Before we get to Reggie Bonnafon and Malik Williams and the shutdown defense and the ascending offensive line and that guy who plays quarterback, let's give credit to the entirety of University of Louisville football for staying resolute, focused and committed after a midseason malaise.
It is not uncommon in the world of college pigskin for teams with high expectations that suffer early adversity to simply start mailing it in as a season winds down.
In a precarious position with the campaign on the brink, the Cardinals did just the opposite.
After disappointing Ls to Wake Forest, NC State and BC, U of L kept grinding. Of course, UVa and Syracuse weren't as competitive, but that's not the point. Which is that the Cards returned to playing to their capabilities.
Hats off to the squad and Bobby Petrino and his staff for staying the course. It's never a given.
* * * * *
Since it is assumed that Lamar Jackson has played his last game at Papa J's, the Red & Black Faithful are conscious of and savoring how blessed they have been to cheer on such a transcendent talent, the school's first Heisman winner.
When I posited last week that LJ is the greatest athlete ever to wear a Cardinal uni in any sport, many, most agreed. To leapfrog the likes of Darrell Griffith etc. at a basketball school in the minds of fans is an incredible feat.
What is astonishing is that just a few years ago I wrote the same thing about another Cardinal QB -- that he was the GOAT -- and the proclamation was also met with knowing nods.
Teddy Bridgewater, who played hurt, and always showed up when the game was on the line, has the most Top 5 Ws for a U of L signal caller, lowest career interception percentage record and the highest career completion percentage.
For his unassuming moxie, and his willingness to enter the fray despite injuries, he was beloved. Fans named their dogs after Teddy B.
We figured we'd never see his likes again.
Then came Lamar Jackson. I recall the gleam in Bobby Petrino's eyes when he talked about LJ before he'd ever played a snap and the fans hadn't a clue what was in store.
Two top shelf quarterbacks, two top shelf people, two bright stars in a row.
Take a moment here and thank the deity of your choice for that tandem of consecrations.
(I watched Puma Pass astutely read and execute that zinger on a slant across the middle, then perfectly place a TD in Dez Fitzpatrick's hands in the endzone, and I wondered not without basis, "Might there be a threepeat?")
* * * * *
LJ was dancing on the paydirt, dancing on the sideline. Saturday was a frolic. As some guy said, as I was enjoying highlights, he's like watching a video game.
14/26. 270 yards. 2 TD tosses. No picks.
12 rushes. 111 yards. 2 TDs. No fumbles.
Just another day at the office.
And there's a distinct possibility he won't make to a contender's seat in New York on Heisman day? Gimme a friggin' break.
But, yeah, I guess there's this knock. He wasn't even U of L's leading rusher. Tsk, tsk, Lamar.
A healthy Malik Williams powered for 180 yards on 9 totes. 2 TDs.
As a team, the Cards pummeled the visitors for 411 rushing yards.
Nine different receivers registered a catch.
* * * * *
Reggie Bonnafon deservedly gets his own little section here.
The 502 Hero was never a great QB.
The 502 Hero was never a great receiver.
The 502 Hero was just an ordinary running back.
Reggie Bonnafon was simply the 502 Hero.
He capped his home career with 43 yards rushing. On only 5 carries. With a scintillating TD. Plus he grabbed a long swing pass for a 34 yard score.
That's the type of effort that I like to coin, "going out in style."
* * * * *
A few words about the two most maligned units on the team.
The significantly improved offensive line surrendered but one sack and three TFLs.
Peter Sirmon's defense played really well for the second week in a row. Actually it dominated. The Orange's only TD came at mop up time, when everybody was ready to get out of the rain and dry off.
Six TFLs and a sack. Three hurries. Four interceptions. Five break ups.
Despite the obvious improvement, I doubt the constant invocation of the "Fire Sirmon" meme shall abate.
* * * * *
So, the Cardinals shall enter Commonwealth Stadium/ Kroger Field with revenge on their minds and some momentum.
A season once thought to be lost appears rejuvenated.
How sweet would it be to end the regular campaign with a victory over the Cats?
Correct answer: Way sweet!
-- Seedy K