By Derek DeBurger
Louisville loses a heavyweight slug-fest to the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Championship.
Defense wins championships(?)
When it was announced backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker was ruled out with a concussion, what was already expected to be a sloppy game got a whole lot sloppier. True freshman Brock Glenn was thrust into the starting role after only having thrown four career passes.
Undeterred by the uncertainty at quarterback, the hype going into the week was all about the two expert play-callers scheming against the two elite defenses, and very soon into the game it was shown that the defenses would win the battle for both sides.
Seven of the first nine drives resulted in three-and-outs and on Louisville’s first two they successfully beat receivers deep, but nothing came of it. The second toss, an underthrown pass to a wide-open Chris Bell, would’ve resulted in a touchdown.
FSU was the first to get the lid off of the basket. They realized that Glenn was a non-factor in the passing game, and they didn’t want to risk him getting hurt via running and being forced to go to the fourth-string quarterback. What the Noles ended up doing was running plays out of the wildcat. The wildcat was enough of a change of pace, coupled with some timely penalties against the Cards, to break off an 11-play drive that yielded three points.
Florida State was able to get the ball somewhat close again, but the 45-yard field was kicked wide left.
The score at the half was 3-0, Florida State.
It was a historic first half in all the wrong ways. It was the lowest-scoring first half, the lowest yardage in a first half, and the Cards and the Noles had the second and third least total yards respectively in the first half in ACC championship history.
A second half of misses
The second half didn’t seem like it would stray too much from the norm; FSU put forth yet another three-and-out. The Cards looked to flip the narrative on its head with a 13-play drive but were forced to settle for a field goal after getting close to the endzone.
Florida State busted a 73-yard run from running back Lawrance Toafili out of the wildcat, and then he scored a touchdown the next play with another wildcat look.
The Cards again stalled on their next drive, and the fear set in that this prolific Cardinal defense had met their match in the direct snap. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the Noles and the Cards collaborated for three more three-and-outs.
Right before the end of the third quarter Maurice Turner was able to jump-start the offense with a 41-yard run on the first ply of a new drive. The Cards were able to move efficiently to get inside the 10-yard line but fell short, settling for a field goal.
The next drive started pretty normal, a three-and-out — what else is new? However, on the ensuing punt, Louisville’s special teams swarmed the punter to force a turnover-on-downs.
With a new drive starting inside the red zone, the momentum was pretty firmly in the Cards’ favor. Worst case scenario, the offense falters and has to settle for a field goal. Instead, a rollercoaster of emotions ensued with a pass to tight end Nate Kurisky about a half a second away from giving the Cards the lead but was dropped. Two plays later, Jack Plummer threw his worst pass of the day to give the Noles an interception and a defensive stop.
The Louisville defense still held and the game was still in reach, but attempting to score felt like Sisyphus getting his hopes. A three-and-out led to a short field for the Noles, and a short field led to a chip-in field goal.
The score was now 13-6 with just 3:13 left on the clock. The Cards had to score right away to stay in the game, but the flow of the game had already been established and the Seminoles forced a turnover-on-downs to effectively end the game.
The final score was 6-16, FSU.
A year in review
The outcome of the game was not desirable, especially Florida State missing the Playoff looming ever present, but in year one of Jeff Brohm you really can’t ask for more.
Louisville was picked to finish eighth in the ACC in preseason media polls, and they competed until the very end for an ACC Championship. Ultimately, the Cards didn’t have the talent to topple undefeated Florida State, but going forward there is an enormous amount of faith in Brohm to take steps forward and improve the stature of the program.
Part of improving the stature would be going to the Orange Bowl this bowl season, but because Louisville failed to win the ACC title game that is entirely in the hands of the Playoff Selection Committee. If the committee believes that a 13-0 record with a power-five title is good enough to make it to the playoff, then Louisville will play in the second Orange Bowl and fourth New Year’s Six Bowl in school history.
If the committee decides that FSU is no longer one of the four best teams in the country—despite being one of only three undefeated power-five teams, or if they decide to rank the Cards below NC State (a team Louisville beat on the road this season) —then Louisville will miss the Orange Bowl and compete for a lesser bowl game.
At this point, there’s nothing left to do but hope that our magical season doesn’t come to a painfully mediocre end.