“Bound” it screamed in a paint-washed font, over an image of a Cardinal running back in Heisman pose.
“Pre-Order Bowl Tickets Now”
Assured of at least a break even season with its sixth victory yesterday, U of L is now “bowl eligible.” Low bar that such an achievment might be, it is the new gravity in college football.
Which means the Cardinals will likely be spending a portion of the holidays in Detroit perhaps for the Quick Lane Bowl, or maybe Shreveport for the Camping World Independence Bowl (which will forever and always be the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl to me), or relatively bucolic El Paso for the Sun Bowl.
The Louisville Athletic Department, on the hook for a designated block of tickets wherever the destination, hopes the fan base follows along to savor the game, and enjoy some of the exotic local attractions. Like, say, in Shreveport, the Water Works Museum or Walter B Jacobs Memorial Nature Park.
In retail, the concept is known as a “loss leader.” Selling certain popular items at less than cost to get people in the store, and enhance the brand.
Trips to bowl games are loss leaders for college athletic departments. Only the very top tier bowls pay enough moolah that, after the conference takes its cut to share with fellow members, and after the accommodations for the school entourage and required pep rallies have been paid for, there is money to be made. The schools hankering to participate in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and their ilk, who get their wish, end up in the red for the experience.
But, as the sign says on Shelbyville Road, “Fun is Bowling.” It’s a recruiting tool. It propagates success . . . at least theoretically. And gives the fans one more pigskin battle to savor.
Unless, in the Cardinals case, the game happens to be on December 26, when the school is likely to be bowling, which is the same day the Red & Black Faithful will be consumed with that situation known as “the UK basketball game.”
* * * * *
What about yesterday’s game, you might ask?
Well, it was an odd one from the get go.
On the opening drive, UVa, which at 3-7 shall not be bowl eligible, drove 75 yards on 15 plays, converting all four of its 3d downs, eating up just short of eight minutes of the clock, to take a 7-0 lead.
Todd Grantham’s D looked less than “vaunted” or “tenacious.”
On the ensuing drive, U of L re-discovered its running game, gaining 46 yards on the ground with 7.8 yards per rush average, but ended up with just a FG. The drive stalled after the O Line gave up a TFL on 1st & Goal at the Virginia six.
The game was back and forth throughout.
U of L took the lead in the 2d Q, after a nifty Jaire Alexander punt return prevented the Cards from starting with their backs against the goal line. After a Kyle Bolin scramble, Lamar Jackson — Remember him? — was inserted as QB, and immediately rambled 45 yards on a run option.1 On the next play Reggie Bonnafon — Remember him? — threw a 20 yard halfback pass TD strike to Jaylen Smith. 10-7 Cards.
The lead was short-lived. When Virginia got the ball back, it took but three plays and 90 seconds to retake the advantage, when Josh Harvey-Clemons failed to cover his man deep. 14-10 Cavaliers.
* * * * *
In a seriously entertaining game, on yet another glorious football Saturday, U of L was inconsistent, but had enough mettle to overcome its fourth significantly lesser foe in a row.
The Good: Return of the rushing game. The Cards carried the pigskin for 284 yards, averaging 7.2 yards a carry. Brandon Radcliffe — Remember him? — ran for 146 yards and two TDs on 21 totes.
The Not So Good: Kyle Bolin, starting for the second week in a row, overthrew his receivers most of the day. 10/21 for 139 yards. Twice he fumbled while being sacked, which were as much the fault of the O Line as his.
The Good: Bolin’s two throws to Cole Hikutini, the second for a TD that gave U of L the lead at 17-14, were far and away his best of the day.2
The Good: The O Line played its best game of the year, not giving up a sack in the first half, opening holes, and keeping Bolin clean.
The Bad: The O Line tired, its quality of play faltering significantly as the game wore on.
The Good: Louisville’s D had 10 TFLs.
The Bad: Louisville’s secondary again looked woeful on more than a few plays. Shaq Wiggins, Jermaine Reve and Josh Harvey-Clemons were all scorched for TDs.
The Bad: James Quick didn’t catch a pass.
The Good: James Quick made the play of the game, forcing Olanide Zaccheaus to fumble a punt, which was recovered by Stacy Thomas. That set up U of L deep in UVa’s red zone, for the go ahead lead, 31-24, which the Cards never relinquished.
The Bad: After Virginia’s last score, U of L failed to secure possession of an onside kick in the final minute.
The Good: The Cavaliers were penalized on that kick, either for Offside or Illegal Formation. The Cardinals did secure possession on the re-kick.
* * * * *
U of L is no juggernaut.
The Cards have beaten the teams they were expected to beat. With the exception of undefeated Houston. They’ve lost the games they figured to lose, though they played the best team in the land tough.
U of L is bowl eligible. After an 0-3 start, when the team could have spit out the bit, Louisville tightened up.
Louisville finishes on the road. Against surprising Pitt, whose only Ls have been to Notre Dame, Iowa and North Carolina. Against reeling Kentucky, which will be looking for revenge, to salvage its season and to become bowl eligible in the regular season finale.
— Seedy K