A virtual red sea of University of Louisville fans descend upon South Bend on a cold drizzling day in November 2014. A cold drizzly day, gray skies, temperatures in the mid-forties, wet and slippery conditions for an historic football game. A school, a football program and a fan base ready to take the next step.
Momentum swinging back and forth during the game, moods bouncing wildly between helplessness, resignation to exultation, teams trading leads four times, teams going from defenseless to defensive, hot to cold and back again on offense, the final outcome in doubt with the clock ticking down to decision time with less than a minute on the clock.
Notre Dame is moving the ball again, quickly advancing the ball from its own 20 to Louisville’s 15-yard line. Quarterback Everett Golson finding his swagger again, ready to redeem himself, salvage the Notre Dame mystique. The Cardinals digging deep, somehow holding the Irish, forcing a field goal attempt. Visions of overtime with Louisville leading 31-28.
The holder is still positioning the ball as Kyle Brindza’s foot connects. The football veers wide right.
Louisville holds on, winning the historic first game in the series against the sport’s most revered program. Another one of those historic wins that just seem to keep coming for that ambitious, but humble and hungry school, the University of Louisville.
Quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, thrust squarely into the spotlight during his fourth freshman start, learning on the job, needing to grow up quickly. Responding with an aura of confidence, steady hands and quick feet, maintaining the poise to the end, leading his team to a monumental victory. Notre Dame may be down the past three games, but remaings highly competitive, underscoring the importance of Bonnafon’s performance.
For the day, Bonnafon would connect on eight of 21 passes for 180 yards and a 21-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker. He would rush for 35 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 12 and eight yards to give Louisville an early 14-3 lead.
No one ever knows which UofL running back will leave the most indelible mark. The first half belonged to Michael Dyer who would come through with 61 yards on 13 carries, setting up the Bonnafon touchdowns. His longest run was 21 yards before Notre Dame could get a handle on him, keeping him in toll after his initial surge.
Time for Brandon Radcliff to step up, and his derring do would come at just the right time, following two consecutive Notre Dame touchdowns, giving the Irish the lead again, threatening to demoralize UofL’s then sputtering offense. Ripping through Notre Dame’s shored up defense in that second half for 136 yards and a go-ahead touchdown. Averaging 8.1 yards per carry, a man on a mission, cherishing every carry, punishing and embarrassing many would-be tacklers.
DeVante Parker getting far too much attention from Notre Dame defenders, making only four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. He gets credit, too, for deflecting attention away from UofL’s running game, which accounted for 229 yards on the ground, compared to only 99 for the Irish. Kai De La Cruz, whose name hasn’t been mentioned much lately, was big on a 52-yard pass play, setting up Bonnafon’s first touchdown.
Every bit of drama that could be expected in a first game between Louisville and Notre Dame, the Cardinals emerging with another one of those memorable wins, emerging from the house that Knute Rockne built with still another memento in their growing trove of treasured victories.