I had finished about 3/4 of what I wanted to accomplish tonight before Firefox inexplicably crashed (twice) and I lost it all, so it appears you'll be getting an abridged summary this week. I can't remember exactly what I said, but just know that it trumped anything Joyce ever dreamt of writing. Apologies.
The main thing we need to take away from this game is simple: the team got a win it desperately needed. No one with two eyes and a football IQ above four (again, football IQ works on a 1-10 scale) could argue with a straight face that the ship was righted this weekend, but the fact remains that our coaches and our players needed a win and they got one.
AND, they did it with defense. N.C. State is not a good football team, there's no way around it, but their offense is certainly better than the one that hung 38 on the Cards inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium two Saturdays ago, and holding the Pack to 10 points and 85 yards rushing says something...not a lot, but something.
Obviously this was far from Brian's best effort, but he did outperform BC's Matt Ryan against a pretty stout secondary, and he did so without Harry Douglas, whose services were sorely missed. I still don't think that outsiders understand just how good Douglas is, and sadly they're probably not going to unless Louisville can run the table and get back on the national scene.
Speaking of Harry, how cool was it to see him consistently being the first guy on the field to greet his teammates as they headed for the sidelines. Eighty-five is the epitome of what a Cardinal football player should strive to be.
It's been discussed ad nauseam by now, but that may very well have been the worst coverage of any sporting event I've ever witnessed. The producer being an absolute fat ass is the only possible explanation for the insane amount of coverage that was devoted to food. And then you also had the refusal to cut away from an Army/Temple game that was well in hand, the announcers being consistently wrong for over three hours, and the unbearably constant stream of information-less sideline reports/shots of the booth for no reason/break-ins to update other games. It was just awful.
That said, the play of the game had to have been Melissa Knowles taking off her jacket. If that wasn't it, then it was her riveting report on the fluctuating emotions on the NC State sidelines which was accompanied by a shot of a Wolfpack player sitting on the bench and blatantly yawning.
Johnny Patrick...yes. I LOVED seeing the Florida freshman get the start at right corner, and thought he played tremendously before going down with an injury in the second quarter. Woodny Turenne took JP's place and was, again, surprisingly less than stellar. I have no idea why things still aren't clicking for Woodny, he certainly appears to be putting out the effort, but something just isn't working.
Patrick got the start on Saturday in part because of the move to safety by Bobby Buchanan. He missed a tackle that allowed NC State to convert on a third down during their first drive, but other than that I thought Bobby looked sharp at the position it seems he'll be spending the remainder of the season.
Also, I think we all realized how much we missed Jon Russell against Syracuse. Russell isn't the most physically gifted kid on the team, but he always seems to be in the right place, and a safety being in the right place would have gone a long way two Saturdays ago.
Each Cardinal defensive back has sort of been lumped into one giant joke the past couple of weeks, and that's a shame because Rod Council is really putting together a fine season. He did have several balls caught on him against Kentucky, but that was mainly because Kragthorpe and Cassity's stated M.O. heading into the game was to deny the big play. Other than that Rod has been stellar all year, culminating in a great performance Saturday.
I thought I had unknowingly changed the channel when I saw a Louisville cornerback actually jump a route for an interception. His solid play along with his admirable leadership in the face of harsh criticism make Rod one of the players who will be most responsible for the positives that occur during the rest of this season.
Earl Heyman getting more pressure on the quarterback in one quarter than any of our ends have all season says to me that his move to the position needs to be a permanent one. No one's sure when peanut Whitehead is going to be available, Maurice Mitchell didn't dress for some reason, Brandon Cox was nonexistent yet again, and the complete disappearance of Michael Adams remains a mystery, so it looks like the DE combo of Heyman and Rodney Gnat may be here to stay.
Heyman's move opened up the door for the non-dismissed Willie Williams' first career start, and he responded by pressuring the quarterback on multiple occasions and recording a pair of tackles. The initialed sophomore duo of L.D. Scott and L.T. Walker also proved they're still up to the task when they saw siginificant playing time after Adrian Grady left the game early in the second quarter (my God what a hit).
