Louisville left ruing the one that got away after Florida State loss
By ANNIE MOORE
College Contributor Network
Much has been said about Louisville's loss to Florida State last Thursday, there's a lot to say about what was truly a thrilling game. For Seminole fans, it wasn't the first time this season they've escaped a disappointing first half. Jameis Winston came out in the second half and was the game-changer we've all come to know. But for Louisville fans, it will be remembered much more bittersweet. It will be the one that got away.
In a transition season with a sluggish offense, in a new conference, with a new coach, they were in a position to beat the No. 2 team in the nation. Louisville held Winston and the Seminoles scoreless for the first quarter. That was remarkable in and of itself. If the defense could keep this up, it could really be a game -- that seemed to be the sentiment in the early minutes. But no one expected Louisville to jump out to a 21-0 lead so early.
Headed into the half with a two-touchdown lead, the energy was electric both on and off the field. Upset was in the air and CardNation could see the headlines now: "Louisville gets landmark win in inaugural ACC season" or "UPSET! Seminoles fall in Louisville."
The stadium staff had been trained earlier that week in how to take down the goal posts, and it looked for a moment as if that training was going to come in handy.
But then the wheels fell off. When the teams came out in the second half, the electric offense that had shocked the crowd of 55,000-plus was nowhere to be found. Will Gardner returned to his regular season form, panicking and making inaccurate throws. The offensive line crumbled, giving Michael Dyer no where to go. In a third quarter where Florida State outscored Louisville 14-3, although the scoreboard said the Cardinals were ahead, the sense of defeat was palpable.
The Seminoles took their first lead of the game with 12:48 left in the fourth quarter and it seemed the game was headed in a downward spiral for Louisville. Then, Dyer muscled in a touchdown with nine minutes left in the game and just a glimmer of hope seemed to come back. Surely, if the Cardinals have the No. 1 defense in the country, that's who we want on the field to secure this win. The famous last words "all we have to do is hold them here," were uttered.
Two Seminole touchdowns later, the game ended. Leaving bitterness and disappointment waving over the crowd and the home team. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher remarked after the game that it "was fun to watch." Maybe from his side of the field.
But for Cardinal faithful and Bobby Petrino it was like watching a train wreck. You don't want to see it, but you can't look away. This was the win to put them on the national map. This was the statement win that rockets a program forward much like Louisville's win over Florida State in '02. It was in their grasp, and all at once it was far away.
There are three games left in the season for the Cardinals. So what do they take away from this loss moving forward?
We saw a Louisville team that could contend with the elite in the ACC in its first season in the conference. Louisville heads to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Nov. 22. Many are anticipating that game to be rough on the Cards, who've struggled to put points up all season, but on Thursday night, the offense proved it was capable (at least in the first half) of being effective.
The game was excellent for the Louisville football program from a recruitment standpoint. There were former players, celebrities and scouts from almost every NFL team -- all in attendance to create an atmosphere that was unlike any other game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in recent memory.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted about the game, "May not be a bowl game, or any game this season, with as much draftable talent as tonight's Louisville-Florida State game, per NFL exec." Teddy Bridgewater on the big screen and Muhammad Ali in a suite both got rousing cheers from the crowd, and created an experience that was truly Louisville at its finest. The many recruits in attendance got a glimpse of the greatness that is Cardinal football.
Thursday night's game disappointed many who saw a glimpse of a team which could contend on the highest level of collegiate football. Louisville's Charles Gaines said after the game that though it hurt, "we still feel like we could beat them." That's perhaps the most important sentiment for this team to take away. They saw that they could do it. That confidence can't be built in practice, and it can't be built with words.
Though this game didn't end with the goalposts and the headlines and the fanfare that floated into the collective consciousness in the first half, it ended with a little victory. Louisville didn't leave with a win, but it left with the knowledge that those wins are within reach.
Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports