So heartened am I by the University of Louisville Cardinals’ energy and effort against a truly good Notre Dame team, I’m in touch with my inner Don Meredith.
Before contemplating the reality of this opening 35-17 setback, allow me a bit of fantasy.
With just under three minutes to play before halftime, the score is knotted at 14-14, and it is not a fluke. The Cards had taken a hit on the Irish’s opening drive, but fight back and compete toe to toe.
U of L forces another ND three and out, and has the ball on its own 20, with the opportunity to run out the clock and thereby go into halftime even, or be even more emboldened with a score.
Instead, there is that comedic, decimating sequence of fumble, fumble, fumble, resulting in an Irish go ahead TD.
What if U of L heads to the locker room even at 14-14 . . .
The Cards get the ball to open the second half. And proceed to drive toward the goal line methodically. Screen pass to Tutu Atwell for 16. Javian Hawkins up the middle for 5. Hawkins to the right for 6. Hawkins to the left for 7.
On 3d &2 at Notre Dame’s 40, Hassan Hall for 16 up the middle. Then fumble.
What if U of L had taken a 21-14 lead after the opening drive after halftime . . .
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Truth: Even if those scenarios had played out, Notre Dame — Bigger, stronger, deeper, better — would have prevailed.
Which in no way diminishes what a different football team Scott Satterfield and staff put on the field, compared with last year’s implosion.
The Cardinals outrushed the Fighting Irish. 299 total yards vs. 248 for the visitors. Even after subtracting lost yardage for a net figure, the Cards prevailed, despite 50 yards of losses. 249 yards to 230. The Cards averaged 5.3 ypc, just .2 less than ND.
Let us now cherish zone blocking.
Let us now tip our ballcaps to Mekhi Becton, Caleb Chandler, T.J. McCoy, Robbie Bell, Tyler Haycraft, Jean-Luc Childs, Renato Brown, and Cole Bentley.
Beleaguered for any number of seasons now, the Offensive Line, with new schemes and fortitude, more than held its own, despite being undermanned. Hawkins: “I mean all I did was hit the holes. Everyone showed up tonight.”
Hawkins ran for 122, Hall for 69, Pass for 67.
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Louisville stayed competitive despite a frankly schizophrenic game from QB Jawon Pass.
Those fumbles were killers. But he had some really nice gains on keepers and the option.
Satterfield: “I think in the running game he did a really good job.”
His passing was inconsistent. He dropped a dime on Tutu in the endzone, that Atwell bobbled. He threw into coverage, underthrew, and overthrew.
Satterfield: “We got some guys on the outside who are good players. Tutu, Fitz, and Seth, we have to get those guys the ball.”
Pass seemed to always be looking for Atwell. Is that his tendency, or did the other receivers simply have trouble getting open.
Satterfield: “We got to get free.”
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It’s always going to be a fight for the Cardinals, until the new regime can get more talented bodies on the squad.
During that 14-14 1st, when U of L took a hit on the opening drive and punched back immediately, the Cards were stalwart. No penalties. No sacks allowed. More time of possession.
The situation deteriorated, because the subs Notre Dame brought in were simply better, more skilled. Exhaustion tells.
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Bottom line for me: It was just a damn pleasure to see the Louisville Cardinals compete for the full sixty.
That’s a low bar for sure, but that’s the reality for the time being.
Louisville will get better.
As a buddy shared at halftime, “Louisville’s got a football coach!”
— Seedy K