Back in the Winner’s Circle
The challenge of returning the University of Louisville football to respectability began just over a year ago when an emotional Charlie Strong thanked the school and fans for giving him his shot at a head coaching position.
Over the next few months, he would begin to accomplish at Louisville what many believed was out of reach, impossible even, for the time being.
Turning a laughing stock of a defense into one of the top 15 statistically in the nation. Transforming a cellar dweller in the Big East to being competitive in every game. Motivating Bilal Powell into one of the nation’s most productive running backs. Attracting an average of more than 50,000 fans per game. Taking UofL to a bowl after a three-year absence. Winning that bowl game.
One expects an entertaining football game when Louisville and Southern Mississippi get together in football. The latest meeting was no exception, a game that went down to the final four minutes, with UofL coming from behind to win, downing Southern Miss, 31-28.
What one didn’t expect was a 14-0 deficit in the first four minutes, Strong’s guys getting punched in the face by an adrenaline-pumped Southern Miss offense. Austin Davis throwing a scare into Card fans, first with a 32-yard pass on the opening drive, then catching a pass himself on a trick play.
- Justin Burke, despite one of the shakiest starts in UofL football history, would not be outdone. Finding a way, between some of the knee-high passes, for touchdown completions to Josh Chichester and Cameron Graham. Between the bad moments finding a way to move the ball, get it done.
- Bilal Powell, the subject of intense scrutiny from the USM defense film watchers for the past four weeks, finding glimmers of daylight just often enough for 71 yards. Not to be denied those six yards for the touchdown tying the score 21-21 at the half.
- Receivers Andrell Smith, Doug Beaumont, Graham and Chichester making Louisville fans forget about last season when UofL entered a season with only one receiver who had ever caught a touchdown pass in a college game. Whatever happened to Troy Pascley anyway?
- Chris Philpott, another comeback story in himself, considered just another bad kicker last season, putting it together under the Charlie Strong staff. Making the field goal that would be the difference in the game.
- Jeremy Wright, one of the future faces of the program, breaking loose for a 95-yard touchdown, providing much-needed relief while Powell is limping on the sideline.
The action in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl almost a mirror of the past season, Louisville sometimes getting hit hard early, hanging in, climbing back in, putting themselves in a position to win.
Charlie Strong has not only restored faith in the program, he has delivered a future for Louisville football.