The Louisville Cardinals play football tonight. Read that again. And again if you want to.
After a while of sitting here and trying to think of some clever way to open this up, I decided to just be honest. I have no idea where this post is going to go. I am just elated that we get to watch Louisville football tonight and I wanted to express some thoughts on that. This forum that Mike so graciously lets me be a part of seems like a better idea than just firing off a threat of tweets. Although I will say that being a part of the same site as Keith Wynne makes me feel a bit out of my league when I talk football. So let’s see where this takes us. It won’t be Xs and Os, just some general feelings from a fan just like you.
It feels like 10 years ago when the ACC Tournament and then March Madness were taken from us. At that time, we at least knew that all of this would be over and we would be back to normal by football season. Nope. The longer and longer things went on, I really had no hope that the season would happen. Yes, I was one of those people. Not outwardly negative, just tried to be realistic. I didn’t see how everything kept getting cancelled or pushed back, yet we would somehow still have football. But here we are.
Because of that mindset, when the original schedule came out, I barely glanced at it. Football wasn’t going to happen. And then it was announced that the ACC would play 10 conference games and a plus one. I said this was just slowly ripping off the band aid that was undoubtably going to happen, so just go ahead and cancel. Preseason watch lists came out, I didn’t pay attention. The NEW schedule came out. I saw that we did not play Clemson and that was about all I paid attention to. The rest didn’t matter because it just wasn’t going to happen. I don’t like to say this, but I could not be more happy to say that I WAS WRONG!
Will it be different? Well sure. It will look like the midway point of the fourth quarter in the stands for the entire game. There will be a new PA announcer. People will be in masks at a football game. I have no idea what the atmosphere will be like as far as pumping in crowd noise or how it will be on TV. But when watching the Chiefs-Texans game on Thursday, I really didn’t think about it a whole lot. Hopefully that is the case here. But everything about 2020 is different anyway so you can’t expect it to suddenly feel like a normal college football season.
Football being back is great, but it would have been unfortunate for this team that is loaded with potential to lose out on a season. Knowing that we had guys coming back like Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins, Tutu Atwell, and Dez Fitzpatrick, the biggest bummer would have been wondering “what if” like we always will about the basketball team and the NCAA Tournament. And now we will get to see those guys on the field in a real game and it’s a fantastic feeling. The only thing that would have been worse than this season being cancelled is if we were coming off of a 2-10 season and then had to live with that misery for even longer. Whether this full season gets played out or not, at least we know we are in great hands now with Satterfield and company.
Time to pivot (because why not?) and just talk about Micale Cunningham for a minute. We know how good he is and how he finished the season, but let’s go back a little bit. This guy went from an athlete looking to run every chance he got to now being a legit quarterback. In 2018, he played in 10 games. In eight of those games, he had more rushing attempts than passing attempts. For the season, he had 79 rushes and 67 passes. Then in 2019 those numbers were 122 rushes and 179 passes. But it did not start out that way. He did not play in the opener against Notre Dame, but against EKU he had four rushes and one pass. Then in his first start against WKU, he was still looking to run as soon as possible and had 16 rushes and 14 pass attempts. It just felt like if the first option was not open, he was gone. And it was not a recipe for success to me.
The next game was at Florida State, and this is the game where I think he really grew up. Now I have not gone back and watched it so this is just from memory of watching it last season, which means I could be off here. But even when this one started, it was the same story. Drop back, nothing there, take off. But throughout the course of the game, he started to make some throws and settle in. He looked like an actual dual-threat QB and not just a runner. He finished this game 16/27 for 286 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 17 times. Even though we lost and we probably shouldn’t have, it felt like we had our guy. In the remaining nine games of the season, there was only one game (vs Virginia) where he had more rushes than pass attempts, and that was 11 and 10, respectively.
The job that Frank Ponce and Scott Satterfield did with Cunningham was incredible and I can not wait to see him for a full season as THE guy.
Will the full season get played? Will there be delays? Who knows? All I know is my excitement level is off the charts now. Listening to the CC podcast and reading Keith’s position breakdowns and previews for the game have gotten me mentally back in the game.
If you have read all of this, you are probably thinking “well cool, Justin is excited for football season. Shocker.” I told ya, I just needed to let some of these things out, not necessarily break news or teach you something that you don’t already know. Let’s get this crazy 2020 season off to a good start tonight. Go Cards!