First off, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I want to thank Mike and the crew for their great hospitality once again last weekend. The tailgate was superb and they didn’t make fun of me during the game when I showed up with a big cup of hot chocolate. Yes, I enjoyed the hot chocolate; it is the drink of kings and six-year-olds everywhere. Big thanks to Ms. CC who very politely moved up a row so I could sit in their section. It completely made up for her not showing up to the tailgate with football-shaped cookies. Even though the game ended in a loss, it is always great to be back at Cardinal Stadium.
Thoughts from Last Week
-A tough loss, which only magnified the loss the week before against South Florida.
-Chris Philpott had the best game of his career. He kicked a 43-yard field goal, flipped the field numerous times to help set up the Louisville defense, ran for 21 yards on a fake punt, and made a tackle on special teams. It is true that I was disappointed when he wasn’t named the "true athlete of the game" on the scoreboard.
-Have to give credit to WVU’s defensive line, they were well coached and executed their game plan all afternoon.
-One of the reasons that I wanted to come to this game from Louisiana was because it was senior day. A lot of these guys were teammates of mine when I was a senior, and I wanted to watch them play their last game at PJCS. I got to see a lot of them Friday night at the team hotel and a lot of them have matured into outstanding young men, Brandon Heath, Johnny Patrick, Rodney Gnat, Pete Nochta, Troy Pascley, Eugene Sowell, Blayne Donnell, Conrad Thomas, Mark Wetterrer, etc. I got to talk to Bilal Powell for the first time in a few years and Coach Strong was telling the truth when he nicknamed him "the face of the program." It was a shame that he wasn’t at full strength on Saturday. He has had a heck of a year and I am sure he will put the Cards on his back Friday morning in Piscataway.
-If you needed proof that these games mean the world to the players on the field, you only had to take a glance at Doug Beaumont at the end of the game on Saturday. I have said it before and I will say it again: Doug was a great teammate and has been a great player these last four years. I think that is why I felt just as disappointed as he did when I saw him after the game sitting with his parents on a bench in front of Papa John’s. All I could do was go up to him and tell him how proud I was of him as a student-athlete and as a person. Doug has set the example for all of the younger players and incoming players as well. This team deserves a bowl game, most importantly to honor Doug and the rest of the seniors who stayed with this program and stayed committed after Coach Petrino left.
*I also want to give a shout out to Doug‘s parents (Doug and Sheree Beaumont). Mrs. Beaumont is a reader of Card Chronicle and is a very nice lady. If you are reading this, I enjoyed talking to you on Saturday. Senior day is not only a day for the players, but for the families as well. They are the ones who have raised these young men and been on the journey from little league football all the way to this past Saturday. This being Thanksgiving week, thanks to all the great families that make the Cardinal football program as special as it is.
-Loved the old school grey sweatshirt look from Coach Strong and also loved the crowd, they did a great job.
Punt, Pass, & Kick with Stefan Lefors
I am sure many people believe that this was planned or had been in the works for a while. In actuality, I had no clue this was going on and almost did not do it on Saturday.
I got into Louisville Friday night and saw that I had gotten a text from the sports marketing department telling me that Stefan was going to do the punt, pass, and kick contest for charity and that they had agreed to use somebody else for the "kick" part. They asked me if I would do it. I immediately called them back and said thanks, but no thanks. I then called Stefan and the first thing he said to me was, "you're going to do it right?" I told him no, didn’t want to do it, and wished him the best of luck.
I thought that was the end of it until the next morning came around. As I was walking into the stadium, Stefan called me again and told me that I had to do it, that he would get it close, that it would be a chip shot, etc. He told me to think about the charity. I again said no, I wasn’t going to do it, and that I hoped we could still be friends. With our friendship teetering on the brink of collapse, his persistence finally won me over about thirty minutes before the game.
