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Louisville football fans won't have to be patient much longer

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There is nothing sexy about patience. Important? Sure. Everyone has heard that "patience is a virtue," but there are no movies dedicated solely to the act of waiting for something significant to occur, there are no chapters of books written about idle half hours spent in the lobby of a doctor's office.

With that in mind, it's unlikely that there will ever be a ceremony at UofL to honor the 2015 Cardinal football team. There won't be an ESPN "30 for 30" dedicated to them, plaques won't be concocted to recognize their achievements, and blossoming Louisville fans won't look back at the squad one day as their indisputable favorite.

That doesn't mean what Louisville football did in 2015 wasn't important.

In each of Louisville's first three tilts of 2015, the Cardinals had an opportunity to either win the game or force overtime late in the 4th quarter. All three times, UofL came up just short. Being "just a few plays" away from having three wins under their belt did nothing to change the fact that Louisville had started a college football season 0-3 for the first time since 1984.

"I'm certainly uncomfortable being 0-3, it's not something we're used to, it's a new experience," Bobby Petrino said at the time. "I don't think I've ever been 0-3 before. But what I know is, you keep working hard, keep a positive attitude and good things will happen."

For a program loaded with players and coaches unaccustomed to losing, keeping a positive isn't the simple task it appears to be on its surface. Still, there were no reports of in-fighting amongst the coaching staff, no tweets of discontent from the players, and no announcements of any in-season transfers.

Louisville did what it was supposed to do after its schedule eased up. The Cardinals reeled off five wins in six games, a span which included a 20-13 road upset of a then-unbeaten NC State team. The lone October hiccup for UofL came when an uncharacteristically lackluster third quarter doomed them to a 41-21 loss at No. 11 Florida State.

Before the start of this season, 507 FBS teams since 1980 had started a season 0-3. Of those 507 teams, just 21 had wound up accepting bids to bowl games. With a 38-31 win over Virginia on Nov. 14, Louisville became the 22nd ... and with two games to spare. After toppling Kentucky and hoisting the Governor's Cup for a fifth straight year, UofL was rewarded with a trip to Nashville to face Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.

The importance of so-called "middle tier" bowl games could be debated for days on end without any signs of progress. Even so, it's hard to argue against the importance of this year's Music City Bowl as it pertains to Louisville's future.

The Cardinals became the first (and still only) team to topple an SEC West opponent in a bowl game, and they did so in front of 5.4 million television viewers, making the Music City Bowl one of the most-watched sporting events of the holiday season. Those 5.4 million sets of eyes watched Lamar Jackson establish himself as not just the future of Louisville football, but a potential breakout national star in 2016.

On his way to carrying UofL to a 27-21 win over the Aggies, Jackson became just the third quarterback in college football history to throw and run for more than 200 yards in a bowl game. The other two? Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, and Heisman Trophy runner-up Vince Young. Whether or not those same individual (and team) accolades are in Jackson's future are yet to be seen, but his first bowl experience certainly laid the foundation for whatever greatness awaits him in the coming seasons.

It took a month of losing, but patient Louisville football fans finally got to celebrate a string of victories. It took 11 games of going back-and-forth, but patient Louisville football fans finally got their undisputed starting quarterback. It took a full season of ups and downs, but patient Louisville football fans are about to be rewarded with a return to college football's national picture.

A version of this column appears in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune