Is how this column and other national columns would read had things ended differently yesterday. Other potential headlines: "How to turn a Cardinal into a Phoenix" or "Kragthorpe's hot seat fires up the Cards for a victory."
But alas, the headlines will likely refer to key turnovers and how UK is now 3-0 in the Kragthorpe era - the anti-Petrino. They will take shots at Kragthorpe's playcalling but sneak a note in there about how the Cards showed some improvement over the opener against ISU.
Circumstance, as it happens, appears to be both the nemesis of yesterday's outcome as well as the hobgoblin of Steve Kragthorpe's current state of affairs. Yesterday's loss is still a +1 in the loss column, making it a total of three losses to UK and pushing them one game further from bowl contention. The not-so-secret keys to keeping his job: wins against rivals and bowl games. The Kragthorpe era is now 0 for infinity in those aspects. But there was one caveat to all this: improvement.
If Tom Jurich and the fan base were looking for improvement, they got it. But as my friend Brian put it so eloquently, "If there's one thing I hate, it's a moral victory." As I see it, this moral victory could be the tipping point for the Kragthorpe era. This game had three potential outcomes: 1) Louisville loses looking like a lame duck, Kragthorpe watch officially goes from "Hottest seat in America" to "We've gone plaid", 2) Louisville makes it competitive, showing much-needed improvement and assuaging the beleaguered fan base for another week, or 3) Louisville turns the corner and stuns the Cats at Commonwealth. Most people expected the outcome to be worse than #1. This fell somewhere in between # 2 and # 3.
Let's face it people, that's the best these Cards have looked in a long time. For the most part, the things that we said needed to happen, happened. The keys to victory were there. Vic Anderson had a good game on the ground. (110 yards on 19 carries, 1 TD). The defense contained the Cats and created turnovers (Hartline apparently had money on the Cards against the spread) while Trent Guy had some big returns (5 for 170 yards, long of 60) leading to great field position, Justin Burke looked like the quarterback of the future- making plays with his feet, hitting Trent Guy in stride on a bomb. They committed fewer penalties than the Cats. The circumstances were there for a magical upset, but a few key plays shot down those dreams like Snoopy versus the Red Baron.
Both on the field and in the presser following the game, Steve Kragthorpe was fired up. You could tell he wanted to run right back out on the field and play best 2 out of 3. SK quotes out of context: "That guy's a stud. That guy's a freaking stud" in reference to Trent Guy's game. "We were going after his ass!" in reference to the intimidating Trevard Lindley. "Next freakin' question, you're wrong!" in response to a reporter's ill-willed question. SK is fired up about this team. This is the kind of fire I have wanted to see from our coach since day one, not just some stupid Kragisms and coach-speak to fill the newspapers, but a true desire to win.
Obviously what this game must do now is fire up this team and its fan base to take on the perennial Mountain West powerhouse Utah Utes (who lost to Oregon last night now blowing our chance at disrupting the nation's longest winning streak) and then the fighting Wannstaches at home. They could potentially come out 3-1 and suddenly be in the running for the Big East title, or they could fall victim to their predetermined fate, leaving them at 1-3: right where they were pegged from the preseason predictions.