Outlined against a rain-filled, blue-gray November sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Radcliffe, Dyer, Bonnafon and Parker. They formed the crest of a cyclone howling through South Bend before which a fighting Notre Dame football team was swept over the precipice under the gaze of Touchdown Jesus yesterday afternoon as 80,000 spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below.
Crave more? Your wish, my command.
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes – Did you win or lose? –not how you played the Game.
Without apology to Grantland Rice, I recognize there are times when prose most purple is appropriate.
Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28 in the schools’ first meeting ever on the gridiron is one of those times.
It frankly matters not to the Louisville football faithful — “10,000 to 15,000” of whom braved the chill and inclemency and were in the house — that this is not a primo Fighting Irish team. That the Gipper isn’t on the squad. That Johnny Laettner isn’t under center. That it was the third loss in a row for the nation’s most storied program.
In the modern era of Louisville football, which began in 1947, Frank Camp’s inaugural season as coach, the Cardinals have played eight schools before yesterday on November 22. Morehead State, North Texas State, Washington, Memphis State, West Texas State, West Virginia, Southern Mississippi and Houston don’t have a hint of Rudy in their collective soul.
Being only the 10th (Or, maybe, 13th) school ever to win on its first visit to South Bend is just damn sweet, whether it’s Frank Leahy or Gary Faust or Charlie Weis or Brian Kelly roaming the home team’s sideline.
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That the Cardinals were the essence of perseverance was on display during their third possession of the second half.
Ahead 17-6 at the break, U of L gave up two way too easy TDs on the Irish’s first two possessions after intermission. Meanwhile the Cards’ O was stalled. Two 3 & Outs. Incomplete passes. False starts.
Less than six minutes into the 3d Q, Louisville had fallen behind, 17-20.
But, in their most important drive of the season, the Cardinals answered big.
Starting at its own 19, Louisville counter-punched. Brandon Radcliffe powered for 10 and a 1st. Then did it again, for 11 yards and another fresh set of downs. Reggie Bonnafon connected with DeVante Parker for 20 yards of the hallowed turf. After an incompletion, Radcliffe pistoned for 9, then again for 8. After another of U of L’s many false start infractions, he rammed for 7 more yards.1
On 2d & 8 at the ND 21, Bonnafon, who was spotty at best for the day when passing, was up to the moment, firing a strike to Parker in the end zone.
Three minutes and thirty four seconds after relinquishing its lead, Louisville regained it, 24-20, with that big boy 8 play, 81 yard masterpiece of a drive.
Louisville would not trail again.
Because, on Notre Dame’s next possession, U of L’s D held the Irish to only one first down, forcing a punt.
U of L needed more distance on the scoreboard. U of L made it happen.
Bonnafon rushed for 4. Radcliffe, continuing his monster performance, scampered for 41, then 6 more. Michael Dyer took up the cause, with power rushes of 11 and 3. Then, on the first play of the final quarter, the left side of the Cards’ O line opened another big hole, and Radcliffe took it in from 15 out.
Louisville 31, Notre Dame 20.
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Notre Dame’s last score came on one of those plays that seem to happen in South Bend way too often. The kind of how did that happen, is God really on their side touchdown that causes visiting fans to gaze one more time at TD Jesus, curse “the luck of the irish,” and wonder if there really is some mysterious magic mojo going down in northwest Indiana?
Terrell Floyd batted away an aerial to the end zone, which was tipped again and, look what I found, ended up nestled in the paws of a ND receiver.
U of L’s lead was cut to three.
After which, each team mounted big drives, each of which ended with missed FGs.
It is easy to say that Louisville lucked out.
It’s more proper to say that Louisville, which performed far from perfectly, played its best game of the year on the biggest stage, stayed the course, made plays on both O and D when needed, was the better squad, and deserved the W.
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The star of stars on offense was, of course, Brandon Radcliffe. 17 carries (none for a loss), 136 yards and a TD. Michael Dyer was also huge. 61 yard on 13 carries.
Reggie Bonnafon’s numbers do not tell the tale of the level of his performance. The rookie was Rock steady. When he needed to get it done, he got it done. He ran for Louisville’s first two scores, and threw that pinpoint toss to Parker for another. Still a work in progress, and a kid who might be playing a different position next season, he managed the game like a vet. He never seemed harried.
U of L had but 8 completed passes. DeVante Parker grabbed 4. Kai De La Cruz had two for 70 yards.
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The star of stars on defense was, of course, The Defense.
Eight times, the Cards tackled ND runners behind the line. Three sacks. Charles Gaines’ pick.
When the Irish needed to be stopped short of the goal line, like, uh, you know, on that last drive of the game, the Cards stiffened and kept the Irish out of the end zone.
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Kudos to Coach Bobby Petrino and his staff.
He and they have, all things considered, done an exemplary job this season.
Yesterday’s W is just part of the beginning of a new era in U of L football, perhaps to become the most halcyon of all.
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As for the game’s MVP, I’m naming Judy Hummel.
My crowd didn’t make it to South Bend, watching instead in the HummelDome.
While I and others kept shaking our heads, opining that it simply didn’t seem like U of L could or would hang on, Judy Hummel remained positive.
“We will win this game,” she repeated often.
Then, she made the play of the day, when Notre Dame got the ball back, down three, with 5:03 on the clock.
“It’s time for the Cardinal Meter.”2
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The telecast was on NBC, the home of Notre Dame football, thus the announcing team reported the game from the Irish perspective.
So, understanding how such things work, I haven’t the slightest problem with that. It’s the nature of the beast.
What struck me was how Dan Hicks, Doug Flutie and Mike Mayock really reported the game. Hyperbole was kept to a reasonable minimum, considering it’s the Notre Dame Network. With expertise, they explained in technical detail rarely heard how and why certain plays worked and others didn’t. They broke down strategies.
It was fascinating, frankly. And a pleasant surprise.
It was also interesting that all three were all over Everett Golson, calling for a QB change at halftime. Coach Kelly did not heed their advice.
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Bottom line: Cardinal Meter > TD Jesus.
Next up: Kentucky.
— Seedy K