Yes, Louisville football opens the season in two (2!) days, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s still technically the offseason. Which means I’m still allowed to make R-R-R-RANKINGS!
So, in the spirit of the UofL’s season opener Saturday night, let’s rank Louisville’s Top 10 Greatest Season Openers.
Honorable Mention #3: 1976, Louisville 1 – Mississippi State 0
Okay, so that wasn’t actually the score. In reality Louisville lost a hard-fought battle in Starkville by a score of 30-21. However, Mississippi was forced to vacate all wins from 1976-77 because a player received “impermissible benefits.” Neither of which we have any familiarity with. Because of MSU’s vacated win, Louisville’s record books have marked this game down as a 1-0 win, which is hilarious.
Honorable Mention #2: 1928, Louisville 72 – Eastern Kentucky 0
Louisville destroying EKU is apparently a tradition that goes all the way back to at least the ‘20s. But what’s even more funny about this is that the 72 points Louisville scored were the only points Louisville scored the entire season. Louisville went on to get shutout in the next seven games and finish the season 1-7. “All things in moderation,” I guess.
Honorable Mention #1: 1971, Louisville 0 – Vanderbilt 0
The only thing funnier than retroactively winning a game 1-0? No one scoring any points at all. If I had a time machine this is what I’d use it on.
Unfortunately, I cannot find a box score for this game anywhere. I can’t even imagine what a horrible site this was, but my little heart can try.
This game also allows me to use my favorite picture.
#10: 2012, Louisville 32 – Kentucky 14
In the last season opener edition of the Governors Cup, Charlie Strong’s Cardinals amassed 314 of their 466 yards in the first half. For whatever reason, Charlie hated scoring lots of points in games that weren’t bowl games, so he called off the dogs early in this one. We miss you, Billboard Wars.
#9: 2017, Louisville 35 – Purdue 28
Even though this game was strong foreshadowing for a disappointing season ahead, the buildup to this game was incredibly fun with a large Louisville and Purdue crowd in Indy to see the Heisman Trophy winner take on Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers. Despite having to watch the Cardinals commit a nauseating amount of false-starts, Lamar was able to pull out a win and start the season off with a win.
I’m honestly just glad we won because I wanted to think Purdue’s “World’s Largest Drum” was a fun gag and not super annoying. Still pretty annoying, but mostly fun because we won.
#8: 2015, Auburn 31 – Louisville 24
(and the arrival of Lamar)
#7: 2016, Louisville 70 – Charlotte 14
Louisville has blown out a lot of crappy teams to open the season, and they’re mostly all boring. Except for this one. I don’t care how bad the opponent is, watching Lamar set school records for touchdowns, combined rushing and passing TDs by a single player, and tie Chris Redman’s single game passing TD record all IN ONE HALF was way too much fun for a buy-game and set the stage for his Heisman season.
#6: 1999, Louisville 56 – Kentucky 28
A year after Tim Couch and the Wildcats spoiled Louisville’s grand opening of the new Cardinal Stadium, Louisville went down to Lexington and returned the favor, highlighted by Chris Redman’s five touchdown passes.
#5: 1992, Ohio State 20 – Louisville 19
I know, I know. “How can a loss be ranked in the Top 5?” Look, Louisville had no business being in this game, let alone a two-point conversion away from beating the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe. As a program still in its infancy (relatively speaking), seeing Schnelly take a team that had gone 2-9 the year before to Columbus and scare the hell out a program like tOSU is the stuff that helps build programs. Keep in mind this was 1992 where ties were still a thing and Schnelly could have kicked the PAT to do so.
But he didn’t, because of course he didn’t.
#4: 2004, Louisville 28 – Kentucky 0
“Coach Petrino’s second year, week 2, I am grabbing a package for him from UPS, and he wants it inside his office. I run it up, set it down, and turn to walk off and he says “wait, open it up.” So, I turn and open the box and pull out a poster-sized frame with a picture of the Louisville-Kentucky scoreboard from the previous week. He had me hold it up, walk back to the wall, and then yelled for Paul Petrino to come into his office.
This thing was heavy and I am holding it up and waiting. Paul comes in and they stand at his desk where Bobby reads the score out loud: “Louisville 28, Slapdicks nothing. I f***ing love it, those little smurfs didn’t even score a point.” – Jordan Tackett, former student manager
#3: 2014, Louisville 31 – Miami 14
Where to start with this game? This game was huge for multiple reasons. First game in the ACC and officially saved from purgatory, the return of Bobby Petrino, and blasting almighty Miami on primetime national television for the second time in nine months was truly a sight to behold. Louisville got down 10-7 in the second quarter, but Corvin Lamb’s 97-yard kick return touchdown set the cards on fire and the game was over after that.
While the entire night was amazing and none of you all remember this, my favorite memory from this game had to be the Miami fan walking in the tunnel back to his car screaming “F***************CK LOUISVILLE.”
Couldn’t imagine a better way to start things off in the ACC.
#2: 2006, Louisville 59 – Kentucky 28
Wanna see a dead body? Look no further. Louisville came into this game after a fantastic effort in 2005 and were dreaming of a BCS berth if not the National Championship. The Cardinals wasted no time as they obliterated early Kentucky squad by racing out to a 31-0 start and ending the game before it even had the chance to get started. Louisville outgained Kentucky 631 yards to 260 and had 31 first downs to UK’s 8. The only reason this game could never be ranked #1 is because of the Michael Bush injury and all the what-ifs that remain with it to this day.
#1: 2000, Louisville 40 – Kentucky 34 (OT) aka “The Lightning Game”
After getting steamrolled in Lexington the year before, Hal Mumme’s high-flying offense led by a guy named Jared Lorenzen came into town thirsty for revenge. The game had lacked the firepower everyone expected from both offenses and UK held a 19-14 lead in the third quarter before the lightening started. After an hour and twelve-minute delay, the game resumed, and things got weird in a hurry. Between the two teams there were four touchdowns and three turnovers in the fourth quarter, which ultimately tied things up at 34 apiece.
In the final minute of regulation, UK LB Marlon McCree scooped up a fumble by Dave Ragone at the Cardinals’ 46 with 47 seconds left and returned it down to the 2-yard line. But four plays later, UofL safety Curry Burns blocked UK’s 18-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.
On the second play in overtime, Lorenzen’s pass was intercepted by Anthony Floyd, and on the very next play Tony Stallings punched in the game-winning touchdown on a 25-yard run.
Let us know your incorrect opinions on these rankings in the comments section below.