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A brief history of Louisville-Wake Forest: College football’s greatest rivalry

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Yep. No. 1 rivalry. There’s no argument to be made otherwise.

Louisville v Wake Forest Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Rivalry hierarchy is a constant conversation in college sports. In football, you’ve got Ohio State-Michigan, Army-Navy, Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Oklahoma, and of course, Louisville-Wake Forest.

If you’re not familiar with why the nation is referring to the series between the Cardinals and Demon Deacons as “the new and improved Ohio State-Michigan,” then here’s a quick refresher course:

March 22, 1996

Wake Forest deals Louisville a 60-59 Sweet 16 loss in a game where Tim Duncan fouled out but got away with it and then walked and got away with it to score the game’s deciding basket.

With Wake Forest trailing by two points, Duncan received a pass from teammate Rusty LaRue with his back to the basket. Duncan backed in on Louisville’s Damion Dantzler, spun to his right and banked in a short shot, while drawing a foul on Dantzler.

Louisville Coach Denny Crum thought Duncan got fouled before the shot.

”Other than that one NBA continuation play, I thought the game was well officiated,” Crum said afterward.

Even Duncan wasn’t sure the basket would count.

”But when they counted it, I didn’t disagree,” Duncan said.

Duncan calmly sank the go-ahead free throw and then sweated out the last minute.

Not at all football related, but this can’t be discussed enough. Louisville would have stunned Kentucky in the next round thanks to 21 three-pointers by DeJuan Wheat, and then gone on to claim the program’s third national title. Science has proven all of this.

Jan. 2, 2007

Each making its BCS debut, Louisville and Wake Forest square off in the 2007 Orange Bowl. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer represent the teams at midfield before the game. Taylor Hicks does the halftime show and is never heard from again. Brian Brohm tosses for 311 yards as the fifth-ranked Cards defeat No. 15 Wake by a score of 24-13.

Sept. 27, 2014

The Cardinals and Demon Deacons meet for the first time as members of the ACC. Brandon Radcliff rushes for 129 yards and a pair of scores as Louisville wins a 20-10 that the rest of the world immediately forgets. Wake Forest rushes for minus-22 yards as a team.

Feb. 2, 2015

Louisville pulls the scholarship of running back Matthew Colburn and asks him to grayshirt. Colburn says thanks, but no thanks, and U of L gets crucified nationally for something that happens at most major programs across the country.

Petrino issues this statement on the situation:

“Grayshirting is part of recruiting. What a greyshirt is when you ask a young man to not start school until January and I’ve been on both sides of it. [Star defensive end] Lorenzo Mauldin is here because he was asked to grayshirt and he looked for another place to go. It is part of the process. It’s really not the issue, it’s how the coach responds to it. They have a decision to make when you ask them to [grayshirt]. The timing is always the hardest part. This is the one time as a college coach you get to manage your roster and you have to find the balance between each position. We felt the best thing for us was to get one of our recruits to grayshirt and fill the roster at other positions we felt were more important.”

Feb. 11, 2015

After seeing his name in national headlines for several days, Colburn signs with Wake Forest. He calls what happened with Louisville “a blessing in disguise.”

”It’s just a blessing in disguise,” Colburn said “I have to look at it as one door closing and another door opening. That’s what I have to look at it as.”

...

As for Louisville?

“I’m moving on to greater things. I’m at a better school now than I could have ever imagined, and it’s crazy because a week ago, I didn’t think that ever could have happened.”

Still, Colburn said he has dreams of facing Louisville on Oct. 30 as a Demon Deacon and rushing for “like a thousand” yards.

Knotts said, “I’m going to mark that date on my calendar, also.”

April 18, 2015

Corey Ray’s walk-off steal of home caps the Louisville baseball team’s three-game sweep of Wake Forest. Again, this has nothing to do with the football rivalry, but the video is still awesome.

Oct. 30, 2015

Louisville forces five turnovers to win an ugly 20-19 Friday night game against Wake Forest in Winston-Sale. Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson can’t get anything going on the ground (13 carries for two yards), but tosses for 207 yards and a pair of scores. UAB transfer Jamari Staples goes nuts, hauling in 10 catches for 133 yards and both touchdown passes from Jackson.

Colburn carries the ball 11 times but picks up only 24 yards, good for an average of just 2.2 yards per carry. As a team, Wake rushes for 40 yards on 32 attempts.

Nov. 12, 2016

Louisville scores 34 fourth quarter points to turn a 12-0 first half deficit into a 44-12 victory that keeps the 9-1 Cardinals’ College Football Playoff hopes alive. The shaky first three quarters prove to be a sign of things to come, as U of L doesn’t win another game in 2016.

