Editor’s Note: Twelve years ago the writer was named the Biggest Fan of the Big East in a national competition among 16 conference cities sponsored by Volvo. He’s back again with some special insights into the UofL-Notre Dame game on Saturday.
By Steve Springer
Say the word “monsoon” to any adult Cardinal fan and one thing comes to mind.
Now say “Urrutia stiff arm” and watch their eyes glaze over in nostalgia.
“Blackout” will take them deeper down the rabbit hole.
Then say “College Gameday” and they might not make it back.
All of these moments were magical moments in Cardinal Stadium history.
Ever since the construction of Cardinal Stadium in 1998, there have been big games, big wins and then there have been magical moments. Historic triumphs that have meant just a little bit more.
When 4th-ranked Florida State rolled into The Ville in 2002, they brought with them the remnants of Hurricane Isidore and lots and lots of rain. Lots of rain. The goalposts didn’t survive the night, as Henry Miller notched the first notch in Cardinal Stadium lore up the middle of the Noles’ defense in overtime, helping to initiate the building of the Cardinal brand.
Four years later, the Miami Hurricanes pregame-danced on the bird at midfield and then Mario Urrutia’s left arm stiff-armed the Canes all the way back out of Cardinal Stadium, along with a classic Bobby Petrino whooping. Cards catapulted themselves onto the national stage for the year.
Less than two months later, UofL had climbed all the way into the top-5 and a victory over #3 West Virginia was all that stood between the Cards and national title contention. The stadium blacked-out for the first time and a huge win over the Mountaineers perpetuated the legacy. The excitement spilled over onto the turf again, but the goalposts were already down. That didn’t stop the party at midfield however, as a sea of black met at the bird with some genius having the foresight to wave a giant white Cardinal flag at midfield for the now iconic overhead helicopter fly-by shot.
The first traditional-conference-big-boy game in the ACC for the vagabond and routinely disrespected Cards coincided with the hype that came with Petrino’s return, and was also slated in Cardinal Stadium. The Canes were the victims once again, as UofL returned from the Kragthorpian wastelands with another special moment.
College Gameday finally came to Cardinal Stadium in 2016 to see this Lamar Jackson fellow they’d heard about in person. The Greatest was even in attendance to see the greatest ever UofL player rout the Noles for the country to see and basically cement the trophy as his own that day.
Saturday just feels like a day when the sports gods and stars are aligning yet once again for one of those fairy-tale, tell-your-grandkids type atmospheres for the fanbase. Let’s set the stage, shall we?:
The opponent, the 10th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, need no introduction. They’re the golden standard when it comes to college football. Nuff said. UofL just happens to have cracked the Top-25 for the first time since forever, to make it an even sweeter matchup and exacerbate the hype even more.
The Cards have mired in mediocre football for the last five years and the spotlight had moved on. But thanks to our generous longtime rivals and friends up I-71, there just happened to be a coaching vacancy on Floyd Street after last season.
Enter prodigal son and now head coach Jeff Brohm, along with prodigal brother and now Offensive Coordinator Brian. And prodigal other brother Greg. To beat a dead horse, the Brohms are the First Family of Louisville. Father Oscar played quarterback for the Missouri Valley version of UofL in the 60’s.
Both Jeff and Brian had bigger and better offers to play quarterback in Division I football, yet they chose to stay home and build the Louisville Football program. Both engineered huge postseason wins for the Cards. But before they ever suited up in the red and black, both had the opportunity to don the navy and gold. They turned down their Holy Grail of Catholic-upbringing, the possibility to play quarterback at Notre Dame, to help pave the way for the Collision Course.
Will the Cards beat Notre Dame?
It will be a tall task, but the stars feel like they’re aligning for more Cardinal Stadium histrionics. The city is spellbound once again. The multiple storylines coming suspiciously into play are conjuring up football fables and fairy tales.