Louisville improved to 7-0 with a heart-stopping 27-25 win over South Florida on Saturday. Here's your heart-stopping recap.
I struggled mightily with how to begin this post, and I suppose that's appropriate since this is probably the strangest good U of L sports team I've ever followed.
Just when you think they're going to give you a big-time pleasant surprise, they don't. And then then just when you think they're going to give you a big-time surprise disappointment, they don't.
This is the in-game progression I think we've all grown accustomed to:
1. Solid start. Team looks prepared and fired up. Let's do this.
2. All right, this is going to be a battle, but we kind of figured that going in.
3. All right, complete control. Now let's go ahead and make this thing look really pretty for the rest of the country.
4. No, no, no, no. Holy sh-t, hol sh-t, holy sh-t.
5. Ok, thank God. Survive and advance, baby.
Collectively, Louisville fans have probably uttered something about "lessons learned" five billion times this season, but I think it's time to accept the fact that this is simply a team that is as young as it is talented. That being the case, instances of extended consistency, either good or bad, are likely going to be few and far between. It's a team that, really for the past six weeks, has answered the bell when the game's been on the line, but not when it's had an opportunity to bury an opponent.
Common thinking would tell you that if that hasn't changed after almost 2/3 of a season then it's probably not going to, but who knows. It's a recipe that hasn't produced a bad meal yet, so I'm all for it.
The biggest exception to any discussion about immaturity or lack of consistency on the Louisville football team is obviously the guy who plays quarterback.
This may have been the best overall game that Teddy Bridgewater has played in a Cardinal uniform, and I don't think there's any question that it was the best example of just how special a player he is. Not once during the past five years (and that includes last season) would I have been the least bit confident about Louisville's chances to win a game where it trailed by four with three minutes to play and had to drive 75 yards.
Things are different now, and Teddy is the biggest reason why. When he's checking at the line, you know he's making the right call. When he's scrambling outside the pocket, you know he's going to make the right decision. When there's an open man downfield and he has time to throw, you know he's going to drill him.
Every second we have with No. 5 at the helm our offense is one that should be celebrated.
Kudos to the camera guy at PJCS for the slow zoom-in shot of Teddy while he was sitting on the bench before the last USF kickoff. Really captured the moment.
Even though there were a few more empty seats during the opening moments of the third quarter than most of us would have liked, I thought the fans did a really good job of bringing it when they had to. It was definitely one of the noisier fourth quarters I've experienced at PJCS.
I've also never been around a group of people more excited about a two-point victory over a (now) 2-5 team, but the enthusiasm was justified. When USF scored the go-ahead touchdown, I think it was the first time that Louisville fans saw the end of their perfect as season as probable and not just possible. You're going to be pretty excited when you're rescued from a mental state as uncomfortable as that one, and I was definitely as amped up as anyone.
I'm going to go ahead and dedicate that goalline stand to South Florida offensive tackle Darrell Williams, who taunted the Louisville fans as much as any player I've ever seen after it looked like the Bulls scored on first down. He was sad when he walked off the field three plays later.
That was a very, very cool sequence of events.
On the other end of the spectrum, I'm going to have to give the stadium music person a D minus for their performance yesterday. The place was really loud after the gaolline stand and ready to go absolutely nuts with a "Sandstorm" or similar song selection. Instead, there was about a 20 second pause before "Seven Nation Army" came on and completely mellowed the scene. "Sandstorm" did make an appearance...after South Florida's go-ahead touchdown score.
The only reason the DJ isn't getting a straight F is because of the "We Ready" play before the last kickoff. Always the right call in that situation.
Nice to see Sammy Hagar both supporting Corvin Lamb and being stalked by a young Chronicloid.
Also, a tip of the cap to Haley O'Shaughnessy for climbing through two sections and getting nachos spilled on her in order to get this keepsake:
Totally worth it.
We've voiced the complaint here before - most notably after the Belk Bowl last year - but can we please, please, please run something, ANYTHING, other than a basic run up the gut on 3rd or 4th and 1? I know this coaching staff is big on toughness, but it's not about toughness when the defense is 99% sure of the play you're going to run, it's about numbers. Nine against seven is not a good matchup for even the biggest and baddest offensive line.
Even when Louisville has converted on these plays over the past three years, it's usually taken an extreme individual effort (think Dom Brown against WVU last year) or a little bit of luck. It's been a consistent issue and it really hurt us again multiple times yesterday.
Teddy is so good, you guys.
If we ever have a third and more than six from out of our own endzone, I'd say a pass up the sideline to Damian Copeland would be a good play call. Just like against Kentucky it was a tremendous throw by Teddy and a sensational catch by Honey Mustard, who had a terrific all-around game.
I'm not going to go so far as to say I like him (because I still think the position is unnecessary to start with), but I actually didn't mind the "fan emcee" they used yesterday. He kept it cool and simple, and that's really all you can ask for.
If you think you're going to beat Titus Teague to the sidelines on a kick return, you're about to be proven really f---ing wrong.
Came realllyyy close to breaking out the poncho on yesterday. Dying for an excuse.
I'm not sure what Andrew Johnson's issue is, but he needs to get it resolved so he can back onto the field as soon as possible.
Stephan Robinson played extremely hard, but he was looking a bit overmatched out there even before he was beaten for those pair of touchdowns.
This defense definitely needs The President.
