By Ed Peak
When I woke up Saturday morning the first thing I said to my wife. “‘This is one of the greatest days in Cardinal Athletics history.’ “ It’s a rare day like this one. Here is how I navigated a busy day for University of Louisville fans. Three big-time games in one day, football, basketball and a possible national championship in volleyball.
I wanted to check the media and see how they approached the coverage. The Courier-Journal sent a reporter to Boston for the UofL-Cincinnati game at Fenway Park. USA Today used its national reporter to cover the Volleyball national championship matchup between Texas and Louisville.
Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team returned to the KFC Yum! Center for a second straight victory, beating Florida A&M, 61-55. When you start 0-9 it’s a big deal. As I departed for the basketball game, the football team was leading 21-7. The game was well into the fourth quarter and when the basketball started the football Cards (8-5) we’re wrapping up a 24-7 victory.
In the big picture does it mean a lot. Maybe not but Louisville fans can say they won the inaugural Fenway Bowl and had some record performances. Field goal kicker James Turner kicked a UofL Bowl record 48 yard field goal. The one-two punch of Jawar Jordan and Maurice Turner helped the Cards roll to 287 yards rushing. It was the first time the Cards had two 100 yard rushers in a bowl game. Jordan had nine carries and two touchdowns for 115 yards. Turner, a true freshman had 31 carries for 160 yards.
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The basketball game was like having a root canal. Shoots weren’t going in and the Cardinals were turning the ball over at an alarming rate. One fan looked at me as he was leaving and just shook his head in frustration. It was a sloppy win over Florida A&M 61-55. But a victory that had fans standing cheering and cheering during last 60 seconds and let the team know they appreciated the effort.
The Rattlers had quickness that gave Louisville all kinds of problems. FAMU scored 21 points off 22 mistakes. UofL shot only 42.2 percent but did make 12 of 22 in the second half.
“We should love it when teams press us. We get tentative. We’re not confident enough to throw over the top,” said coach Kenny Payne.
Fans were on edge most of the game. But they’ve learned any win by this team is going to take some heavy lifting. Sidney Curry looked a lot more like himself with 13 points and 19 rebounds. El Ellis held in check most of the game had 13 points.
Payne was happy with Curry who is on a diet and has lost eight or nine pounds. “I called him about 1:30 (a.m.) and told him you better not be cheating.”
Curry had a monster day on the boards with 19 rebounds.
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That night everyone in the family gathered around television, poised for a Louisville volleyball win. But Texas was just better. No matter how hard my wife and family members yelled at the TV, the Longhorns would come up with the point.
“It’s hard to say when you have so many emotions,” said Coach Dani Busboom Kelly. “Texas is great, they passed well. I thought if could just get to that fourth set…..maybe.” The Cards had match point up 24-22 but the Longhorns scored four straight points.
“I think it’s easy to look back and regret a lot of things. But when you look at the whole scheme of things and realize what this team has accomplished this whole year, I couldn’t be more proud of this group, said UofL All-American Anna DeBeer. “And you go in and we said that we wish we had more time. We wish we could make adjustments a little bit quicker. And there’s so many things we wish we could have done.”
Before heading for bed late Saturday night, when my wife asked me. “‘ When does the women’s (basketball) team play again.’” I told her Sunday at Pittsburgh, 2 p.m. We were looking forward to more compelling UofL sports.