By Annie Moore–
It might have been strange for many to see Sheldon Rankins with his 6-foot-2, 303 pound frame lumbering down the field 46 yards for a touchdown. But for Rankins, it felt oh so right.
“My job on the play was to contain,” Rankins said. “So once I did that, I just kind of locked out and found vision on the ball, and as soon as I did that, the ball was on the ground. It just kinda rolled my way, and it’s like God told me, ‘Go pick it up, and have fun with it,’ you know, and I did it.”
Have fun, he did. And all 41,468 people in the stands and everyone watching at home had fun too. This game was an ugly one, with both defenses combining for 15 sacks, and 31 tackles for loss. It was rainy, cold, and Louisville fans pretty much had the week from Hell with scandal news abounding.
Enter the unlikely hero, a big man on defense who had a shot at a touchdown last season, only to fall short. When Rankins saw the ball come loose this time, he wasn’t going to look back and say ‘what if.’
“The first thing I’m thinking is just don’t let it slip through your fingers,” Rankins said. “Then when I finally scooped it up the first thing I’m thinking is I hope nobody is behind me to tackle me. Then when I got into the open field it was good to see my teammates blocking for me, pushing me in the end zone. We came away with a touchdown.”
Rankins’ touchdown was the crowning piece on what was an outstanding performance by the Cardinal defense. Coming off of a terrible performance in Tallahassee, allowing 510 yards, this team was motivated all week in practice and ready to make a statement.
“It was a pride thing,’ said junior linebacker Keith Kelsey. “We know that wasn’t us last week. We know we’re supposed to go out there and play hard every week. Coach Grantham puts us in the right position every game and it’s up to us to go out there and make those plays.”
Louisville defense allowed just 79 total yards offense. Boston College averaged 1.5 yards per play, and only converted on one third down out of 14. The Eagles only had four first downs on the day. BC’s ground game was rendered completely ineffective, with 30 rushing attempts, and -14 net yards rushing.
“We dominated them,” said head coach Bobby Petrino. “And we needed to win the game. That’s what we needed from our defense. I know we’re going to put the video on and see them flying around and playing with a lot of enthusiasm, and making plays.”
One play that’s sure to be on the highlight reel is Rankins’ return. Not only did Rankins look forward to seeing that in the film room, but he also hoped to see it on national television.
“First of all, I hope it’s on Sportscenter Top 10,” Rankins said. “But just, I’m probably going to smile every time I look at it. Probably gonna watch it all night, tomorrow, the next day, it’s one of those things that I’ll never forget.”