Now that the college football season is officially over, let’s take a moment to reflect on the season that was. While most have long turned the page to focus on our beloved Cardinal basketball team, I’m still having a difficult time trying to swallow the last performance I witnessed from our 2014 Cardinal Footballers (What, no one calls them that?). While we can second guess coaching decisions, yell about bad spots and penalties or even groan about some of the play calling, truth of the matter is that Georgia was better prepared to play that night. Why? I have no idea, but it still leaves me with a feeling of disappointment, and to be honest that simply isn't fair. My expectations were met, we accomplished what I thought we could, if not more, we had a hell of a season year one in a much more competitive conference, racked up nine wins and enjoyed victories over in state rival Kentucky and a little school up the road called Notre Dame. Not bad for a “commuter school” folks. Not bad at all.
If you've followed the countdown over the last few years I’m usually a pretty optimistic guy with what I would consider realistic expectations on a game to game basis as well as my projections on the season overall. During the countdown I made numerous statements or opinions about who I thought might start at a certain position or who might step up as the season wore on, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of those prognostications was 100% accurate. (Don’t worry about going back to look them up, just take my word on it). About a week before the season I did go out on a limb and make four bold statements that I planned to rub in the faces of everyone around me if they held true. So let’s recap the two I got correct….and quickly gloss over the two I completely missed.
- I pegged Eli Rogers as the new #1 receiver when the news of DeVante going down was released. At the time James Quick was a hot name in the receiving core as well as De La Cruz, Milton and even the freshman Bagley, but I felt like Gardner had some chemistry with Eli and the Senior would step up to make big plays when called upon. I also liked the fact that he would be in the slot fairly frequently and would provide a solid check down option for an inexperienced quarterback. Even with a late surge from Parker, Rogers did in fact finish the season as the leading receiver (45 receptions) and finished 3rd in yardage behind Quick and Parker.
- From spring practice to coach’s interview, etc I got a feeling that Reggie would be involved in the offense a decent amount this season, even back when we thought Will was at 100%. I said Reggie would finish in the Top 5 on the team for All-purpose yardage and I guess I sort of “lucked out” with Will getting injured as Reggie easily finished second on the team with 1028 yards. We relied on Reggie this year even more than I anticipated, but unfortunately it was out of necessity and not creativity. Will finished as the leader (1563) of the pack in All-purposes yardage with Parker in third (855) even though he only saw action in seven games. That guy…he good.
See, what had happened was…
- I had a hunch that Lamb/Quick/etc would have four or more return touchdowns this year on kickoffs and punts. I liked the speed we had, and it seemed like the boys were just itching to bust one open. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with Special Teams under Charlie and thought Tony Grantham would utilize our talent much better. I got to tell you, I felt pretty damn good about myself when Lamb took one to the house opening night. Then we waited, and waited, and waited some more. Unless I’m forgetting one, I don’t think we got close to even sniffing another TD the rest of the year in the return game. Our punt return average wound up at 70th nationally and our kick return average didn't fare much better at 61st. No denying I missed the mark….should have known special teams would screw me over again.
[Petrino sees Tony Grantham (special teams coach) walking onto campus with Todd.] "Why's he here?" "Sorry Bobby, my mom made me bring him"— CardinalStrong (@CardinaIStrong) September 20, 2014
- The last large scale predication I made was that the Cards would steal 2 of the 3 “big games” on our schedule and drop one we shouldn't. While one could argue I was pretty freakin’ close on this one, I’ll still take the heat. We got the win at Notre Dame and of course the head scratcher at Virginia, so one freaking play at Clemson and I’m a damn genius…instead I’m just writing a blog post on Tuesday afternoon. The Clemson loss will sting for awhile since the defense played SO WELL and our offense played SO BAD, yet we were still just one play away from walking out of Memorial Stadium with a ‘W’. Florida St stings as well, giving up a 21 point lead will tend to do that, but in my opinion they just had too many athletes and their depth beat us up in the 4th quarter. I would have loved to get the victory, but we weren't ready to play 60 minutes with them this year.
Losing half our starters on defense next year will be tough, and not knowing who our starting quarterback is will be exciting, but I’m still fighting off the challenge to turn the page to 2015. Often the expectations of a new journey such as this year seem to far outweigh the reality when it all finally falls into place. This season though, I can say honestly say that I couldn't have possibly enjoyed it anymore. Sure, a couple more wins would be great, but outside of the record books the experience was something that I’ll long remember. Looking back years from now trips to Clemson or Notre Dame may not feel special, but today they do. Today they feel like we’re finally part of something bigger than we have ever been. I like where we sit today in the landscape of college football, but I like where we’re heading even more.
234 Days until kickoff.