Louisville Card File: Notre Dame

cardfootballOutlined 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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Bottom line: Cardinal Meter > TD Jesus.

Next up: Kentucky.

— Seedy K

12 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Notre Dame

  1. I’m a U of L alum (Class of 1970). I’ve been to a number of “bucket list” sporting events, including the 1980 Final Four at Indy. Nothing can compare to that 1980 win over UCLA as far as pure unbridled joy is concerned, but our experience at South Bend yesterday wins as far as overall experience is concerned. The Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, the iconic stadium with wooden bleachers, no video replays and NO CORPORATE ADVERTISING. And the marching band….wow!!!

    1. James. Class of 92. You hit the nail on the head. We had a fantastic experience also. Can’t wait to go back. GO CARDS!!

  2. U of L alum, class of ’76. Was also there in Indy in ’80.
    We arrived on campus at 9:30 Saturday morning, visited several sites, were treated with utmost respect and courtesy by many, and also had a GREAT experience. It reminded me of trips to Manual Stadium as a very young lad. I loved everything about the experience. Even the public address announcer sounded as if he was calling a 1950’s game! Notre Dame embraces its long history in a very simple and classic fashion.

  3. Thank you Mrs. Hummel.

    Despite all indications to the contrary, the better team was destined to lose yesterday, like so many better Irish opponents before them. Maybe luck does fall on the side of the Irish, but ND had no business winning yesterday. From the deflected pass for a TD, to the many non-holding calls, to the “catch” and bad spot on 3rd and 10 with 4 minutes to go, the Cards were stacked against us.

    But as the D lined up with ND 2nd and goal at the 9 with one minute to play, our 300 plus pound D’Angelo Brown while being horse collard and strangled from behind after busting a double team, sacked the Irish QB with one arm virtually tied behind his back! A field goal was forced and the rest is history.

    It seems painful to me, but I remember many more Clemsons, UVA bungles, and even come from ahead losses ala Florida State than I do Cards making big plays on the big stage. Yes, we have won big games in big ways, like the Fiesta, the Sugar, Texas at old Cardinal Stadium,etc. but seldom does it seem our football heroes grasp victory from the jaws of defeat in crunch time.

    But hopefully, Mr. Brown’s big time play can set us on a path to gridiron glory not smelled in these parts since the rainy Thursday night some 12 years ago when the Cards persevered and won over our new vials at FSU by making plays to win games.

    * * * * * * * *

    As for my first ND experience….well, I will take P.Johns any day. We had at least 15-20K at the game and we were definitely making our presence felt. But the “frozen” pipes that shut down the restrooms in the UofL corner? Virtually no concessions–ETOH or not–may have kept the crowd in its seats, but I guess I am spoiled, party deck not with standing. No video boards or replays? In 2014? ( Hmmmm, Maybe that’s how so many calls go the domers way?).

    Everything was old and grey, kinda like me, but that still doesn’t mean I don’t yearn to be young, hip and cutting edge. Maybe if ND “thought” they were playing a big time team, it’s crowd would have been more into it (or, maybe the ND fans had frozen pipes, too?)but I’ve seen livelier crowds at Jim Porters. We dominated in spirit, strength, speed and cunning.

    As much as I wanted the blow-out, maybe it’s best that we–finally–won a game, just like this one.

    1. I totally disagree about the stadium and the crowd. Yes, the stadium was old, the pipes were frozen and the wooden bleachers were damp, cold, narrow and uncomfortable. Yes, I have gotten used to video replay. But up there it is all about football – not party decks, not beer and (blessedly) not non-stop corporate shilling. In addition to my trip to ND on Saturday I’ve been to Ohio Stadium (back when it really was a “Shoe”) and to the (pre-renovation) “Big House” at Michigan. All of those stadiums are short on amenities but long on what counts – atmosphere and tradition. As for the crowd — did you not see and hear the student section the entire game? Did you not hear virtually every one of the ND fans actually singing the iconic fight song? Hopefully our fans who made the trip learned a little about what big-time college football really is. Give me an old stadium with tradition over a glitzy new stadium full of party-lovers to whom football is an afterthought any day.

  4. With all do respect to the lovely Mrs. Hummel, the MVP on Saturday was the 15,000 plus Cards fans who were packed in shoulder to shoulder on a the damp, windy, rainy, cold night at Leprechaun Stadium. A friend of my daughter’s who’s a big ND fan, said it was one of the largest and loudest visitor crowds he can remember. Those of us who shunned the cozy comfort of a friend’s living room to travel and support the Cards should all get a game ball.

    I got back to the hotel late enough to watch the local Comcast replay and what they didn’t show you on the deflected pass ND touchdown was what all of us in 119 saw: a world class shove in the back pass interference by the ND receiver. Blatant. I looked up at Touchdown Jesus and I could have sworn I saw a shrug and a smirk.

    But on the field gold, just as they lined up, I watched the American flag in the far end zone fluttering as the wind kicked up right into the kickers face. Wide right. Puff of wind? Bad hold? Or just maybe the Football Gods got it right.

    I loved the ND experience. Wooden benches. No jumbotron. No replays. I like The John but a trip back in time to the way football was once and what some of us yearn for still was well worth the effort. .

    Finally, a win on the road ANYWHERE is a big win and at Notre Dame it’s huge. But the current edition that Brian Kelly has assembled is a poor imitation of the Irish of old.

    Also, LaSalle Grill, downtown South Bend. Superb.

  5. That’s total bullshit.

    It’s not even the biggest football win. Third, Fourth, fifth on gridiron, at best. There are also several hoops national championships and that little Dream Game W in Knoxville more important. The woman’s b-ball upset over Baylor was bigger. This might not even be Top 10.

    Halfway fans like yourself need to be careful before making such absurd proclamations.

  6. So, Seedy – what are your top five Cardinal wins? I’ll vote as follows: (1) 1980 NCAA Championship; (2) 1983 Dream Game in Knoxville; (3) 2013 NCAA Championship; (4) 2013 Sugar Bowl; (5) 1986 NCAA Championship. Failing to make the cut are the 2013 Women’s NCAA win over Baylor, the 1991 Fiesta Bowl, the 1972 playoff win over Memphis in Nashville, the 2002 “Rain Game” win over Florida State, the 2007 Orange Bowl and the 1980 Midwest Regional Final win over LSU in Houston. I added that last one because I was there and it was sweet when we silenced an arena full of purple-clad Tiger fans. I was also there for #1, #2 and #4. Had a ticket for #3 but had to leave NOLA (Women’s Final Four) due to a family situation. And I was in Nashville for the 1972 playoff game and have never experienced anything like that.

  7. Well, just the other week, I posted my ten favorite Cardinal basketball games. Here’s the link at this site for that: http://www.seedyksports.com/2014/11/11/my-ten-favorite-louisville-cardinal-basketball-games-ever/.

    Of course, “favorite” and “important” are two different things.

    I’ve never interspersed those hoops games with football games. In terms of “favorite” football games, that W over Texas at Fairgrounds Stadium was pretty sweet. Listening to the Schnell before the game on the radio, explaining the umbrella policy to the fans. Seeing them pack up Bevo before the game was over was a fine vision. The Fiesta Bowl win was a favorite, and I’d argue more important than either of other two big time bowl Ws that followed, because it showed the way. The Sugar Bowl W would be a favorite.

Comments are closed.