LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Many around town can't help but think back to the last time Florida State came to town: A high-ranking, a Thursday night, a nationally televised football game.
Fortunately, there are no tropical storms to deal with tonight, but UofL fans are hoping for a reason to storm the field, just as they did after the Cards' 2002 upset of FSU.
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WAVE 3 Sports Director Kent Taylor, sports anchor/reporter Kendrick Haskins and WAVE 3 Listens host John Ramsey were all at that game, and in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, they share their memories of that indelible night:
We knew it was going to rain, and rain it did. All night. Not just a light rain, but pouring rain for hours.
As for the game, Louisville had come into the season with higher expectations than ever before, a preseason top-20 ranking. That optimism was watered down by an opening-game loss to Kentucky. In that game, the Cards offensive line was exposed, as quarterback Dave Ragone was hit early and often.
Ragone, who had a Heisman campaign before the season, complete with a bobblehead of him doing the Heisman pose, answered the bell in a big way on September 26, 2002.
He threw touchdown passes to tie the game at 13 and then again at 20.
Getting to overtime was an accomplishment, but the Cards didn't settle. Florida State got the ball first and Anthony Floyd picked off quarterback Chris Rix.
Then, on UofL's first play from scrimmage, from the FSU 25, Ragone called "Thunder Right 35," and handed it off to Henry Miller. Miller burst through the line and then sprinted into the end zone. A 26-20 UofL win that ended with Miller splashing around in the massive puddles that had formed in the south end of the stadium, and with fans storming the field and tearing down the goal posts.
The Cards game balls were so water logged that the university put a commemorative logo on them and sold them for $200. It was an unforgettable night in UofL football history.
At the time, back in 2002, I had been working at WAVE 3 News for about a year and a half. I was a nightside editor, so I wasn't even in the sports department yet.
I got two tickets from a family friend who worked for UofL at the time. They gave me tickets because they knew I was a Florida State fan, but they were in the faculty seating, so I couldn't wear FSU gear, or even cheer for the Seminoles. While that was difficult, I was excited to see them for the first time in person, so I was fine with it.
I went to the game with Trey Ekerle, then a a director at WAVE. Not sure why I did that, because we weren't all that close, but I digress. Anyway, it was the rainiest day I've ever seen in my life. The remnants of Hurricane Isidore were hitting town, and it absolutely poured all day long. A mixture of an unbelievable storm, rush hour, and people heading to the game made for a traffic nightmare on the Watterson Expressway. Parking wasn't easy either. If I remember correctly, we parked at the apartment of the son of a WAVE sports photographer, Lee Holeman, near Churchill Downs. It wasn't the shortest walk in the world, but I didn't care. The excitement of the game outweighed the long walk in a torrential downpour.
Once we got settled into our seats, and the game started, it wasn't very hard for me to follow the "no cheering for FSU rule." The Seminoles had Chris Rix starting at quarterback. A very highly rated prospect coming out of high school, Rix had a disappointing college career. His No. 1 target was Anquan Boldin, who also was a highly regarded quarterback coming out of high school, and probably would've been better than Rix had he played the position in college.
Third-ranked FSU was the highest-ranked team to ever come into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. UofL was trying to rebound after a disappointing start to the season. Jared Lorenzen and Kentucky manhandled the Cards in the season opener, knocking the national luster off the game. As the game went on, and the water continued to accumulate in the stands, it just felt like it was going to be UofL's night. Every time the Cards kicked off, "We Ready" by Archie Eversole (featuring Bubba Sparxx) was played in the stadium, sending an already loud crowd into a frenzy. I'm not even sure if anybody had heard that song before that game, but it was very fitting.
Our seats were on the north end of the stadium, behind the Louisville bench. We had an excellent view of UofL running back Henry Miller's game-winning touchdown run in overtime. I, somehow, ended up on the field. Not sure if I hopped the wall, went down the steps, or got carried down there by the wave of people. I remember getting out of the way when the goal post came down, and laughing hysterically when I later saw it going down Floyd Street. I also remember taking my waterlogged phone to Cingular (now AT&T) the next day, and having to wait in line behind a few more people with the same problem who also went to the game.
I remember the huge win over Florida State in 2002 like it was last year.
I was working for Nelligan Sports Marketing (the sports marketing partner for the University of Louisville) at the time and I not only worked closely with Coach John L. Smith, but I also ran the stadium steps with him two or three times a week.
After a win, Coach always had a small celebration at his house with coaches and friends. I arrived late that night because I attended Coach Bobby Bowden's postgame press conference.
When I arrived, John L. was a good four or five beers ahead of me. I told him that Coach Bowden was very good in front of the press. I told him that he admitted that the Cards were the better team and that I was impressed with his ability to "take a loss with class."
John L's reply was priceless.
"He ought to," Smith said. "He doesn't have to face anyone after a loss that often."
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