Special - spe·cial /speSHəl/ adj: better, greater or otherwise different from what is the usual
Normally when I give thought to anything Louisville Football-related, the things that almost always neurotically and naturally come to mind are: Lamar Jackson, Howard Schnellenberger & his stoic pipe, Magilla the Gorilla, the occasional taste of soggy Papa John’s breadsticks after a few too many adult beverages, the Touchdown Squirrel, Teddy “Two Gloves” Bridgewater, how Stefan LeFors is still one of the most underrated college quarterbacks I’ve ever watched, and so much more. But over the past 24+ hours following the Cards’ season opening home win over WKU, I have only thought about one thing as it relates to UofL Football - the word “special”. And believe me, UofL Football is special in more ways than one right now.
First and foremost, the Cards like all of the other college football programs who are actually playing this fall, are competing under some pretty “special” circumstances. The fact that UofL played a home football game without a single beer vendor roaming up and down the aisles is different enough. Add to that fact that tailgating was essentially non-existent, the party deck resembled a post-apocalyptic nuclear science fiction novel and that Sean Moth’s legendary PA voice was absent and you have one helluva special atmosphere (Disclaimer: I wasn’t in attendance but pictures and sounds tell a thousand words as do Twitter threads).
Yes, these are certainly “special” times in our society due the COVID-19 pandemic, college sports not withholding. Hopefully we can all look back one day and take something positive from this entire situation. Will it make us as fans appreciate being in the stands more? It might. But more importantly, it might educate us and serve as a reminder to never take the little things for granted.
Want some more special examples? Aside from the actual in-game atmosphere, the Cards have already made a name for themselves in one department: “special” teams. To say that the kicking game, specifically punting, was putrid would be a massive understatement. It flat out sucked. The Cards essentially gave WKU two early Christmas presents when the punter dropped a snap and then had a separate punt attempt blocked, both catastrophes occurring inside the Cards own 5-yard line. Fortunately, UofL had enough in their offensive arsenal to put up some counter points and still take care of the Toppers relatively easy. However, self-inflicted wounds like those are some of the most important ingredients when building a recipe for disaster. Aside from the drop and blocked punt, field position was also anything but ideal. The silver lining here is that the special teams department (again, primarily the punting game) has no where to go but up (hang time AND performance). And yes, it’s only one game into the season but punting must become special in terms of being better and not different from what we as fans are used to (see Mason King) or this 2020 Louisville squad may never get an opportunity to find its true end of season potential.
Tired of hearing the word special yet? If you are then bear with me long enough for me to say that the culture that Scott Satterfield and his staff have built at UofL is…..you got it…..something truly special. I watched a UofL Football team play its season opener on Saturday and walk away after the final horn having only committed three team penalties (for 30 yards). There were games during Bobby Petrino’s last season at the helm that the offensive alone would commit three or more penalties in a single drive. Under John L. Smith, committing penalties (particularly personal fouls) became a hallmark program staple. Major kudos should be directed at Coach Satterfield for talking a big game about how we was going to reconstruct the UofL Football program by instilling discipline and then actually making it happen. Yes, the Louisville program as a whole isn’t near where it COULD ultimately be yet, but it IS ahead of schedule in terms of where it SHOULD. And when the program gets there, the ride is going to be a special one to reflect upon.
On Saturday the Miami Hurricanes blow into town. It’s a pivotal game for the Cards for a multitude of reasons. An otherwise dismal 2019 Miami squad spanked the Cards last year in Coral Gables. You’d have to think or at least hope that the loss left a pretty bad taste in the mouths of Louisville’s staff and returning players. This is the type of game the Cards will need to win in lieu of the Satterfield rebuild to get to its ultimate destination faster than some prognosticate. And in keeping with the theme of Louisville Football being special, College Gameday will be live in The Ville on Saturday. We as viewers won’t have the pleasure of seeing Rick Pitino on the set or probably even the Lamar Jackson Tecmo Bowl Touchdown poster. But, in terms of national exposure and recruiting, having Gameday in your town is an invaluable asset.
Go Cards, beat Miami.