One doesn’t need to cue up Nick Saban getting toilet papered by a Kick Six to understand how much an added second can change the outcome of a pigskin battle.
Nor rewatch Mr. Creosote explode — literally — to be reminded how a wafer thin moment can adversely affect a situation.
So, yeah, it’s hard to argue that the ACC’s zebras inexplicable rejiggering of the time/space continuum when conjuring an added second at the end of the 1st, was the difference in Wake’s three point W over U of L in Winston-Salem, 37-34.* The replay confirmed zeros on the clock, when the whistle blew the play done.
The Cards had plenty of opportunities to close after halftime. But, how much greater might their energy have been, entering the locker room tied, having just thwarted a Demon Deacons score with a goal line stop?
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
*It was far from the only refereeing gaffe on College Football Saturday. In its escape from BC, a Clemson defender ran through the neutral zone in front of the Tigers’ DL, and wasn’t whistled for an infraction. The PAC 12 officials gave Stanford an untimed down on a phantom DPI, allowing The Cardinal to knot up its battle with Oregon, who a minute before had a 99+% chance for victory. Then, gave the Ducks both options — possession and end of field — before OT. And, those are just a couple of examples among many that immediately come to mind.
The Cardinals, despite a pretty good effort against a vastly improved Wake contingent, could still have prevailed.
They fell short.
By a margin that matched that right before halftime gift to the victors.
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Lots of words have been writ about the effect or not of the free season made available at the end of last COVID-ravaged season to every pigskinner across the land.
WF is certainly in the conversation for the school which has benefited the most.
Their roster includes nine Super Seniors, one competing collegiately in his seventh season.
Another, LB Luke Masterson wrecked havoc for the Demon Deacons. Lots of tackles. And, a forced fumble.
Even setting aside those guys, Wake is one of the most experienced squads around. It showed.
Meanwhile, lots of newcomers names show up in the box for the Cards.
Dez Melton’s name comes to mind. So too, Ahmari Huggins-Bruce, Trevion Cooley, Ja’Darien Boykin, Jaylin Alderman. Etc, etc, etc.
You understand what I’m saying. Louisville played a lot of young ‘uns. Experience matters. Especially in the close ones.
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It’s clear beyond peradventure that, unless it reads Alabama or Georgia on a team’s jerseys, loss of front line starters is going to have adverse consequences.
Would Braden Smith have nonchalanted that punt return near the end of the 1st?
Would WF’s complementary running game been quite as effective, its passing attack so lethal, were stud Monty Montgomery suited up?*
*Both Smith’s and Montgomery’s kidneys were still beating. But they needed more triage than tweezers, rubbing alcohol and a Western Omelette, to get them back on the gridiron.
Of course, every school has to summon Next Man Up and all that. Some, like U of L, simply have less margin for error.
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In a close back and forth like Saturday’s, there are always coulda woulda shouldas.
Here’s a reality that screams at me from the box score. As it did in real time, when suffering through the L.
Nine penalties. For 93 yards.
A holding call that undermined U of L’s opening drive after the break, when a quick get back score would have rejuvenated the gang, after that late FG at the end of the 1st.
An illegal block on the next drive that ended with a punt.
Holding. Holding. Holding.
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It’s hard to fault M Cunningham.
I mean, in the air, he was 19/26 for 309 yards, 2 TDs and no picks.
But two of those misses were overthrows to wide open guys, which would have been scores.
To be fair, one targeted Marshon Ford in the endzone. But it was that odd misdirection play, where the Cards’ QB is asked to roll to his left then throw downfield across his body.
Understand, I’m not dissing Cunningham’s game, just pointing out a couple of moments that might have turned the outcome. There were plenty others, by various Cardinals on both sides of the ball.
Might the outcome have been different, had the feckless zebras properly allowed him to return after a timeout was called, when he lost a helmet on a play?
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Tyler Harrell really showed that speed we’ve been hearing about.
On that 75 yard touchdown to knot the game at 34, he went Usain Bolt on the Wake defenders, when streaking to paydirt.
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Louisville was game.
Just came up short on a FG by the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.
Next: Virginia visits Floyd Street.
— c d kaplan