The reasons I didn’t want to do it was because a) I hadn’t kicked a football in seven months, b) I was wearing jeans and boots, and c) What if I missed? I had seen the punt, pass, and kick contest before, and as much as Stefan was sure he could get it down to an extra point, there were no guarantees. My last kick in PJCS had been a game-winner against Rutgers, and I didn’t want that to change to missing a kick and disappointing a charity. It would have easily surpassed my dropped option fake field goal for most embarrassing moment on a football field.
I spent the whole first half thinking about the ramifications of the punt, pass, & kick from the radio booth in the press box. As the second quarter was coming to an end, we went down to the field and then had to start almost immediately after the half was over. I had no practice kicks, and Stefan didn’t get to warm up his arm. I was officially nervous.
Stefan did a great job of getting into manageable field goal range, and as I went on the field all I could think was there was no way I could miss this kick for charity and Stefan. It was a 35-yard field goal near the middle of the field. Stefan held the ball for me and as I made contact with the ball I immediately knew that it was in and started celebrating with Stefan and the rest of the group on the field. As I was telling one of my younger brothers after the game, all things considered, it might have been the biggest kick of my football career. Stefan won the money for the charity, and at the end of the day everyone was happy. I am sure thirty years from now I will tell anyone who will listen about the time Stefan and I saved the orphanage in Louisville from being torn down by the greedy by winning a punt, pass, and kick contest at halftime during a severe blizzard with a flat football. Yep, I am sure that is how I will remember it thirty years from now. Stefan, you are the man!!
-This was my worst memory as a player. A week after winning the biggest game in program history to date, we went on the road to face a Rutgers team that had surprised most of the nation and was undefeated into the month of November. I thought that we had had a good week of practice and were excited to be the marquee game of the week for the second week in a row.
The first sign that this wasn’t going to be a typical trip was when our plane was delayed from getting into Louisville that Wednesday afternoon. We sat around our football complex for quite a while. Once we got to the airport, were seated and ready to go, the pilot came on the speaker and said that we would be delayed from leaving due to weather in the northeast and told us to sit tight. Coach Petrino did not like this and had us all get out and go through another walk-thru in an empty airport hangar. We went over offense, defense, and special teams until they told us we were ready to go. We arrived about five hours later than we were supposed to and still had to bus to our hotel in Piscataway, which is not the most scenic of drives.
Once we got to the hotel, it brought back memories of our 2005 loss to South Florida. The hotel was the exact same one (just different city) as the one we stayed at in Tampa. On the elevator up to our rooms to drop off our bags I remember Gavin Smart saying that this wasn’t a good sign. Our road game routine had been thrown off, and after a quick dinner everyone went to their rooms to get some sleep. I didn’t sleep well, mainly because I was excited about the game and also probably because Dane had been on the phone with some guy in another country ordering the knife that could cut through anything after seeing it on an infomercial. Three weeks later he got this knife and it couldn’t cut through paper.
The next day we went through our routines, but something just didn’t feel right. I don’t know if it was because it was unseasonably warm for November in New Jersey or if it was just the feeling you get sometimes as an athlete. My parents had gotten to the hotel that afternoon and I went to talk to them. I mentioned to my mom that I just didn’t have a good feeling about things, something which she would remind me that I had said the next day. Dane and I spent the rest of the afternoon watching all of the coverage on ESPN. Everyone was talking about the game.
When we got to the stadium you couldn’t help but be excited about the opportunity. The fans were going nuts and it truly was an electric atmosphere for a game. The game couldn’t have started out any better with us jumping out to a 25-7 lead. Then the Scarlet Knights scored right before the half and completely controlled the second half. Just like any sport, from Little League to professional, we could see this game unraveling in front of us.
Jeremy Ito hit the game-winning field goal and it was full pandemonium on the field. Walking off the field it was probably the worst feeling I had ever felt in my football career. There wasn’t much that could be said by Coach Petrino in the locker room and I don’t think there was one word said on that plane trip back because everyone was still trying to comprehend what had just happened. Brian and I got back to our house around the same time about 4 am the next morning. We just sat there on the couch with ESPN on not saying a word. We were still able to win the Big East and went on to win the Orange Bowl in what was still a very fine season. However, I still think that if we win that game we go on to Glendale and beat Ohio State. Given more than a month to prepare, I liked our chances with Bobby Petrino and that coaching staff.
