Seniors Chucky Williams and Stacy Thomas know their careers with the University of Louisville football program are coming to a close.
The duo, part of Louisville’s senior class, play their final game in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday against Syracuse at 3:30 p.m. The group has combined for a 32-17 record and became bowl-eligible for the fourth-consecutive season.
Thomas, over the last two seasons, has been a pivotal piece to that success. The Miami, Fla., native has gradually excelled into one of the defense’s crucial components. He totaled 85 tackles a year ago and boasts 43 stops through seven games this year. He missed a string of two key games – Boston College and Florida State – with an injury, but has totaled 16 tackles, 3.5 for loss since his return.
Not only has Thomas’ production on the field been an incredible lift for the defense, but his work ethic has been a spark for the unit as well.
“He’s a very intelligent football player and recognizes routes,” Petrino said. “It was great to see him back at practice at full speed because I think that everybody else recognized that and gave us a lot of energy.”
Williams, the team’s leading tackler, echoed Petrino’s sentiments on Thomas, saying “It did bring our confidence up even higher.”
The Cardinals, led by Williams’ game-high nine tackles, are coming off arguably their most complete performance of the season. The defense limited Virginia to 63 rushing yards for the game, with only seven second-half points.
The challenge is different with Syracuse, though. The Orange are averaging 30.5 points per game, but more notably, rank second nationally with 889 total plays – nearly 81 plays per game. In addition to running a high volume of plays, Syracuse owns one of the best offenses in the nation, ranking 21st with 472.4 yards per game.
“That’s been our main focus in practice, just being able to handle tempo, so we’ll be ready for a high-speed game from Syracuse,” Thomas said.
While it’s not an opponent, the other hurdle the Cardinals have to climb is battling pregame emotions. Prior to the game, Louisville will honor its senior class as the group plays on its home field for the final time.
“I’ve been thinking about it, I know everybody has been thinking about it, all the seniors,” Williams said. “It’s tough. Five years – that’s a lot of football. It’s going to be a big one this Saturday.”
“It’s surreal,” Thomas added. “Being here five years – time flies. We’ve been taking it day by day. We realize our time is getting cut down each day, so every day, we want to come out and bring a lot of energy and finish out strong.”