We are officially almost there. After weeks of oppressive heat, it sorta felt like fall this weekend and today. We have sustained our first and hopefully only season-ending injury. Practice has been closed, but @UofLFootball keeps sending out teaser tweets like:
That's all you can say!?!? You can say more than that, broghammer.
This period used to be known as the Dark Side of the Moon, since closed camp meant closed camp. Now NASA can send live pictures from Mars and SIDs can send live tweets from closed practices. We live in an age of wonders.
To quickly recap where the Virtual Cards are, they are 7-1 and 3-0 through their first 8 games with wins over Cincinnati and Pitt, UK and USF. The Cards should be favored in three of the last four games: Temple, @Cuse, UConn and @Rutgers.
That' right - for all the talk of Big East championships and BCS bowls, our final game of the season is on the road against arguably the second best team in the conference. Thursday night. ESPN. Mother of God.
But don't look ahead, three games to go before we get there. And you can look ahead to reading about them.....after the jump.
Game 9 (7-1, 3-0) - Temple @ Louisville
This should be the West Virginia game but West Virgina is a bunch of cotton headed ninny muggins and that's all I have to say about that. So we get Temple, who we actually played at home in 2003 in a game I attended in person and officially was my first UofL game in Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. STRANGE BUT TRUE. Also strange but true, check out the box score. Something about that is very weird to read now.
This one starts off fast: Teddy finds DeVante Parker doing what DeVante Parker does best for 12 yards about halfway through the first quarter. Another TD pass, this time to Eli Rogers (who does needle point when doing what he does best) for 13 yards and a 14-0 lead. Adrian Bushell takes the defensive coaches IRL emphasis on more takeaways to heart and returns an INT 48 yards for a touchdown with just seconds left in the first quarter for a commanding 21-0 lead.
The Tempire strikes back (I'm so sorry) with a 41 yard TD pass with 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, but Bushell returns another INT for a TD, this time 62 yards, and the Cards go into halftime with a 28-7 lead. Harris catches a 15 yarder from Teddy in the third quarter to extend the lead, and the second string gives up a garbage TD late in the 3rd quarter on a 7 yard pass. Harris catches another one in the fourth quarter, this time for 6 yards, and the Cards have an easy win over the Big East's newest member, 41-21.
As can be expected from the score, Louisville dominated the stats, holding Temple to just 9 first downs and 243 total yards while racking up 20 first downs and 472 yards of offense. Bridgewater had himself a game, going 20-31 for 274 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs and a 181.3 passer rating. Will Stein got in the game, going 2-5 and 25 yards. Not much on the ground, but Parker had a huge day, catching 9 balls for 121 yards and the TD and Chris White again broke out for 109 yards on 5 catches, a Mario like 21.8 yards per catch with some good YAC.
In addition to the 2 TAINTs, Bushell had a team-high 5 tackles and actually had a 3rd INT on the day, and 2 deflections. If he were still in the SEC this is where he would become a household name, or at least mentioned on SportsCenter like 60 times, but alas, this only merits a mention towards the last few minutes of College Gameday Scoreboard and the anchor calling him "Aaron Bushel" or something.
I'll get over it. Regardless, with what should be the easiest conference game under their belts, the Cards keep on rolling on their Rampage Revenge tour, next stop: Syracuse.
Game 10 (8-1, 4-0) - Louisville @ Syracuse
We always seem to place close games against Syracuse in the Dome, no matter how good either team is. And Syracuse jumps out on us early, with Ryan Nassib taking the first place from scrimmage 81 yards for a TD run. Eek. Teddy answers back with a 6 yard TD run of his own to tie the score, but the Cuse tack on 3 to end the first quarter up 10-7. The Cards answer back again, with Teddy finding Harris (holding back tears here) for 53 yards, and Adrian Bushell pulls off what has to be the play of the year with a TAINT returned for 23 yards with 4 seconds left on the clock before halftime. And so the Cards take a 20-10 lead into halftime.
The lead is extended and Cards fans start seriously looking at trips to the Orange Bowl as Senorice Perry dives in from 2 yards out for a 27-10 lead to start the 4th quarter. Syracuse gets a garbage TD, this time on a 64 yard run, and we get a field goal late for a final score of
Louisville is again dominate statistically, putting up 450 yards of offense (almost 200 on the ground) against Syracuse's respectable 317 (although like half of that came on those 2 plays). We also held Syracuse to 2-14 on 3rd down, which is obviously pretty awesome, and intercepted 2 passes. Teddy again kept the turnovers off the board, but was not that efficient: 17-42 for 257 yards and 1 TD. Most of the action was on the ground, with Teddy getting credit for 17 rushing attempts for 65 yards and Corvin Lamb leading the way with 16 attempts for 75 yards. Perry had 9 carries for 42 yards and DeVante did what he does second best, taking a Jetsweep for 5 yards, which in terms of Jetsweep is like a 15 yard gain for real plays.
Harris (weeping) led the way with 5 catches for 89 yards. Parker caught 4 for 68 and Eli had 4 for 51. All Chris White does is make big plays: 1 catch but 25 yards worth.
Bushell had both INTs but only a couple tackles, with Dubose and Keith "Don't Make Any More UPS Jokes About Me Please" Brown had 6, including 1 for a loss.
Overall, another relatively easy win. Buzz and excitement are at an all time high, and basketball season starts soon. I love summer and am trying to enjoy the precious present and all, but after writing that sentence, well....I want to go to there.
Let's move on.
