrote for some kind of Louisville blog. It’s true and I’m one of them. That is one thing that proves just how much interest and passion that Louisville fans have in the Louisville athletic program.
The Cardinal Nation set a new attendance record on Saturday and I think that all 55,632 of them were tailgating at 7:00am. Some were even out tailgating on Friday. I want to give kudos to the guys at the Red Rage Tailgate for showing the nation just how well we do it in Louisville. Those guys are some of the most passionate among us and their love for Louisville football inspired the ESPN College Gameday folks so much that they did some live spots from their gathering. You guys are awesome!
The Card March was the best one I’ve ever seen. Thousands of Cardinal fans lined up at 9:30 am in the rain to welcome the football team. And when it was time for kickoff every fan was in their seat and that stadium was rocking. I know there wasn’t a person in my section who sat down. We stood up through the whole game. And I think I gave high fives to all of my new friends in section 112.
The atmosphere in and around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was surreal. The roller coasters are across the street at the fairgrounds, but the Game day experience on Floyd Street Saturday was one of the greatest thrill rides I’ve ever been on in my life. You the fans made that possible. Thank you!
It was a huge day for the University of Louisville and I couldn’t be happier for our student athletes, administration, and coaches. They are the ones who put in the time and the effort to make Saturday possible. But I’m also very happy for Cardinal Fans. They are the ones who spend their money to go to the games, they are the ones who buy Cardinal merchandise, and they are the ones who have stayed loyal through thick and thin.
I sat by a guy in section 112 that had been a fan for 50 years. He talked about how he had sit through some stinkers and was just amazed to be watching just how far the program had come. The enthusiasm and passion of Cardinal Nation is second to none and they deserve the best. They deserved Saturday.
It was an incredible day and one that I will share with my grandchildren. Telling stories about how I watched our first Heisman Trophy winner lead the Cardinals to the biggest regular season win in program history. (Because by then we will have won a National Title). It was great being there to see the program take the next step. No doubt that we are on that prophetic “collision course”.
Can we do it all again real soon? Go Cards!