As a life long Cards fan I have been trying to find out how it is that my football team is 9-1 but it feels like 2-8. If you were to tell me during the Krag years that in 2013 our team would be 9-1 and heading into the last few weeks of the season, I would be ecstatic. I would absolutely be boiling over with excitement and energy because this would indicate that my Cards are getting it done. Now that 9-1 is the reality, that energy and excitement I should be feeling has instead been exchanged for a feeling of disappointment. As I rack my brain and try to figure out how this can be, I guess the best place to start is 2012.
During the 2012 season there was plenty of excitement for the football team but expectations were that we could win enough to possibly win the Big East and get the coveted BCS bowl. The team was young and still had plenty to prove so we were expecting them to continue to improve as the year went on. There were moments where the team showed huge potential but never seemed to be able to reach it. Set backs against teams like UCONN and who could forget how Syracuse just flat out beat our asses. These losses came at times when the team should have been on the improve so it left many of us Cards fans scratching our heads. Luckily we were able to squeak into the BCS game. Then it happened.
The IT I am referring to is the spanking we dished out on Florida. It was a magical night where the Cards fans finally got to see this team reach it's potential. Everything we have been waiting for this team to do, they did. They were faster and stronger and simply better than one of the best SEC teams that very well could have played in the National Championship. In the weeks that followed I remember thinking how great the team would be in 2013. With the talent coming in and an experienced team that just beat the brakes off the Florida team, there was reason to believe this team had National Championship potential. The hype meter could not have been built up any higher. Every report of how good and fast we looked in scrimmages and practices and all the hype was easy to buy into especially since we were in the AAC. We were built to totally just romp all over any and everyone of these teams.
We played OHIO in the opener a team some thought would give us problems. We went out and just destroyed them. Nobody in the Cards camp could have imagined that we peaked in that game. We actually reached our full potential. We looked just like we did when we put on a clinic against Florida. We have not looked the same since then except maybe FIU. We have actually looked more like the first Krag team with a much better defense. I think as Cards fans we wanted to see a fun team. A team that could just line up and impose it's will on you. We wanted to see the team be explosive because we have the players to do it. We were all salivating to see this team put on a show and make a name for itself and be in the National Championship discussion.
Sure our schedule wasn't going to help us but an exciting offense and some very decisive wins would have been hard for the pundits to ignore. We were absolutely poised to get it done. Instead what we got was a boring brand of offense. A Heisman QB that isn't being used correctly. Name one team with a Heisman caliber QB that isn't passing the hell out of it and looking really good doing it against much better competition. Why do I watch Florida State play and say damn I wish we could run our offense like that? What is sad is I think our offense has better talent than Florida State. We could and should look better than they do. Instead we are ultra conservative and only go vertical when the games on the line and not because it's part of our game plan. Our Heisman QB shouldn't have to try to win games in heroic fashion against teams like UCF because we waited until the end of the game to start playing to our strengths. I shouldn't be able to predict what we are doing on offense. How many times can we go 3 and out against inferior talent? How many times can we run up the middle on 2 and long? How many times can we run a screen pass that never gets us more than 2 yards? Why have all that speed at receiver but rely on jump ball throws in the corner of the end zone as the only way to score? Without Parker what is our record? Why doesn't the ball get spread around more often? Sure the Offense line isn't that great but when we are so predictable it only makes it more difficult. When your opponent knows when you are running and when you are throwing, it's pretty easy to defend. First down run for no gain. Second Down screen pass for 2 yard loss. 3rd down sack. It looks like that far too often.
One of the biggest reasons why this 9-1 feels like 2-8 is because we realize that we just watched one of the best QB's in school history get slowed down due to inept play calling. This was supposed to be the year of excitement. The year we broke NCAA records, the year we put the program even further on the map and truly began to build upon the legacy of Cards Football. Instead we limped along, played conservative and for the most part disappeared in the national discussion. If we couldn't do it with Teddy what makes us optimistic that we will with Gardner? This was the year, we enter the ACC next year and have to deal with Clemson and Florida State year in and year out. We may not in a very long time get a chance to be in the position we were in to begin 2013. This is why 9-1 feels like 2-8. This is why the Cards fans still look disappointed even when we win. We have to come to terms that this was the "Greatest Season That Never Was". With everything in our favor to start the year it's unimaginable that we wouldn't even make the BCS bowl. So a season where National Championship was the talk and BCS was basically guaranteed being 9-1 heading into the last few weeks of the season is rather painful because even our BCS hopes are slipping away.
At the end of it all we have to say goodbye to Teddy and some of the other players we have come to love and not help but feel disappointed because we know the potential they had and never really were able to realize. I love Charlie, I love my city and I love this team and these amazing fans. Hopefully we can get this thing figured out, I really hate writing that because I came away from Sugar Bowl 2013 thinking that we had.