The Momentum Begins

Louisville Cardinals running back Brandon Radcliff (23) rushes with the ball during the college football game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Charlotte 49ers on September 1, 2016 in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Adam Creech

Louisville Cardinals running back Brandon Radcliff (23) rushes with the ball during the college football game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Charlotte 49ers on September 1, 2016 in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Adam Creech

Following his team’s season-opening 70-14 rout of overmatched Charlotte, Louisville football head coach Bobby Petrino was asked about his decision to call a timeout late in the first half to try and score another touchdown when his team was already leading 49-0.

“We wanted to practice our two-minute offense,” Petrino said. “It was one of those things where you don’t always get that opportunity and we needed to work on it and practice it. We’ve been doing it in practice, but you know it’s different in a game. It was a great situation to get the ball back and to drive it down and execute like that. The last play that we had was a good situation for the quarterback to know too.

“We had zero timeouts left – I’m either going to throw a touchdown or throw it away so we can at least get three points. To be able to have that situation come up is always good for us.”

The explanation was met with the typical “yeah, sure” reaction that people who don’t like Petrino or Louisville tend to use to react to everything the coach and his program do. But there’s a reason why even Petrino’s biggest detractors should take him at his word when he claims that the act was a legitimate teaching tool and not just a ploy to run up the score and drum up some attention for UofL football.

Petrino and Louisville don’t need to run up the score to generate extra exposure for the program anymore, and they don’t need to worry about “style points” to be in the place they want to be at the end of the season.

Long gone are the days of the Cardinals needing to stomp Conference USA or Big East opponents by 50 in order to better their chances of playing in the BCS or – gasp – the national championship game. Now, UofL’s path to a special season is far more straightforward: Take care of your own business, and everything else will take care of itself. Beat every team in front of you, and you’ll eventually be the last squad standing.

That fact is even more apparent after arguably the most eventful opening weekend in the history of college football.

Houston, whose current hot streak began in earnest one year ago when it stunned Louisville at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in week two of the 2015 season, made perhaps the biggest initial statement of any team in the country. The Cougars looked like the superior team for four quarters against No. 3 Oklahoma and ultimately walked off the field at NRG Stadium with a 33-23 victory. The biggest game left on the schedule for the potential College Football Playoff out of the AAC? A Thursday night home tilt against UofL on November 17.

Fourth-ranked Florida State, the first of the “big three” on Louisville’s 2016 schedule, also proved it was worthy of its own preseason hype. The Seminoles erased an early 28-6 deficit to get the best of No. 11 Ole Miss, 45-34. Redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois had fans in Tallahassee talking Jameis Winston after he tossed for 419 yards and rushed for 59 more. He’ll face the first true road test of his college career when he takes on the Cardinals next Saturday in what will be one of the biggest home games in the history of UofL football.

No. 2 Clemson also took care of business in week one, going down to Auburn and walking away with a 19-13 win that wound up being one of a record seven opening weekend losses suffered by SEC teams. On the flip side, the Tigers (the Clemson kind) victory was one of 11 for the ACC, the most of any conference in the country.

The fact that Louisville wasn’t trying to run the score up on Charlotte should have been apparent by the fact that most of its starters, namely Lamar Jackson, didn’t play a single snap in the second half. If you needed more justification, however, just look at the other teams on the Cardinals’ schedule. A win each week, by any margin, will now provide the path that UofL fans have always dreamed of walking. VT