By Sam Draut–
U of L defeated Rutgers 20-17 on Thursday night to claim a share of the Big East championship, and more importantly, a bid to a BCS Bowl. But this game was for more than a BCS bowl.
This game was for a football team reeling after two straight losses, which then fell behind 14-3 in the second quarter.
This game was for Teddy Bridgewater, who was hobbled with a sprained ankle and broken left wrist, but fought through it and delivered like he has all season.
It was for the 2011 Cardinal team that was a game away from an outright Big East championship and BCS bowl berth.
It was for Anthony Conner, a Cardinal who broke his neck while making a tackle in last year’s 16-14 victory over Rutgers.
It was for the 27 seniors on the 2010 Cardinal team who left the program with ambitions of BCS bowls and conference championships after winning the inaugural Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
It was for the 2009 Cardinal team, who lost 34-14 to Rutgers, all but ending the dreadful three year stint for Steve Kragthorpe. This game was for the fans that left Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Nov. 27, 2009 wondering if their football team would ever be competitive again.
It was for the 2008 Cardinal team, who was blown out 63-14 on national television at Rutgers. It was for NFL cornerback Johnny Patrick, who was burned multiple times during the game.
It was for the 2006 Cardinal team that lost 28-25 at Rutgers, ruining National Championship aspirations. It was for William Gay, the cornerback who jumped offsides, allowing Rutgers kicker Jeremy Ito to kick the game winning field goal.
It was for the ACC, the future conference home of the Cardinals, giving the conference a sneak peek at the toughness of the Louisville football team.
It was for Charlie Strong, who denied rumors all week about interviewing for the Auburn head coaching position.
It was for Tom Jurich, who hired an undervalued defensive coordinator from Florida, who couldn’t seem to get past the interview process for a head coaching position.
It was for Howard Schnellenberger, who energized the dying Louisville football program, pushing the team one step closer to his statement that “Louisville is on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.”
It was for all of the fans that traveled on the Louisville football roller coaster over the past few decades, remaining loyal through thick and thin.
Louisville will go to a BCS bowl with its share of critics; it will likely be the lowest ranked BCS team. The national media didn’t matter Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J., because the Cardinals had a whole lot to play for anyway.
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal