LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Welcome back, college football. A lot of us around the University of Louisville missed you last season. Whatever game the disgraced Bobby Petrino was coaching, it was not football.
But it was different Monday night in Cardinal Stadium. Much different. The final score – Notre Dame 35, Louisville 17 – might not catch the nation’s attention, but it was huge for a program that last season gave up 50 points or more five times on the way to a horrid 2-10 record.
New coach Scott Satterfield, formerly on Appalachian State, put a team on the field that looked the favored Irish in the eye and competed. There was no quit in these Cardinals, which is more than can be said for the fans who began streaming out early in the fourth quarter.
This was duly noted by Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN’s national telecast. He couldn’t understand why the crowd wasn’t more excited, given the ugliness of last season. He thought they should have been cheering until the final whistle.
The better team won, no doubt about it.
But what was just another victory to Notre Dame, one that didn’t shake down the thunder or create any new Irish legends, but it was huge for the Cardinals. Some of the same guys who looked so uninspired last season lived up to their press clippings against the Irish, who are ranked somewhere in everybody’s Top Ten.
The list begins with quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass, who made big plays with both his arm and legs. He no longer looked indecisive and slow. His statistics and leadership held their own compared with Notre Dame’s Ian Book, one of the best returning quarterbacks in the nation.
And how about redshirt freshman running back Javian Hawkins? Notre Dame just wasn’t ready for his speed. So he ran through and around the Irish all night, delighting the crowd and befuddling the highly-touted Notre Dame defense.
The Cardinals’ defense, so awful last season, gave up a lot of rushing yards early, but made some adjustments and got better as the game wore on.
The game turned in Notre Dame’s favor after a bizarre series of events late in the first half. With the score tied at 14, the teams traded fumbles back-to-back-to back. After recovering the last one, Book scored from 11 yards out and the Irish took a 21-14 lead to the locker room.
Midway in the third quarter, Book hooked up with tight end Tommy Tremble for a 26-yard touchdown and a 28-14 lead that put the Irish in total control for the first time all night. This would have been another good time for the Cards to quit, but they didn’t. They competed.
The final stats showed that Book passed for 193 yards and ran for another 81. Pass threw for 134 yards and ran 67. But Hawkins led all rushers with 122 yards on 19 carries, slightly better than Notre Dame’s Tony Jones, Jr., who had 110 yards on 15 carries.
And get this: Notre Dame gained a total of 423 yards in 28 possession minutes, while the Cards had 383 yards in 32 minutes. The Cards had 21 first downs to Notre Dame’s 18.
In other words, U of L played far better against Notre Dame than it did against any opponent last season. That has to be due to Satterfield and his no-nonsense style that doesn’t tolerate lack of discipline and effort.
This game does not mean that the Cards will have a winning record. But it does mean that they’re worthy of respect and support. Heavens to Howard Schnellenberger, it sure feels good to have college football back in “The Ville.”