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Carmody's Corner: On the 2007 Orange Bowl

The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody

First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.  The holiday season got off to a great start with the Cards' 31-28 win over Southern Miss to get the Beef O Brady’s Bowl Game Trophy (which is not a bad looking trophy compared with some of the other bowl trophies)It will look good up in the football complex. 

It is hard to believe that the 2010 season has already come to an end.  It seems like yesterday we were getting excited for pre-season camp and the Kentucky game.  It was a lot of fun watching the bowl game Tuesday night (after the first five minutes or so) as you saw this team doing what it did best this year - keep fighting - in coming back to beat Southern Miss.  The thing I liked most about this win was that the Cardinals played their brand of football for 60 minutes.  They didn’t panic, or try to do too much, they just played the game hard for four quarters.  They found a way to win a close game that they were losing. 

I think that it is a little too early to point to this game as one that we will look back on as a turning point for the future.  I remember people saying the same thing after we came from behind to beat Rutgers in 2007 and we all know how that turned out for the program.   What we can look back on is that Coach Strong and the coaching staff have implemented a system that the players truly believe in.  The importance in this is that now the team can just go play the game and not have to worry about anything else.  They can run around and make plays.  Combine that with another year of Charlie Strong and his staff recruiting and you have a recipe for success. 

-I turned on for the trophy presentation after the game.  Is it just me or did anyone else find it kind of fitting that for the last Louisville football moment of the season we all had to get on the Internet and wait for ESPN3 to load up?  Anyways, I enjoyed watching this team celebrate the victory.  The joy and satisfaction of winning took me back to the Liberty and Orange Bowl (see below) post-game trophy presentations.  This team deserved that moment. 

-Great job by Justin Burke ending his career with that performance and Bilal Powell with about as good a six yard touchdown run as you can have.  

-The special teams seemed to be hit or miss as a unit throughout the season, but if any unit won the game Tuesday night it was them.  Johnny Patrick blocking the USM field goal attempt, the Cardinals' pressure forcing the long snapper to botch one which turned into points, my man Chris Philpott drilling the go ahead field goal which was the difference in the game, and then beautifully placing the last punt at the one yard line, and of course Jeremy Wright switching the momentum back to the Cardinals' side with an electrifying kickoff return for a touchdown.  Great job all around.

-Congrats to the whole team and especially the seniors.  It was a great season that was capped with a perfect ending.  Best of luck to all of the seniors in all of their future endeavors, and I wish all of the current players a healthy and productive off-season. Looking forward to spring ball. 

2007 Orange Bowl

The 2007 Orange Bowl was the culmination of a great 2006 season.  From the day we were announced to play in the game, the whole team was excited about spending a week down in Miami.  We got to stay at the Trump International Beach Resort right on the beach and it was the finest hotel that I had ever stayed at.  It was a first class experience the entire time.  They even had our team bus decorated so that you knew it was us driving all around Miami. 

-The specialists spent our first practice at Barry University trying to knock down coconuts from the trees (we were on a different practice field shielded from the rest of the team).  The easy part was getting the coconut; the hard part was trying to rip it open.  After about 45 minutes we finally did it and Eddie Webb volunteered to take a drink.   I don’t think we did it right because Eddie took one sip and spit it out, saying it tasted terrible. 

-At one of our practices Paul Gering, an administrative assistant, pulled me aside and told me that he would like me to meet someone.  I walked over to the sidelines and was excited to finally meet the legend that is Howard Schnellenberger.  He was wearing his Dolphins Super Bowl ring and was talking about how much he was looking forward to watching the game against Wake Forest.  I am a big fan of football history and just getting to visit with him for a few moments was great. 

-During one of our team events we were treated to an excellent dinner at Smith and Wollensky’s steakhouse in downtown Miami. It was delicious and everyone was stuffed.  Afterward they took us to South Beach to check out the bar scene.  Now we had curfew set the entire time we were in Miami, so even though we were out at the bars it wasn’t very crowded because nobody goes out at 8:30.  I went to show my ID at the door and the bouncer said, "You aren’t 21 and this is fake."  I was 22 at the time and couldn’t believe it.  Some of my teammates were trying to vouch for me, and to make matters worse there were some younger guys who had fake ID’s that were getting in the bars.  I spent the next two hours hanging out with a lot of the freshmen and the young guys. 

-We would spend most of our days getting up early, having breakfast and meetings, and then heading off to practice.  After practice we would have lunch and then would be free all afternoon to enjoy the sights and sounds of the beach.  The afternoons were spent playing beach volleyball, swimming, pool parties, and riding jet skis.  A lot of the guys were braver than I was and would venture out pretty deep into shark country.  I also remember Rodney Gnat (a freshman at the time with a broken arm in a cast) having one of the trainers wrap his arm in plastic so he could go ride the jet skis.  Looking back on everything, Coach Petrino cancelled meetings during those afternoons almost everyday.  It was a very relaxed attitude, which you never expected with Coach P.  I don’t know when he had spoken with Atlanta or if anything was done before or after the game, but you could make the assumption that he knew he was on his way out and was letting everyone enjoy their time in Miami.  He was laid back. 

-We went to an amusement park another night; they didn’t have any mini-golf, so there would be no rematch with Brian for refrigerator supremacy.  They did, however, have a roller coaster that I probably went on five or six times.  My memory was a little fuzzy on this particular amusement park but Brian remembers there being Go-Karts.  Apparently this was where all the action was.  It like the Daytona 500 with guys bumping and going all out to win.  Anytime you put football players in a competitive situation things get crazy. 

Another event was when they took us to the movies on New Year's Eve.  We went as a team to see the latest Rocky movie.  There was a scene in the movie in which some kids are playing Fight Night on Playstation, which of course started an argument around me.  The argument was who was the best Fight Night player on the team.  Sergio Spencer’s name was thrown around but the argument subsided after everyone told them to shut up. 

-The night before the game we had pizza for snacks and the whole specialists got together to watch the Boise State-Oklahoma game.  As the game went on the rest of the specialists went back to their rooms.  Dane and I thought that since we were playing in a huge game we would get some sleep and besides, there was no way Boise State could hang with Oklahoma, right?   The next morning I woke up, checked my phone, and had text messages from my little brother Aubry telling me how awesome the game was.  I immediately turned on Sportscenter and was mesmerized by the plays that the Broncos had pulled off.   I regretted not watching the end to that game.

-The school did a great job with the bowl gifts.  The school gave us a PSP (Playstation Portable), Madden for the PSP, a pair of adidas running shoes, a sweat suit with the Orange Bowl logo on it that we wore in Miami, a Big East Champions long sleeve shirt, Orange Bowl duffel bag, team plaque, and a ring.  The Orange Bowl gave us a beach towel, beach hat, t-shirt, logo football, a watch, and a portable XM Radio with free 6-month subscription. 

-The hard part about the day of the game was being confined to our hotel rooms in anticipation for the game while everyone else was at the pool and beach.  When we got to the game it was great to see all of the Louisville fans that had made the trip down.  The pre-game was great with Muhammad Ali and Dwayne Wade at midfield, and playing in front of the sold out crowd was electric.  It was a classic offense versus defense showdown with us not really able to get into an offensive rhythm until the fourth quarter.  At one point Coach Petrino went up to Brohm and Cantwell and said, "what is it with you two, you both stink in bowl games."  Hunter turned to Brian and said, "I guess he thinks I didn’t play well last year."  Our defense was tremendous in this game and throughout that entire season.  In a game we felt we were in complete control of, we found ourselves down 13-10 in the fourth quarter.  That is when Brian Brohm and Harry Douglas got into a rhythm and started marching us down the field.  We got the lead back and then pushed it to 24-13 and the defense did the rest.  

-As the clock hit 00:00 there was an amazing amount of joy and celebration on the field.  I have not won and never will win a Super Bowl, but I have to imagine it feels a little bit like winning the Orange Bowl felt that night.   We had accomplished our goal of "finishing" what we had started the year before after losing to Virginia Tech.  That is why on one side of our championship rings from that season it says "FINISHED" to signify the 2006 season.  We all had our Orange Bowl Champion hats and shirts on, and nobody wanted to leave the field.  In the locker room Coach Petrino was pumped about the win and congratulated us on taking the program to another level.  The celebration would continue at our team hotel as we all hung out by the pool and on the beach celebrating our season until the sun came up.  I literally remember going to sleep and the sun starting to come up.  The next morning there was a breakfast and then everyone would either head back to Louisville or back to their hometowns for the remainder of the holiday break.  It was a great experience. 

-We all thought that this would be the first of many BCS bowl games.  For a while it seemed like it was going to be the first and last BCS game for the Cards.  However, I was talking to Chris Philpott on Wednesday and we were talking about how much fun it was to celebrate a bowl victory and he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to celebrate a BCS bowl.  During our conversation I liked what he had to say.  He said, "maybe next year."  It is great to have that feeling again, and you can only sum it up in two words.  Thanks, Charlie.