Colburn rushes 11 times for 27 yards, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. As a team, Wake again struggles on the ground, rushing for 73 yards on a whopping 49 attempts.

Nov. 16, 2016

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson and athletic director Ron Wellman go public with news that a member of the team’s traveling party discovered that U of L had obtained knowledge of some “secret” plays the Demon Deacons had planned to run in the game between the two teams.

”We are concerned that there was some type of security breach,’’ Clawson said, via the Winston-Salem Journal. “I have shared it with Ron Wellman, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure all of our information and data is more secure moving forward.’’

The story blows up nationally. Bobby Petrino is made aware of the allegations and issues a public statement denying having any knowledge of secret Wake Forest information.

Nov. 17, 2016

Louisville sees its College Football Playoff dreams evaporate in a 36-10 Thursday night loss at Houston.

Dec. 14, 2016

Louisville confirms that co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway was given a few of Wake Forest’s plays by former Demon Deacons coach and radio analyst Tommy Elrod. Army and Virginia Tech also admit to being given and utilizing information from Elrod before games against Wake Forest, but no one seems to care about that.

Louisville suspends Galloway for the team’s Citrus Bowl game against LSU.

Jan. 7, 2017

Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel pens a feature on Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson, which oddly includes an anonymous quote from a coach ripping Lamar Jackson.

The coach did add that he considers Watson an exponentially better quarterback prospect than Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy. “Watson has a chance to be at least as good as Winston,” he said. “We played he and Lamar Jackson, and Jackson has no shot at playing quarterback in the NFL. None. He can’t make the throws and can’t read coverages. He’s not going to have a chance. Watson stands tall in the pocket and whips the ball around like Ben Roethlisberger.”

Since Wake was the only team that played both Louisville and Clemson and did not get lit up by Jackson, there is a widespread belief that the coach in question works for the Demon Deacons.

March 1, 2017

Wake all but locks up its first trip to the NCAA tournament in seven years by pulling an 88-81 upset of the 8th-ranked Cardinals. The fans in Winston-Salem storm the court. This guy becomes an internet icon.

Aug. 7, 2017

At Louisville’s media day, Lamar Jackson publicly states his belief that Dave Clawson made the anonymous comment about him in the January Sports Illustrated piece.

”Yeah, I heard Wake Forest. I heard (it was) the Wake Forest coach,” Jackson said during Louisville’s 2017 media day on Saturday, according to the Courier-Journal’s Gentry Estes. “But we won, so I don’t really care.”

Clawson denies the accusation later that same day.

“This is what’s called fake news,” Clawson said Monday after practice.

Wake Forest officials reached out to to UL Sunday to assure them that Clawson was not responsible for those comments, nor did he believe them to be an accurate representation of Jackson’s ability.

“I never said those things. I have great respect for Lamar Jackson as a football player,” Clawson said. “I think he is one of the elite players not only in the ACC, but in the country. I respect the way he plays the quarterback position, and those comments in no way reflect the respect I have for him. I would never say that.”

Oct. 25, 2017

Both Bobby Petrino and Dave Clawson downplay the “WakeyLeaks” stuff and the notion that there is any animosity between the two programs. Clawson does, however, reiterate that he was not the coach who made the anonymous comments about Lamar Jackson.

“I never said that,” Clawson said at his weekly press conference. “I have no idea where that came from. I don’t know how to even respond to something you didn’t say. He is an elite player. He’s one of the best quarterbacks we’ve faced in our time here. I don’t know who said that but it’s not something I would ever say, nor does it even accurately or in the same ZIP code reflect what type of player I think he is. I would never disparage a young man like that anyway. He’s an elite, phenomenal player. I don’t know who said that, but it was not this coach.”

Oct. 28, 2017

Wake Forest sets numerous school records in a 42-32 win over Louisville. John Wolford throws for five touchdowns and 461 yards, Greg Dortch catches a school-record four TDs, and the Demon Deacon offense racks up 625 total yards, the second most in school history and the most since 1968.

The loss serves us as one of the low points for Louisville season that began with a No. 16 ranking and ended with five losses.

Oct. 27, 2018

Louisville and Wake Forest enter Saturday’s “clash” as the only teams in the ACC still looking for their first conference win. The loser will establish themselves as the unquestioned worst team in the conference, and the winner will get to feel something other than complete shame come Sunday morning.

The stakes have never been higher.*

*the stakes have absolutely been higher