If you were on the fence or even staunchly opposed to ending each football season against our rivals from the east, is it safe to assume the debate is over and Saturday was an almost perfect ending to the 2014 season?
The final game of Louisville's season refused to stick to the script, but the Cardinals sent a nasty group of Wildcats back to Lexington with their tails tucked between their legs until 2015. It's basketball season for Kentucky, and Kyle and the Cardinals made sure they won't be Bolin.
Before addressing the game I wanted to discuss our rivals. Whether basketball or football, that was the nastiest group of Kentucky players that have ever taken the field or court against our Louisville Cardinals. Kentucky deliberately tried to pick fights on several occasions and went out of their way to provoke Louisville before the game by interrupting warmups and encroaching on the Louisville side of the field. There were also assistant coaches attempting to physically confront our head coach. Once the game began, there were countless cheap shots on almost every single one of our players, as well as nasty and obscene gestures from their bench towards male and female Cardinal fans in attendance. Also, after the game, almost every UK player left the field without shaking hands with their Cardinal counterparts.
If I was a UK supporter or administrator, thank the heavens I am not, I would be ashamed and embarrassed by my football program and head coach. There is no place in any athletic competition for the behavior displayed Saturday afternoon, and Kentucky's head coach is to blame for encouraging and emphasizing such classless conduct. To Mitch Barnhart and Coach Stoops, I hope you watched the Iron Bowl Saturday night. A fiercer rivalry does not exist in collegiate athletics, but if you watched the game, the coaches were professionals and the amount of sportsmanship displayed on the field between the players was a perfect showcase of championship athletes and programs. Kentucky's slogan for 2014 was change the game. Instead of changing the game Kentucky should grow up and try their best to keep a stronghold on being the third best football program in the state.
As for the game, it wasn't what we wanted, but the better team won and made enough plays to secure a successful 9-3 season. Murray State game aside, almost nothing has gone according to plan in 2014 for the Louisville Cardinals: injuries, miscues, surprising standouts, NCAA records, suspensions, bitter disappointment, a resilient defense, and thrilling victories. Before the season I believed that Louisville would be favored in nine games and underdogs in three. Nine wins was the goal for me personally, expecting the Cardinals to lose a game they weren't supposed to and win at least one they weren't. The Cardinals ended 2014 as the best team on the field in every matchup except one, and posted a feel good 9-3 record. If only Parker was healthy will be the lasting memory from 2014, but if Louisville wins their bowl game it will be hard to complain about another 10 win season.
The Kentucky game was essentially the entire season wrapped up into 60 minutes. The defense was leaned upon and made the plays in crunch time. DeVante Parker reminded everyone that he is the best offensive player to ever don a Cardinal uniform. An unsung hero from Lexington replaced an injured Bonnafon to electrify the Cardinal offense and every fan inside of PJCS. The referees were abysmal. The maddening return of self-inflicted wounds. James Quick had arguably his best game as a Cardinal. The senior wide receivers made the plays we had been expecting all year. Lorenzo Mauldin's elation and happiness on full display from pregame to postgame celebration. Lastly, Gerod Holliman tied the NCAA record for interceptions in a season almost guaranteeing multiple end of year awards.
Louisville and its fans wanted a blowout. Instead, the Cardinals and the Wildcats delivered the most entertaining and exciting game the rivalry has ever seen. Kyle Bolin deserves a bucket full of credit for stepping in and stepping up to energize the stagnant Cardinal offense. Coach Petrino and his notorious preparation should be credited for having Bolin ready to play. Kyle was nearly awesome. He did give UK 14 points, but his poise, energy, and belief in his receivers led Louisville to an all important victory. The competition for the quarterback position for the bowl game and into spring will be fierce. As a Cardinal fan, I will simply sit back and enjoy knowing that our offense is in great hands with Coach Petrino, and either Reggie or Kyle under center.
Congratulations and thank you to the seniors for returning Louisville Football to national prominence. The 2014 season has been a roller coaster ride none of us want to end. The Cardinals have one game left to make a statement against a probable SEC opponent and send our seniors off in winning fashion. The NFL talent that departs this team will have me concerned for 2015, but for now I just want to enjoy watching these kids one last time. Thank you Louisville for a hell of a game, and more importantly, one hell of season. The future is now for Cardinal Football, and the future has never been brighter.
All Hail UofL !!