From the very top row of Clemson Memorial Stadium, a place so far removed from the action that only Lamar Jackson could have hit me with a pass, the Tiger euphoria that erupted when James Quick was marked short of a first down should have left me in a state of dazed depression. Instead, I made the steep climb down the treacherous steps feeling like the Grinch returning Christmas to the citizens of Whoville; my Cardinal heart had grown three sizes that night. Cardinal Football didn't leave Death Valley with the victory they deserved much more than the Tigers, but Louisville did return home as a potential playoff team led by the soon-to-be winner of the Heisman Trophy. Cardinal Football has been granted legitimacy and for the second time this decade showcases a superstar that is the envy of coaches and fans nationwide. Our program has finally ascended to where it belongs, let it never go back.
Oh what a game. If you haven't made the road trip to Clemson, it is a place everyone should go at least once. Most fans appeared to be genuinely nice, however, quite a few came across very fake and Pleasantville-ish. "Welcome to Tiger Town y'all" has been haunting my dreams since Sunday night. When the Cardinals took a 36-28 lead, 99.9% of Clemson supporters wanted Louisville evicted from Tiger Town never to return, but as soon as victory was clinched, many of the Clemson clan thoroughly enjoyed telling me to travel safe. The stadium was booming, the game was electric, and I suppose it is a badge of honor that Clemson supporters professed that was the loudest the stadium had ever been. If you do make the trip, ensure your windows work or you have "bathroom bottles" in your vehicle because traffic afterwards made me miss the circle of champions at Freedom Hall.
As for the game itself, Louisville was the better team, but made too many unforced errors to defeat an experienced team like Clemson on their own turf. Clemson's turnovers were forced, Louisville's were not and crushed all first half momentum. The referees didn't help either. I tend to give the zebras a pass on a few missed calls both ways, but it is impossible to not be upset over the blatant penalties that occurred directly in front of officials that went uncalled. if you don't believe me watch a few replays of Boulware choking and tripping Lamar, the missed holding/pass interference on Staples, the two missed holds on Clemson's kick return in the 4th quarter, and the two uncalled holding/pass interference penalties involving Radcliff and Hikutini on 3rd and 7 on Louisville's final drive. Crowd noise and officiating aside, the Cardinals had the game won and came up a yard short. The James Quick play has been discussed ad nauseam. He thought he had the first down, perhaps he could have cut inside, however, without his play and effort all season/during that game, Louisville isn't the 7th ranked team in the country with a Heisman favorite. Quick is a Cardinal forever.
Can Louisville fans grasp the fact that Lamar Jackson is your 2016 Heisman Trophy winner? 45 days ago, every fan was hoping Jackson had improved enough as a passer to make Louisville a contender. After five games, Lamarvelous (barring injury) is the signed, sealed, and delivered Heisman. His stats are ridiculous and record breaking. His media appeal and attention is unrivaled. Lamar's attitude reveals his humility, and Jackson's leadership is beyond impressive for a 19 year old phenom. Through five games, Action Jackson has placed himself in the conversation as one of, if not the most, impactful football players of the last 20 years. Lamar's numbers, performances, and highlights are standing tall alongside Tebow, Newton, Manziel, Bush, Mariota, Winston, RG3, and Young. Through five games, number eight has more passing yards than Mariota, Winston, Manziel, Griffin, and Newton. He is also obliterating those comparables in both rushing yards and touchdowns. If Jackson played for Alabama, the Crimson Tide faithful would have already started a new religion based on his unchallenged abilities.
Teddy had the personality, ability, and smile to win the Heisman, unfortunately he didn't have the coaches or the schedule. Jackson has the stage, the talent, and the perfect coach to unleash his unrivaled talents. The national championship is still a possibility, but if I told you twenty years ago Louisville would win a Heisman before a title would you have believed me? Keep that boy healthy!
The significance of fielding the best player in the nation gives Louisville a major edge down the home stretch. Louisville has a very good football team and pretty much everyone from the playoff selection committee to your most bitter Kentucky fan concurs. Give a good team the best and most electrifying player in the sport and experience a little preferential treatment from the powers that be. If my memory serves correct, 2004 against Miami was the only other time the Cardinals gained respect and attention following a loss. After putting on a show in Clemson, every pundit and playoff committee member came away even more impressed with Jackson and Louisville. Media members nationwide are rooting for the Lamar show to continue and they're not alone because playoff committee members realize the monetary value of a superstar. If Louisville stays healthy enough and finishes the season 11-1, Lamar will win the Heisman and the Maxwell award, and the powerful will ensure the Cardinals take flight into the playoffs.
Gone are the days of defending Louisville to the outside world. We don't need to fear the boredom of a terrible schedule or being hammered every week due to our "pretender" conference. At long last, Louisville Football has been granted entry and access to the club. Coach Petrino and Lamar aren't tiptoeing around or learning the ropes, their goals are clear and the mission is one championship after another. Louisville football is finally a force to be reckoned with. After decades of hoping, the era of legitimacy has arrived, let it never go back.
All Hail UofL !!