After suffering another last minute kickoff return miscue Saturday against visiting Virginia, Louisville fans have to wonder what the Cardinals’ record might be if special teams were more diligent in onside kick situations?
It was an issue at Wake Forest. It was an issue on the soggiest Saturday of the season against UVa.
Oh yeah, wait a sec, that’s right, U of L would still be 5-3, and on its if-you-really-say-you-saw-this-coming-you’re-lying collision course with bowl eligibility. Just as the Demon Deacons were thwarted, so too did the Cavaliers go down in defeat.
Because this endearing band of University of Louisville Cardinal footballers -- cliché alert -- Bend. But. Don’t. Break.
What is it those signs in the football complex say? Resilience? Resilient?
As Lili von Shtupp said of the new sheriff in town’s physical prowess in “Blazing Saddles,” “It’s twue, it’s twue.”
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U of L’s defenders played easily their best overall game of the year.
Most important, UVa was kept from the endzone on that last drive as time was expiring after the visitors executed an onside kick pilfer.
That cause was aided by the fact that the Cavaliers needed 15 plays and 2:25 of game clock to pull within 7 upon getting possession after U of L’s add on TD at 2:35. UVa did convert a couple 4th downs on the drive, but the Cards’ D made the visitors work for every advancement.
With only :21 on the clock for that final flurry, Virginia never advanced the ball on three passing attempts. Seth Dawkins, switching to D in the prevent, knocked down Bryce Perkins last throw.
The clock read 00:00.
The score read Louisville 28 Virginia 21.
When it mattered most, Louisville’s defense showed up.
They’d suffered a couple outbreaks of arm tackling earlier. They’d blown coverage on a 39 yard completion which set up Virginia’s first score.
And they obviously, eventually survived the oddest, most ill-advised defensive alignment I believe I’ve ever seen, allowing UVa to go up 14-7 as Wayne Taulapapa ran untouched up the gut for a 19 yard waltz to paydirt.
The Cards had three defenders lined up to the left outside the end, as if they were receivers in trips. And two secondary defenders, also to the left of center, lined up one a yard or two behind the other. Odd. An alignment gaffe? Hope so.
But the Cards stopped Virginia cold on its next possession, when C.J. Avery just missed a pick. Then made a huge stop on the visitor’s final possession before halftime when Chandler Jones did intercept the ball.
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Coach Scott Satterfield, whom I believe is or should be not only a candidate for ACC Coach of the Year, but National Coach of the Year, is adamant in his statements that he’s going to play the QB that “gives the Cards the best chance to win.”
And, I don’t want to harp on this, because Coach Satt’s the real deal and it’s a blessing that he’s U of L’s coach now, but I’m not sure he was true to his words during the 2dQ Saturday.
Evan Conley was obviously going to play that quarter at least. Yes, he was presented with horrid field position. His own 7 yard line, resulting in a 3 & Out. Louisville got the ball on its 25 the next time, but the result was the same. 3 & Out, though a completion to Dawkins was called back because of illegal formation. Plus the zebras missed both a targeting and face mask.
Yet it seemed obvious, to me anyway, a vaguely informed observer, that Conley wasn’t getting it done. So I was surprised that he was on the field for the Cards next possession, another 3 & Out, which started at their own 10.
Especially when considering Micale Cunningham’s 1stQ numbers. Five rushes for 64 yards, including that 48 yard beauty. 3/4 in the air, though, admittedly one was that shuffle to Tutu Atwell, resulting in a 77 yard score.
Cunningham returned in the 3d, immediately leading the Cardinals on a 12 play, 89 yard, five and a half minute masterpiece of a drive to knot the game at 14. During which, the Cards executed on several third downs. And were aided then, and throughout, by the ejection of UVa’s premier defender Jordan Mack for targeting MC.
The Cardinal drive that started with 5:05 to play was short, sweet, successful and game winning. After a timely -- for the Cards -- pass interference, it was All Javian All the Time. Hawkins for 7 up the middle. Hawkins right for 5. Hawkins to the left for 19. Hawkins straight ahead for 17 and the touchdown.
The successful conversion was off the foot of Ryan Chalifoux, replacing injured kicker Blanton Creque.
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Seth Dawkins didn’t have an official catch, but he was still in the game. Not only did he knock down that last pass, but his great downfield block paved the path for Cunningham’s score to put the Cards up 21-14 in the start of the 4th.
Avery did have a fumble recovery, and Marlon Character and Marshon Ford also made a couple important plays.
Lamar Jackson was in the house. And I couldn’t help but thinking he would have won two Heismans with this coaching staff.
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Ovation for the fans who came.
Standing O for those who stayed to drenched end.
-- Seedy K