The set up was too perfect -- Edward Bulwer-Lytton style -- and the denouement too off the charts sublime.
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional interludes when it was checked by a violent gust of wind . . .
The improbably resourceful, surprisingly successful, fitfully resurgent University of Louisville Cardinals took the field at Carter-Finley Stadium hoping to fulfill a goal that was, let’s be frank, a pipe dream just months ago.
Other events of the day made a victory Saturday night in the Tobacco Road bluster even more imperative. The Cardinals final two opponents, the other impediments between them and six victories, appeared more formidable than when the day began.
Syracuse 49, Duke 6. Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt 14.
Take care of biz now, lessen the pressure of the final battles to come.
So, how do the Cardinals start?
Well, as if they want to make sure everybody watching understands, “Hey we’re the same guys who were here last year.”
False starts. Missed tackles. Missed blitzes. Unsportsmanlike conduct infractions. Missed assignments. Shanked punt. Tackles for loss. But one shining moment: Micale Cunningham to Dez Fitzpatrick for a 43 yard score.
At the half, U of L had suffered more yards in penalties (34), than its previously successful running game had gained on the ground (28).
Against an injury-depleted, woeful Wolfpack squad, the Cardinals continued to suffer from the same malaise that plagued them the week before in Miami.
At the break, Louisville 7, State 10.
This was not pretty. Pepto-Bismol poppers during the break
Ah, but this year’s more focused Cardinals finally showed up after intermission.
On the 3d play of the 3d quarter, Cunningham hit Tutu Atwell for a 74 yard, great throw, great run after the catch TD.
U of L 14, Wolfpack 10.
State had good field position after another less than scintillating kickoff. But, on the home team’s first offensive play of the half, Russ Yeast forced a fumble after a short reception, and Tabarius Peterson recovered for Louisville.
Two plays later, Micale Cunningham -- you know, the QB who caused you to hold your breath whenever he tried a pass last season under L’il Nicky’s tutoring -- hit Marshon Ford on the left sideline for a 43 yard score.
A doink on the extra point. Lousiville 20, State 10.
The Cardinals D forced a three and out.
On the next possession, U of L looked like a real football team, ready to take care of business. 13 plays. 64 yards. 6:11 of clocktime used. That good runner dicey thrower Cunningham guy hit Ean Pfeifer in the endzone for another tally.
Louisville 27, Wolfpack (which had run only four plays after halftime) still only 10.
Which is how the quarter ended, setting the stage for cinematic quality drama.
NC State scored :49 seconds into the 4th, on a play they should have scored on in the 1st, when an open receiver out of the backfield was simply undethrown. This time Devin Leary hit again wide open Ricky Person Jr. for an easy toss and catch touchdown.
A steadied Leary was 5/5 on the scoring drive.
Louisville 27, State 17.
As anyone who lived every moment of the second half of the Wake Forest W knew, it was Game On. This one had all the look and all the feel of Uh Oh Down To The Wire.
What followed was, well, a season securing, season savoring drive to be rehashed over favorite libations for as long as Cardinal pigskin faithful gather.
A botched Wolfpack onside kick attempt gave the Cards great field position at the State 47.
After six plays from scrimmage, the Cardinals had it 1st & Goal at the State 4. Hassan Hall TFL. 2d & Goal at the State 5. On a frankly horrible call, Cunningham TFL. 3d & Goal at the State 7.
Expecting a full out blitz on the next snap, the Cards called a grand play, but Cunningham simply didn’t have enough time to get enough on the ball, and his pass to an open Jordan Davis fell short.
4th & Goal at the State 7.
Here’s what I can tell you about backup kicker Ryan Chalifoux in advance of describing his One Shining Moment.
Uh, not much. He’s 6-1. he weighs 185. He’s a redshirt sophomore. He played high school ball at Central HS in Champaign, Illinois. He hadn’t made a FG since replacing injured starter Blanton Creque. And he missed an extra point earlier in the evening..
I’d tell you more, but he didn’t even get a paragraph of personal info in the Cards Media Guide.
My guess is we’ll learn more in the next few days.
Because Chalifoux executed a steady in the line of fire under pressure pass on a fake FG play to Marshon Ford. And kicked the conversion between the uprights.
Louisville 34, State 17.
Commence the “Fun is Bowling” references.
Louisville held steady during the Wolfpack’s too little too late attempts to derail the fun.
Ls up. L yeah.
-- Seedy K