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Lingering thoughts: Louisville 48, Florida State 16

Thought one: It ruled.

Watching Louisville football for the first five games of the season, it was hard not to have the impression that things should have been better. You couldn’t escape the feeling that the pieces for the season this team was supposed to have were all there, but they just weren’t quite fitting together for whatever reason.

It’s nice to know that we weren’t crazy.

Louisville’s curb-stomping of Florida State doesn’t erase the preceding month and a half, nor does it guarantee that more beautiful beatdowns are on the horizon. What it does do is confirm all of our suspicions.

When U of L can eliminate or at least minimize the self-inflicted lesions that have plagued it since mid-September, this can be a pretty good football team. That doesn’t make the 0-4 ACC start any less frustrating — if anything, it escalates that irritation — but it does provide hope that the Cards can take care of some familiar foes in the second half of the season and ultimately end this campaign having taken another sizable step in the direction towards a return to consistent national relevance.

—Let’s start with the most important takeaway from Saturday’s game: This was a remarkable afternoon for Louisville fans on TV. You wouldn’t expect that from a regional sports network contest where only 11,400 and some change were in attendance, but sometimes true beauty appears in the strangest places.

Exhibit A:

No need for any dancing, no need for any over-the-top gesture, my man just went with the extended two No. 1’s in the air, and then held the pose for a solid five seconds to make sure the world received the ineluctable message being sent: The Cards are back.

Exhibit B:

The drink, the pipe, the glasses the vest, the dance, the expression; It just doesn’t get any better.

U of L fans will be utilizing these two seconds on social media for the next decade.

We came into Saturday needing all the positive vibes imaginable, and that’s exactly what we left the weekend with. Much, much needed.

—Monty Montgomery should be on the field for every defensive snap.

I won’t acknowledge any argument to the contrary.

—Braden Smith sort of reminds me of early in his college career Corvin Lamb in that you spend like 80 percent of any given Saturday almost forgetting that he’s on the team, and then the other 20 percent wondering why he’s not more involved in the offense.

Smith’s best days as a Cardinal are likely in front of him, but for now, you can never have too many big play threats.

—Just when you start to worry that you might be taking Javian Hawkins’ brilliance for granted, he rips off a run like he did on Saturday that still makes your jaw drop.

I see you gettin’ that block this week, Malik.

When all is said and done, he’s going to leave here as a guy who is unanimously considered to be one of the five best running backs in the history of the program. Probably top three.

What Reece Gaines was to Rick Pitino and what Bilal Powell was to Charlie Strong, that’s what Hawkins has been for Scott Satterfield. Any instant success is infinitely harder to find for this program if it doesn’t have No. 10 wearing red and black.

—Malik Cunningham heard the talk about potentially going in a different direction for the second half of the season, and care for them he did not.

The resurgence of the big play was the most welcome return Cardinal Stadium has seen since they brought the pregame happy hour back to the Party Deck.

—Boy am I glad we called THAT guy.

Keith has talked on the pod multiple times this offseason/season about how one of the biggest issues with the Louisville defense last year was its lack of a true shutdown/alpha corner. Bryan Brown has one this year in Clark, who has been a bright spot since the first snap of the year.

—With Hassan Hall out, it was awesome to see Maurice Burkley get some meaningful touches and make the most out of them. He’s been a true grinder ever since he started with the program, and it’s always wonderful seeing those types of guys get some major shine on Saturdays.

—Satt Dance forever.

—One of the most consistent rumors out of the Louisville camp during the disastrous 2018 season was that a majority of the players on the offensive side of the ball wanted Jordan Travis to be the Cardinal quarterback. Multiple former players — most notably Jaylen Smith and Mekhi Becton — tweeting their support for Travis during Saturday’s game would seem to back that up.

Those players’ predictions that Travis would have a big afternoon, fortunately, did not come to fruition.

—The other Florida State QB to receive snaps on Saturday was, of course, another young man with some direct ties to Louisville.

I’ll never fault a teenage kid for making a decision that he believes falls in line with his best interests, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t take some joy out of Chubba Purdy being completely incapable of doing anything against U of L’s second string defense. Keeping FSU out of the endzone on its final drive felt like a bigger deal than it ordinarily would in a 32-point blowout.

Historically inept, you say?

Well that’s a shame.

—As wonderful as Saturday’s game was from a personal standpoint for all of us, I also don’t think I’ve ever watched a game at any level that featured as many point blank drops from both teams and on both sides of the ball as this one did.

I don’t know how Florida State can recruit so well but wind up with so many wide receivers who all look like the kid from Little Giants who had to resort to using stickum, but they do. Then the Louisville secondary (sans Jack Fagot) all made those guys look like Art Monk (coulda gone Moss or Jerry Rice or super topical with DK Metcalf, but decided to make the kids work a little there).

Jack Fagot runs the Atlantic Division.

—Speaking of, it’s pretty clear now that our biggest issue this season has been a schedule that kicked off with three straight Coastal Division opponents and then Notre Dame. We’re home now. If we run the table against the Atlantic, I think we deserve to hang a banner.

Beating VT on Saturday and Virginia the week after that would be cool too.

—Let’s not forget who this beatdown was really for: The douche walk-ons who tried to fight Ryan McMahon back in February.

Vipers suck forever.

—From a broadcast standpoint, this was the lowest on the totem pole a Louisville game has been all season, and yet, I thought this broadcast team called the best game Cardinal fans have heard in 2020. That’s not just because of James Bates’ Trick Daddy reference, but it certainly helped.

—From what we saw on TV, I have no idea how the officials saw enough to overturn that Marshon Ford TD, but apparently there were other camera angles we weren’t privy to.

—Could we not just have given Puma credit for the TD pass on that TuTu Atwell “run?” I mean, come on. No one here is going to tell anyone at the NCAA, and I’m sure we could find a way to keep Kelly Dickey quiet on the matter.

It was nice to see No. 4 back on the field inside Cardinal Stadium. It’s something I wasn’t certain we’d ever see again.

—I thought it was interesting that in the locker room celebration video that U of L made public, Satterfield references that Friday night he told the entire team that there was this feeling that “an explosion was coming.” I don’t think that’s just lip service. By all accounts, Satterfield’s been a pretty honest communicator since the day he arrived here, and him making that statement leads me to believe that what he’s seen every day in practice for the last three months doesn’t jive with the on-field results we’ve seen since Sept. 12.

I think we’ve all sort of assumed that was the case, but it was reassuring (and a little bit frustrating) to actually hear some confirmation from the head coach himself.

—Blowing out an average(?) Florida State team didn’t erase the bad vibes spawned by the previous four ACC games, nor did it offer up any sort of guarantee that this is the team Louisville is going to be moving forward. What it did do was provide a hell of a lot of weekend fun and satisfaction for a program and a fan base that was in desperate need of both. For now, that’s enough.

In the immortal words of Kevin Malone, “it’s just nice to win one.”