The University of Louisville Cardinal football program opening the 2014-15 campaign with several important questions hanging over their heads. The would get some answers in their 31-13 victory to a record Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium crowd of 55,428.
How would they fair without the security blanket known as Teddy Bridgewater, now the backup quarterback for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Will Gardner led the offense, but he didn’t have Bridgewater’s security blanket DeVante Parker, who was lost for the first two months of the season with an injured foot.
They answered that by spreading the love between Eli Rogers, James Quick and Gerald Christian. When Parker returns, the Cardinal passing attack could be unstoppable.
How would they do without former head coach Charlie Strong, now the head man for the Texas Longhorns? The other question mixed in with that: how will Bobby Petrino coach this team after his weird departure from Louisville, then the Atlanta Falcons, then the Arkansas Razorbacks. He’s had some interesting tenures in those places before coming back to lead the Cards.
Then again could there be a better transition coach than Petrino. Aside from his personal transitions, he led the Cards during their move from Conference USA to better competition in the Big East. Now, as Louisville leaves the Big East, after a cup of coffee in the American Athletic Conference, UofL makes another move to stronger competition in the ACC with Petrino calling the shots.
How would Louisville react to the stepped up competition? They got a chance to find out during a rematch of last seasons Russell Athletic Bowl kicked off to a national television audience on ESPN. During that last matchup on front of the world, Louisville plastered the Hurricanes 36-9. The answer was another plastering.
With Michael Dyer out, first year running backs coach, and Louisville legend, Kolby Smith had his work cut out for him if the Cards were to gain anything on the ground. Dominique Brown answered the challenge by shredding the Hurricane front four for 143 yards and a touchdown. Brown took Player of the Game honors.
Both teams came into the game with a different look. Louisville took the field in black helmets while the Canes came in with deep teal headgear. The lighting technicians at ESPN had to be scratching their heads about what to do with the black helmets, the black uniforms and the fans dressed for a black out game.
Will Gardner’s first pass fell incomplete to begin the new era and the first possession was a 3 and out. Meanwhile true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya started the Miami campaign with a completed pass but for no gain. Miami went three and out, as well. Nerves, perhaps.
Louisville got the jitters out of the way on their second possession, sustaining a drive that mixed the run and the pass, including a heavy dose of Brown. At the end of the drive, Gardner hit Charles Standberry on a two yard pass for the touchdown. It was Standberry’s first college reception and something he’ll tell his grandkids about forever. The Canes answered with another three and out.
Photos by: Max Sharp/Louisville.com