Before last SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game, the vision University of Louisville fans had of Hunter Cantwell was a young quarterback playing the game of his life against Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl in 2006. Battered and bruised that day, he played with a smashed nose, his breathing hindered by tissue to control the bleeding.
The Cards held a surprising 17-14 lead over the No. 1-rated defense in college football after three quarters, with Cantwell connectingÃ‚Â for two touchdown passes. But even though he threw another TD pass, it was a fumble by Cantwell in the fourth quarter than enabled the Hokies to take a 28-24 lead and a third interception that ensured a 35-24 win for Virginia Tech.
Fans didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fault Cantwell, who was subbing for an injured Brian Brohm. They quickly forgot the miscues, turning Cantwell into sort of a folk hero. The media proclaimed him a future star and pro scouts jumped on board, confirming that he was a sure NFL draft pick.
Those illusions met brutal reality against Kentucky when Cantwell managed only 140 yards through the air while throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball twice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his miscues leading to 21 of the oppositionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s points in the 27-2 loss.
Cantwell didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get to play much in 2007, having little opportunity to hone his skills in real time. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obviously still got a long way to go to live up to some unrealistic expectations.
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Cantwell says in his weekly diary update in The Sporting News that he was frustrated in the fourth quarter after the interceptions and fumbles, admitting that he tried to force things. He credits senior Eric Wood, a four-year starter, with taking a leadership role on the offense.
Time for Cantwell to claim that role.Ã‚Â The quarterback is the guy who calls the signals. His teammates expect him to lead now.