The holiday season just became much more festive for local football fans. Reason to be joyous, be merry, celebrate and anticipate.
The University of Louisville is bowl eligible again after a three-year hiatus.
Charlie Strong has all but achieved his first-season coaching goal of rewarding his seniors with a post-season game. Not yet official, only the destination remains to be determined.
- Strong’s team playing like one that would not be denied, with an offense finally matching the defense in resilience and determination. Especially sweet, a 40-13 romp over a program that had outscored UofL 97-24 in the last two meetings. No wood chopping but plenty of splinters for the would-be Rutgers lumberjacks.
- Bilal Powell is back. all the way back, picking up where he left off before his premature return last week, breaking free time after time, turning in 123 yards on 23 carries. Three touchdowns for the comeback player of the year.
- Justin Burke taking charge, finally playing with a fluency matching his oratory skills, hitting his stride, completing nine of 11 passes before a bone-jarring tackle spoils his flirtation with perfection.
- Will Stein finally getting his chance, filling in quite capably, finishing what Burke started. Nothing fancy or spectacular, just getting the job done. More than the fun guy on the bench, doing what was demanded of him.
- Cameron Graham and Andrell Smith making the catches, four of them apiece, making Louisville more than just a running team. In fact, UofL would make almost as many yards passing (210) as they would rushing (217). A balanced attack for a change, a most welcomed change.
- A defensive unit getting nine sacks, including two each from Malcolm Tatum and Greg Scruggs. Two interceptions, a touchdown and a sack from Johnny Patrick with two interceptions, a touchdown and another sack. Six solo tackles and two assists for Shernard Holton.
Still soaking from a Gatorade shower after the game, Strong said he never doubted himself or his team. “They believed in themselves and each other and they just kept getting better as the season went along,” he said. “This program is going places again.
Just in time for bowl season.