More thoughts from that game:
-You can’t blame William Gay for trying to make a play on the missed field goal attempt by Ito. He had blocked kicks before in his career and you had to assume that, unless it was blocked, Ito was going to make that kick. Therefore you take a shot and try to make a play. The fact that Ito shanked it just magnifies it. He was right next to me in the locker room and if you don’t think players take losses hard you only had to take one look at William Gay to know otherwise.
-I don’t think the distractions on that trip had anything to do with the loss. Our team in 2006 was incredibly focused and the leaders of that team, along with the coaching staff, had us ready to play. We simply got beat in the second half. I am confident that f we played that game nine more times we win those nine games.
We concluded our nightmare season of 2007 with a chance to get revenge against Rutgers. Even though a win would make us bowl eligible, we pretty much knew that there was no way we were going to get to a bowl. Still, it was senior night and a game the seniors wanted to win badly.
It felt weird that week in practice, knowing that we wouldn’t be heading to the postseason. During the day of the game we had a team meeting where each of the seniors got up to say something. Some kept it light, others were serious (mine was a mixture of both), but the best speech came from Brian as he got emotional talking about the importance of owning PJCS. The second best speech came from Todd Flannery. His speech had me wanting to run though a wall to win that game. These were coming from lifelong Louisville fans who were putting on that uniform for the last time.
The game didn’t start out promising, as we were down 21-3 before you could say Ray Rice. Things were not looking good, but then Brian Brohm got some life back in us with a tough touchdown run and then a long touchdown pass to Patrick Carter before halftime. We would dominate the fourth quarter and get back into the game, tying it at 38 after being 18 points down with about seven minutes to go. The defense would come up with a big stop late in the game and give the ball back to our offense with a chance to win it.
Throughout our football careers Brian had never really led a last minute drive to win it, and I had never kicked a game-winning field goal. We had the chance to do it in our last game as Cardinals. Fittingly, Brian hit Harry Douglas for a long gain down the right sideline to set it up for me to win the game. All I remember about that kick was that there was no way I was going to miss it. As the ball sailed through the uprights it helped ease some of the pain from that loss the year before. As I got back to the sideline I found Brian for the all important man hug. When Johnny Patrick tackled Kenny Britt to end it, the fans came rushing onto the field and we went nuts. It wasn’t a huge win for the program, but it meant a lot to the seniors and to celebrate with the great Cardinal fans (the ones that stayed to the end to watch the comeback) was a great way to end the season, even if there was no bowl. I have the ball from that kick, and it is a great reminder of my last game as a cardinal.
--(Editor's Bullet): I'd also like to point out that this was the game where Art set the NCAA record for points by a kicker, evidenced below.
-That game was littered with great plays from freshman that are seniors today. Patrick had that big tackle at the end of the game and Bilal Powell ran for over 90 yards and a TD. Powell and Doug Beaumont also had tackles on special teams that day.
-The Cardinals are 0-2 in Piscataway, with both of those being disappointing losses. There are a lot of seniors on that team who know how to beat Rutgers. Bilal Powell ran for over 90 yards and a TD and Johnny Patrick had that big tackle to end it in 2007. A win not only gets the Cards to a bowl game, but it erases those prior losses. All of the talking heads did not think that this Louisville team would be in the position they are. This team has made me proud to be a Cardinal fan with the way they have fought each minute of this season. After 60 minutes this Friday, they will have earned 60 more. Go Cards!!!
-Also, CardsFan922: I did see you after the game on Saturday and I enjoy your stuff on Card Chronicle. However, you could have at least given me a ride after you saw me walking by myself down the street. I’ll let this one slide, but hopefully next time I can ride with you guys.
(Editor's Note: What. A. Dick.)