We talked last week about how Lorenzo Mauldin's performance against Pitt might have been the start of him emerging as a big-time threat off the edge. Well, I'd say that's a statement which is ringing even more true after yesterday. Lozo looked absolutely unblockable for the bulk of the afternoon and ended up spending about as much time in the USF backfield as B.J. Daniels.
Not to be outdone, it was also a solid day for fellow end Marcus Smith, who had a big sack and an equally big knockdown of a pass.
While Louisville's pass pressure off the edge was fantastic, the Cards obviously had a much more difficult time slowing down the Bulls' ground game. Lindsey Lamar scampered for 110 yards on just 15 carries, and USF as a team rumbled for 197 yards on the ground.
I thought it was interesting to see the Cards have more success against the run when they went with three down linemen (which they did at the end of the game) and had their linebackers step up to plug the holes. A lot of that was also because of Brandon Dunn getting hurt during the goalline stand in the third quarter.
This is the third straight game where the Cards have struggled to slow down a shotgun-based rushing attack. Not sure what the solution is, but obviously it needs to get better.
It's still going to be quite the atmosphere...but dammit, Cincinnati. That's exactly what ESPN wanted you to do.
Even though the bulk of them came further downfield than any of us would have liked, hats off to Preston Brown on his 17 tackle performance. His brute strength was readily apparent when he single-handedly made a big play on a USF shovel pass in the third quarter.
A lot of folks were upset about his 3rd and 20 holding penalty on the last drive of the game, but it appeared to be the right call. Whether it was intentional or not it was a good play by Preston, because if he doesn't grab that guy then that's going to be a big, big play.
Jamon Brown going above and beyond to support Breast Cancer awareness .
Our special teams are bad. I don't think that's breaking news to anyone reading this, but they are.
Joshua Appleby got the call on kickoffs this week and did not look any better than John Wallace has. Wallace had been low on extra points all day, and the one he had blocked could have easily cost us the game. Ryan Johnson probably had his worst overall game of the season, and his worst punt of the year could not have come at a worse time. Our kick coverage is shaky at best, and there's really no excitement in either of our return games. That's fine with punts, just retain possession, but you'd like to have a kickoff return game that at least shows some sign of being able to bust a big one every now and then. Everyone likes to bust a big one every now and then. I'm sorry, that was inappropriate. If I had a delete key I'd use it.
I'm not really sure how to accurately describe the move I did after we scored our last touchdown, but I wish I had it on tape. I put my right foot up on the seat in front of me, then did a mini-jump with half-turn that turned right into a high-five. Wasn't even planned.
Even with the obvious choices considered, I think the biggest play of the game might have been Teddy's 16-yard completion to Jeremy Wright on 3rd and 10 during Louisville's last drive. The Cards had just picked up a false start penalty that had halted momentum, and enough time had come off the clock that U of L knew it probably wasn't going to get the ball back if they didn't score. Teddy made the right read after seeing no one open downfield, and Jeremy did a great job of immediately turning up field to pick up the first down and a little extra.
Nerves are always going to be a factor on 4th down plays where the game is on the line, so being able to avoid them is a pretty big deal.
Still can't get over how bad the pass interference call on Adrian Bushell was. First of all it wasn't pass interference, and second of all the ball was clearly uncatchable.
I didn't think the personal foul call on Teddy during the last drive was right (don't shoot me), but they owed us that one and then some for missing the late hit on Ted in the first half, Bushell's PI call, and that absurd personal foul on Jermaine Reve.
Also, five yards for the quarterback simulating a snap with his hands? I'm not debating the validity of the rule, I've just never seen it called before. And if it is a valid rule, then it's a really stupid one. Quarterbacks under center use hard cadence and aggressive body language all the time with the sole purpose of attempting to draw the defense offsides. If that isn't illegal then there's no reason what Teddy did (and what I've seen just about every spread QB do this season) should be.
Speaking of which, Reve played a really good game, as did (as has come to be expected) Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor.
No idea why those people at halftime came out on Gators.
Kind of figured that this was the year the streak of Louisville athletes winning Homecoming King came to an end. Although on the other side of things, it was U of L soccer standout Angelika Uremovich who claimed the crown. Congrats to both she and King Jeremy Bozarth on the beginning of their reigns.
Despite his defeat, Sunny Will Stein was EXTREMELY fired up before, after and during the game. Couldn't love the guy more.
It appears Honey Mustard's mom is just as cool as Honey Mustard.
I really don't ever want this season to end.
I was feeling all cocky after the game about my pregame Eli Rogers shoutout until I remembered my bold prediction about us returning a punt at least 40 yards. We didn't return a punt one yard.
We took the postgame party to El Tarasco in St. Matthews where a youngster by the name of Fernando wowed the crowd with crazy jump kicks and red pants.
This blurry picture is the only known evidence of his existence:
Rest easy, tiny hero, the Cardinals are still unbeaten.
Kentucky being eliminated from bowl contention happened before Louisville's first loss. Yes, I'm enjoying this season.
Loved that the staff put DeVante Parker back deep on the last play of the game. When you have a guy with that combination of height and jumping ability, it makes a lot of sense.
U of L had a guy play yesterday whose name is Nacho Garcia. Just another thing we've got going for us.
Crazy excited about this week, crazy excited about this game and crazy excited about this season.
That Keg is long overdue for a trip back home. Beat Cincinnati.