The 2012 Louisville Cardinals will take the field inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium one final time on Saturday, and the stakes are going to be very high. You should be there.
Let's go back in time for a second to mid-July, 2012.
It was a simpler time, a time without Louisville athletics or any conference realignment news of note. It was also a time when any one of us would have given our right pinky for a nice tailgate and a few hours of Louisville football.
Let's try and keep that mindset for the next 20 hours or so, and remember that after tomorrow afternoon there won't be Cardinal football inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for about nine moths. I know it's going to be cold, I know it's Thanksgiving weekend and I know Connecticut isn't the sexiest of opponents, but this is a big, big day for U of L football, and one that demands your presence (if you have the means) and your enthusiasm.
Let's examine why...
--For Louisville, this is a de facto Big East championship semifinal game. Win, and in five days you get a shot at the crown and a spot in the BCS. Lose, and suddenly all of your major season goals are out the window. High stakes to say the least.
--This will be the last home game for a group of players who have been here for one of the most noteworthy stretches in the history of Cardinal football. They experienced the lowest of the low (in terms of both on-field performance and overall climate of the program) in Steve Kragthorpe's final season, then played an integral role in the transition to the Charlie Strong era, and now are on the verge of the being the leaders of the team that took Louisville back to the BCS.
--Though small in numbers, this is a pretty important senior class. You have one of the best offensive linemen in recent memory in Mario Benavides, one of the best former walk-ons in recent memory in Alex Kupper, a tremendous leader and captain in Will Stein, a crucial transfer in Adrian Bushell, a guy who has been a tireless worker despite some hard luck in Nate Nord, and two members of one of the best receiving corps in U of L history in Andrell Smith and Scott Radcliff. The contributions of those guys as well as Daniel Brown, Bo Eggers, Stephen Goodwin, Nick Heuser, DeMarcus Topp and Chris Zell all demand your appreciation.
--If you haven't heard, we're competing with Connecticut in a pretty important off-the-field competition as well. Packing the stadium and cheering as the Huskies are defeated would be a nice statement, and every nice statement helps.
--Larry Taylor. Connecticut has broken our hearts far too many times to take this game lightly.
--Louisville has only been 9-1 two other times...ever. Why wouldn't you want to see this team one last time? This is history.
--If Louisville wins tomorrow and then wins on Thursday to clinch a spot in the BCS, there are going to be a lot people throwing "Card Nation" around pretty liberally on Twitter and the like who really won't deserve to claim that affiliation. Inside they'll know it. Avoid letting a friend or loved one be one of these people, and drag them to the game if you have to.
Go Louisville, beat UConn.