Game 11 (9-1, 5-0) - UConn @ Louisville
Connecticut is the worst. Everyone knows this. And for some reason, we seem to own UConn at all of the sports, except for women's basketball and 8-on-5 men's basketball at Madison Square Garden. Football is no different -
even Kragthorpe beat UConn, Charlie Strong and Bobby Petrino have never lost to them, even when UConn went to a BCS Bowl, which, if you remember, totally happened and then they were embarrassed.
This year is no different and this game is over early. Corvin Lamb starts off the scoring with a 3 yard TD jaunt, then gets another one in the 2nd quarter, this time more of a scamper, from 4 yards out. A field goal with 2 minutes left puts us up 17-0 at halftime. This is really happening.
Another field goal, a Perry TD catch from 9 yards (love the screen call Coach Watson) and a Chris White TD pass put the Cards up 34-0 well into the 4th quarter, and only a garbage time UConn TD pass prevents the shutout, and the Cards win 34-7.
You know what goes here: statistical domination, Teddy with a huge day (19-26, 2 TDs, no INTs) and Corvin Lamb with lots of yards and carries, and 4 guys with receptions and lots of yards. Yadda.
The Cards are humming along, winning handily over Big East and future non-Big East opponents, spreading the ball around, playing great defense, Bushell is getting INTs every game. We are now 11-1, 6-0 in the Big East with only a road game at Rutgers standing in our way of a perfect Big East season.
And this doesn't even feel like a dream season. This is what I was worried about. We are winning these games but we are supposed to win them. We are beating mediocre competition, and the loss at UNC is looming large. What if we were undefeated? It all matters, 'cloids. I know we thought it didn't matter when we lost to UNC....but it does. Because if we beat Rutgers.....
Game 12 (10-1, 6-0) - Louisville @ Rutgers
Virtual Rutgers actually does not have as good season as many are predicting in real life, and they come into this game 7-4, 3-3 in Big East play. But this is no easy game: Thursday night on ESPN, the video from 2006 playing over and over again all week during the promos and in our nightmares. I remember numbly going to Kroger to buy something and then watching an episode of 30 Rock trying to make sense of it all. And then going to see Borat the next night and laughing harder than I had ever laughed, and then taking the PR final Saturday morning. Trying to figure out why. And talking about how we would have another chance. But we did not, until this season, although rationally, next season seems like our best chance and the potential to be the most talented team we've ever had at Louisville. Don't leave, Charlie. Stay, Charlie. Please.
I think I just typed the most Louisville football fan paragraph ever?
Anyway, just like last time, things start off well: a Lamb scamper from 4 yards out puts us up 7-0, and Bushell does what Bushell does best and returns a 41-yard INT for a touchdown and the first quarter ends 14-0. People are FREAKING OUT. Freaking out continues as Rutgers strikes back with a 4 yard TD pass of their own, but Eli Rogers takes one to the house from 39 yards out on a Teddy pass and we head to the locker room up 21-7. One more half. This is not the time for anyone to lose their composure.
The third quarter sees both teams fail at moving the ball too much, and people start getting that feeling after Rutgers returns a Teddy INT 41 yards for a TD with 2:59 left in the 3rd Quarter. 21-14 Cardinals, and ESPN manages to get a hologram of Jeff Brohm screaming at Teddy on the sideline. How do they do that kind of stuff, and will ESPN stop at nothing to drag us down?!?!?
With 13:51 left in the 4th quarter, Teddy finds Chris White, who has become a huge asset for the team, for a 35 yard TD pass and a 28-14 lead. Rutgers will not go away, as they put it in from 2 yards out with 2:28 left and a 1-score game. They line up for the on-sides kick, and now visions of Jeremy Ito and visions of West Virginia's illegal onside kick in 2005 and Michael Bush's broken leg and the Atlanta Falcons and Charlie Strong saying "Woo pig sooey" start dancing in our heads. We are freaking out, man. We are freaking out. Man.
Adrian Bushell leaps high and grabs the ball, falls to the ground and southwest.com crashes as Louisville fans rush to buy tickets to Miami. By the time Teddy has taken a knee for the final time in the victory formation, there is weeping and high fives and pants on the ground. Video emerging of Charlie Strong crowd surfing in the locker room becomes the most watched Youtube video in history, or at least my most watched, as I play it on an infinite loop for the next 5 weeks.
Louisville wins 28-21 and finishes the season 11-1 and 7-0 in Big East play. Everyone assumes we are going to the Orange Bowl, but as it turns out, we are headed into the valley of death and are slated to play 10-3 (7-2) #3 LSU in the Sugar Bowl. Does it matter how it turns out? Yes and no. Keep it respectable, we say for the 6 weeks in between the announcement and the game. Play with them, don't get hurt, deep down maybe we think we can win, but I mean, come on. As long as Strong stays to coach this game, we should be good right? Keep it close, maybe even be within a score at the end, and use that to start next season high in the rankings.That seems fair, right? Does it matter if we win or lose?
This is why I had all the disclaimers. Because this simulation seems really, really possible. And that is terrifying. Because anything less and this season will feel like a disappointment, especially with all the external pressures. What if Charlie leaves us during bowl season? What if we don't make a BCS bowl and THEN Charlie leaves? Can the program recover in the new landscape? Or are we always destined to be on the outside looking in?
I wish I had answers. This whole season will be played on the razor's edge, and the future of Louisville football has never been so uncertain. All we can do is charge ahead, into the valley, and not question what will happen in 6 months.
As Orson Welles said, if you want a happy ending, it depends on where you stop the story. So we choose to stop the story of the 2012 Simulated Season right here: the Louisville football Cardinals played hard, went undefeated in the Big East, came within a play or two in one game of going undefeated for the entire season, and gave the fans a season that's glory will not fade for a long time.
Try to enjoy the ride.