Louisville fans piled into Cardinal Stadium hoping to see something different from Louisville Football. The offense that they had already promised themselves that Bobby Petrino would deliver. Big plays with scores that would surely cause the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium scoreboard to smolder. Things were, in short – um – different?
“We’re kind of a different team every week right now,” explained a relived Bobby Petrino said. “We’re a work in progress, thank God we have a great defense because it’s allowing us to become a better team offensively.”
It was an ugly 20 to 10 win over a team that they were a 21 point favorite over in Wake Forest. It didn’t send thrills to many, but it was a win.
“It was win and we’ll take it. We had to battle very hard,” a relived Bobby Petrino said after the game. “Statically we got a little bit better but when you have penalties and turnovers it makes it difficult.”
What they got was an offensive line that went through some waves, looked acceptable at times but the ugly plays were more prevalent than anything.
“We just need to come out and play a complete game,” Center Jake Smith said. “We saw some improvements but these guys are masterminds on offense, so it’s really just about us improving.”
They got a guy that came off the bench in his first career ‘start’ in Brandon Radcliff and led the way. His first 100 yard game.
“It was hard waiting my turn because I’m a competitor,” Radcliff explained after his performance. “But I had to be patient and you gotta know why it comes that you gotta capitalize.”
And capitalize he did in the form of 130 yards, two touchdowns and 30 receiving yards.
It was a performance that Louisville had to have to pull off the victory. At one point, Radcliff literally carried the team on his back, when he ran 10 yards for a first down whilst the entire Wake Forest defense was on his shoulders. The play that gave Louisville a field goal from John Wallace that put the game out of reach.
They got a performance from Reggie Bonnafon that was very freshman in many ways but not freshman in so many others.
“I just wanna make the corrections. I’m big on going back on the film and looking at where I went wrong,” a happy Reggie Bonnafon told the media. “We did a great job on the sideline just not getting down and staying positive.”
He finished 16 of 32 with 206 yards passing, he also ran the ball for 72 yards. He fumbled twice, one fumble gave Wake Forest a lead in the third quarter when they fell on it in the in-zone. Lots of things we’re going wrong, it was the exact situation you suggest a true freshmen quarterback making his first career start, (not to mention dealing with death of his father just over a week ago) may fail in.
“I faced adversity my whole life,” Bonnafon noted. “Things like that are gonna happen in a football game, the biggest thing is coming over to the sideline and correcting the mistakes on the next drive.”
He did not. He remained poise, he came back and delivered a drive down the field that gave Louisville their final lead in the fourth quarter.
“He was cool and collected out there,” Smith noted. “Reggie [Bonnafon] is just so cool and collected out there. I probably shouldn’t say this because people will kinda go crazy but he kinda reminded me of Teddy [Bridgewater] out there.”
Lest we forget about what the defense gave them. Three interceptions, 7 sacks and only giving up 100 yards on 59 Wake Forest plays. The numbers speak for themselves. The defense, once again, shown its elite abilities led by three Lorenzo Mauldin sacks.
Overall it felt unsatisfying, but is that even fair? Did we suddenly think that Louisville would make a dramatic jump on offensive line? Did we expect Reggie Bonnafon – the quarterback who started his first game at Quarterback his senior year in High School – to suddenly come in and have a master handling of the offense? Perhaps we did, perhaps it was because of Bobby Petrino?
Since the day he was hired Louisville fans expected Bobby Petrino to do nothing but put up points. They expected that because that’s what he did in his first go around. Louisville fans chant his name every time he makes any public appearance. They do this because they are captivated by the nostalgia of a shiny Petrino offense. They saw what it did at full throttle. They want that again, it’s easy to dismiss the problems of the team.
Perhaps it’s time to adjust the lens, change the scope and look at the reality. Louisville got a win over Wake Forest in an ugly fashion. It was hardly what people wanted, but it maybe should have been what they expected. Reggie Bonnafon is a freshmen still trying to master a Petrino offense who may have won or not won the starting job on Saturday night. Promising things are happening in the backfield, exceptional things are happening with the defense.
It may not be enough given the task that Louisville will soon face, but for now it’s the diagnosis. For now the best course of action may be as follows: Enjoy the win, savor it and continue to watch Louisville grow. Perhaps when things get clicking, when things get running correctly, things will start getting special.
“This team is a team that used to winning games. Coach [Garrick] McGee says we haven’t put together a perfect game yet,” Jake Smith explained. “You wanna be a team that does that and we haven’t. Every game is stepping stone. I think of every game as a learning curve for us.”
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