Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year?

Photo: Tim Haag/
Photo: Tim Haag/

*Note from Justin Renck: we are very fortunate to have Dallas come on as a contributor to You have probably already read one of here posts on her own personal page, and that was this excellent response to the terrible SI article very recently. OK, back to Dallas…*

In less than 24 hours, Bobby Petrino and the Cardinal football team will suit up to take on the undefeated, #11 ranked, Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. This game will be a big test for a sophomore ACC team who, after taking a (very) slow 0-3 start, has returned to win two in a row against Samford and North Carolina State. The team is hardly the only one with big hopes for this game. Cardinal fans are praying for a big win (or at the very least a big momentum push) as we head into the first game of a 6 game ACC slate that will be followed immediately by the biggest game of the year in Kentucky… The Governor’s Cup.

Having started my tenure as a student in fall of 2012, I was lucky enough to spend my first season in the stands of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium screaming for a team who ended the season 11-2. I especially got a little personal thrill as a Pennsylvania native from watching the boys in white take down Pittsburgh at Heinz Field (sorry, but that is one stadium I will never root for the home team), as well as ringing in 2013 in New Orleans with 54,000 other fans as we shocked the world and beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Our 2013 debut in the AAC was anything but a disappointment following that 2012 season. I shared the 72-0 win over FIU with my parents at their first trip to PJCS, spent my fall break in Philly watching us beat another Pennsylvania team (Temple) in Lincoln Financial, and felt my heart splinter after the heartbreaking, homecoming loss to UCF that would leave us 12-1.

Then came our time to shine – our first season in the ACC, the 2014 season. To say that this season was anything but electrifying would be an outright lie. Opening the season with a huge win against Miami, we all knew that 2014 would be a season for the record books – no matter what the final stats line may read. We closed the season a respectable 9-4, with one of those losses coming on a Thursday night game at the hands of none other than… you guessed it, FSU. As we go into tomorrow’s game, I know I can’t be alone when I say that the feeling of my freezing hands weren’t the coldest memory I have of that evening. But, I know that I also cannot be alone when I say that I can’t help but hold onto the hope that Bobby Petrino has been hyping up this team with the memory of the last time the Cardinals took the trip down I-65 in 2000 to a shutout – and then took down #4 ranked Florida State Seminoles as a 3-2 team two years later. Can we get a repeat?

I’ll be honest, the 0-3 start was one of the toughest things to deal with as a Louisville fan who happened to catch the winning tide after 5 years of hovering right around .500 – it was hard to keep a positive outlook on the rest of the season. Watching the loss to Auburn that was fraught with mistakes and an injury for James Quick, followed by two heartbreaking, too close for comfort losses? Well, that was just painful, y’all. The two tallies posted in the W column have been blown off by critics as “irrelevant”, as they were wins against teams that “just aren’t that great.” (I mean, we were the first loss of the season for a solid NC State team, but who is counting right?) From the struggle to find the right fit at quarterback to what many consider questionable coaching choices, some people are looking at this game with the shadow of defeat already covering the sparkle of hope in their eyes. To those fans? I would refer you to the old story of a carrot, an egg, and a coffee bean.

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular story, it highlights the way that hot water affects three things – a carrot, an egg, and a coffee bean. The carrot goes into the boiling water strong, hard, and unrelenting, but comes out softened and weak. The egg on the other hand, goes into the water fragile and thin-skinned. When it emerges from the water, we find that its interior has become hardened. The coffee bean, however? That’s the coolest part. Instead of being changed by the boiling water, the coffee bean changed the water. When the coffee bean meets the boiling water, it released its fragrance and flavor – when it was at its worst, it changed the situation and problem around it. (You can check out the full story here, if you’re interested.)

What I’m trying to say is, this is our chance to choose what we want to be, Louisville. Will we let the season we came into full of strong spirit and loud support leave us weak before the biggest game yet this season? Will we let our fragile hearts and love for our team be prematurely damaged and hardened by what has been a tough season so far? Or will we be the change ourselves, and prove to our ACC “rivals” what Louisville is all about?

Florida State is the favorite this weekend, but not by a whole lot. (Think 6.5ish points.) Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals hold all the cards (pun intended) when it comes to toppling the Noles. FSU coach, Jimbo Fisher, has already gone on record saying that quarterback Lamar Jackson gives him headaches and has kept him up at night – so it looks like now is the time to take mind over matter, right? A win over a Top 25 team during a noon game to be broadcast on ESPN would turn this sophomore slump into the comeback of the year – and it would be pretty cool to have the CARDS cheer drowning out the Tomahawk Chop in Doak Campbell Stadium as the clock hits 0:00.

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