A sea of humanity from beginning to end, starting with wall-to-wall Card March (Mike DeZarn photo top) and a storming of the field (Marilee Sanders photo, bottom).

As one scribe suggested hours earlier, the stage was set was something magical. Right here at L&N Cardinal Stadium. Wishful thinking or reality? Only time would tell.

Notre Dame was in town, 10th ranked in the nation, a consensus favorite. Few giving the Louisville Cardinals much of a chance against one of the sport’s legendary programs.  Little regard or respect for a UofL program undefeated after its first five games this season. A UofL team coached by former UofL star Jeff Brohm on a night that his younger brother Brian would have his jersey honored.  Too much at stake for Louisville, so much to be gained, a sense of urgency hanging in the air.

But Louisville would make a statement, a very loud one, with a solid 33-20 win over Notre Dame.

Less than a decade ago that it would have been difficult for University of Louisville football fans to imagine hosting a game against Notre Dame in the Ville. So one can forgive them for their boisterous support and a madcap storming of the playing field following the win over the Irish. Were the Cardinals not in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the teams might have never played.

A record crowd of 59,081, count ’em, a full-throated extension of the Louisville program (Mke DeZarn photo).

An intense, raucous and focused crowd of 59,081, the largest in UofL football history, throwing it’s  full support behind the Cardinals, making life difficult for the visitors. An overwhelming majority of them staying until the final horn, many pouring out of their seats onto the playing field to celebrate the victory. Still there 30 minutes after the game as the parking lots empty at a snail’s pace.

Then there is Sam Hartman, the Notre Dame quarterback, with his own sense of urgency, having transferred to South Bend from Wake Forest after a humiliating loss to the Cardinals at Wake Forest a year ago. Six sacks in the third quarter embedded in his memory from that beating. Seeking redemption with a storied program, live up to the billing automatically accorded to Notre Dame quarterbacks. He would not allow himself to  be embarrassed by Louisville again.  Or would he?

Dream on, Sam. Hartman would be in for another miserable performance. He would be sacked five times and intercepted three times, the first miscue leading to Louisville’s first touchdown in the first quarter. He would be credited with two touchdown passes while completing 22 or 38 attempts for 254 yards. However, his team could only manage 44 yards rushing and was only three of 13 on third-down conversions.

Meanwhile, UofL quarterback Jack Plummer was completing 17 of 24 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. His team gained 185 yards on the ground, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and converted on five of 13 third downs. He threw no interceptions and was sacked twice.

Louisville’s leading ground gainer was Jawhar Jordan, making up for his frustrations against NC State the previous week. He scored two touchdowns — on runs of 45 and 22 yards — and a total of 147 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Jamari Thrash scored UofL’s first touchdown on a nine-yard pass from Plummer. Kicker Brock Travelstead put the game out of reach in the end, making good on four of five field goal attempts.

Empty the stands, fans. We know you’ve been there before, but there’s some lost time to make up for with this win. Don’t be bashful, get out there on that field. Magical indeed.

“This was a huge victory for this team,” said Coach Jeff Brohm. “A huge victory for this fan base. A huge victory for this university and all the leadership that does such a tremendous job of directing us in the right direction. Our fans were the twelfth man. We felt them. We felt them all week. I read Twitter (X) a little bit and they were ready to go. They expected to win. They wanted to win. They came ready to win. So, I knew we needed to get them a win. They were fired up all week. They were fired up today. They were into the game. We played hard for 60 minutes. The game was close for a while. We hung in there and fed off our fans. I just think our players came out in the second half and understood what it meant not only us but to the entire town, city, and university to win.”(Mike DeZarn photo).


Notre Dame Sam Hartman, sacked again, a total of five for the night. Plus those three interceptions (Mike DeZarn photo).


A UofL fan base making magical memories, this game for a lifetime (Mike DeZarn photo).
Jack Plummer engulfed by UofL fans at the Card March before the epic game (Mike DeZarn photo).
Bringing those youngsters up right as UofL fans (Mike DeZarn photo).
An old friend Magilla from the Schnellenberger era came out of retirement for a classic game (Mike DeZarn photo).
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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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