Great being in another bowl but nobody happy just being.
Too many memories of better outcomes in previous bowl games, too many reminders Tuesday that the restoration of the Louisville football program is far from complete.
Some of the glaring deficiencies that hindered U of L early in the season resurfaced in the Belk Bowl. The inability to run the ball, to protect the quarterback, to hold on to the ball, the disappointing interceptions. Only four penalties called against the Cards, three of them in the third quarter, but each time breathing new life into the NC State offense.
The lasting image from this game will be that of Teddy Bridgewater absorbing brutal hits, taking the beating of his life, getting back up time after time. While U of L’s offensive line improved dramatically from game one to game 13, it’s obvious that the unit was outclassed by the seventh best team in the ACC.
Bridgewater, with 274 yards passing, exceeded the total of NC State’s Mike Glennan by 10 yards. At one point in the first half, the Wolfpack had 175 yards passing and zero yards rushing. So much for a balanced approach being the most efficient offense.
As badly as U of L was beaten on both sides of the ball, somehow the Cards found a way again of still being in contention at the end, against superior opposition. Charlie Strong pulling out all the stops trick plays, onside kickoffs, fake punts, anything, everything, nothing to lose but a bowl game.
Just never had the feeling that Josh Chichester was going to be the hero in this game. Or that Victor Anderson would make the must-have yards on third and fourth-down plays, that’s supposed to be Dominique Brown’s proven ability. DaVante Parker was apparently covered like glue, or at least we hope he was, with only one reception.
Time for second-guessing is over, another bowl under the belt. The restoration is coming along nicely, takes time, a few more bruises along the way.