The return of the jet sweep, hoorah! Spillman took both sweeps for over ten yards and first downs. Good to see the play back and looking every bit as gorgeous as the first day I saw it in spring practice.
It was good to see Scott Long get the start, but I was surprised and disappointed that he ended up being such a non-factor. He didn't fight nearly hard enough to get to the one deep ball that was thrown his way, and I was happy to see Kragthorpe get on him because of it (although Scott didn't seem to pay the coach much mind).
Speaking of the newfound Kragthorpe fire, I think I speak for all of us when I say I dug it. Of course most of it came after he felt he had been wrongly charged with challenging that NC State had too many men on the field during a kick return (they had 11), but still...get 'em Steve.
Just in case you weren't aware, the score of our games when Brock Bolen - who was injured on the first drive of the MTSU game - is playing is 102-29, and when he's not playing it's 127-120.
That drunk purchase of 40 Fiesta Bowl tickets is looking pretty smart these days.
Joe Tronzo is an absolute blocking machine, and seeing him do his thing on Saturday makes me wonder again why we didn't see him more against Kentucky and Syracuse. They seem to only use him as the lead blocker when Brock moves to tailback, which is fine when Brock's healthy and can play fullback too, but Anthony Allen and George Stripling needed a lead blocker these past two weeks and for whatever reason weren't provided one.
NC State's rush defense has been bad all season, so it wasn't that mush of a surprise to see us go for almost 250 on the ground. Still, kudos to Tronzo and the O-line for opening holes the least athletic user on this site (Blocky) could have ran through.
Random observation, but has anyone noticed how Trent Guy always catches punts with only his hands as opposed to trapping the ball or cradling it like most return guys? It reminds me of watching Andruw Jones catch a lazy fly ball in that both never cease in making me nervous.
It was awesome to see and hear such a large contingency of Cardinal fans make the trip down to Raleigh, especially after a week in which they were put on blast nearly as much as the team.
Lamar Myles continues to be an absolute beast in the middle for this defense. The past three weeks this guy has completely given his body up and flown around the field for four quarters. He's led the team in tackles in each of the last four games.
Trent Guy and Pat Carter both courageously went over the middle to make catches on Saturday. I was very impressed with each, but just a little bit more with the guy (pun totally intended) who did it with one hand.
Great to see Preston Smith notching a pair of sacks, not just because Preston needed the confidence but because it means that we were bringing heat with our linebackers. The blitzing was beautiful and I think it looks like we're finally realizing that even when you don't pull someone down behind the line of scrimmage, pressure = bad decisions by the quarterback, and bad decisions by the quarterback = less points for the opposing team. I majored in like quantum physics, so don't even bother trying to check if the equations are correct.
Art Carmody: still the coolest human being alive as of Oct. 1, 2007. His efforts to eradicate the "Predicted Player of the Game Curse" are also much appreciated.
With all the madness in the top 15, can you imagine how undeservedly high this team would be ranked if they had just found a way to beat Syracuse (which, after this week's debacle in Oxford I'm fully convinced won't win another game this season)? It's one of those things that you know you shouldn't bring up, but you just can't help bitching about.
I think Friday's game is huge on multiple levels. It was almost good for the team to get away after all the adversity back home, but now they'll be playing in front of some still anxious fans against an improving Utah team looking to make a splash on national television for the second time in four weeks. I think you're going to see a crowd come out that desperately wants to be supportive but won't be above voicing their displeasure if the performance on the field isn't up to snuff, and that's scary.
A win would also be a huge momentum boost as the Cards prepare to head to Nippert for a rivalry game against a Cincinnati team that could very well be 6-0 and ranked in the top 15.
The one semi-good thing about losing to Syracuse is that Louisville still basically controls their own destiny in the Big East. Since we know the Orange aren't going to win five (or one) more conference games, that means that if the Cards can somehow find a way to rip off six straight they're assured of going to the BCS, whereas if they'd lost to WVU or South Florida they'd likely need a little help.
It's still longer than a long shot, but crazier things have happened, and don't forget, oh please don't forget...we've got Go Cards Baby! (the exclamation point is a must) on our side now.
Get ready to see this baby on ESPN in December when they do a dramatic six to ten minute special on how Louisville managed to turn this whole thing around.