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September 23, 2008

Electric win Cards light up Papa John’s Stadium

Last week’s gotta-have-a-W battle between U of L and Kansas State was not the usual made-for-TV athletic department-implored blackout. Cards fans could wear what they wanted to the game.

It was a real blackout, on a Football Wednesday when our burg was distracted over the lack of power, and distraught because it might be like that for a while.

To spark the analogies, I gotta ask: Where was former QB Eric Watts when Cards fans really needed him? Rim shot, please.

At the end of the contest, it was Louisville that arced most on the scoreboard. Final amperage: Cards 38, Wildcats 29.

If U of L’s offensive linemen were the best conductors, redshirt frosh Victor Anderson proved the most electrifying. He was rarely grounded. The St. X grad, who once was headed to conference rival West Virginia, toted the pigskin 18 times for 176 yards, tallying three TDs on scampers of 26, 27 and 56 yards. 

For that matter, rarely were the other Cardinal ball carriers without power. Louisville rushed 55 times for 303 yards. K-State totaled only 30 yards on the ground in 12 rushes. No need for Watts actually, Hunter Cantwell was steady: 22 of 33, no picks, two touchdowns.

Flipping the switch, Ron English’s secondary gave up two thunderbolts. Josh Chichester showed some juice, but dropped TD passes on two consecutive plays. The kicking game could use some electromotive force; special teams, a few more teslas. There were a few short circuits.

(OK, enough already with the electrical terminology.)

All in all, the red & black showed significant improvement, enough to give the fans a hint of hope in the woefully weak Big East. On Friday, UConn comes to town for the league opener, and it remains to be seen whether U of L will stay plugged in. (I couldn’t help myself. Last one, honest!)

The real metaphor for Louisville’s satisfying (if not totally artful) victory on the Deuce over a fellow BCS also-ran is MIA. I hereby nominate Vince Gibson for the “Where-Are-They-Now?” Hall of Fame. 

From 1967 through 1974, he coached in that cornbelt Manhattan at K-State, where the term “football tradition” is an oxymoron. 

Before the ’70 campaign, Playboy named him pre-season national coach of the year. The Wildcats finished 6-5. That was Gibson’s best year at K-State. He left the school with a 33-52 record and the program on probation.

But he did bequeath a snappy moniker — Purple Pride — a designation that maintains some resonance in the lavender heartland.

After that stint, Gibson wove his “magic” at U of L from 1975 to 1979. His career mark with the Cards: 25-29-2. Despite his lack of success on the field, he did give the program a pithy sobriquet — Red Rage — a designation that maintains some resonance in Ryder Cup-land.

So both pigskin wannabes got that going for them.

Coach Gibson was more glib than good. He surely would have had a bon mot or two about the game … if he could have been tracked down. 

As it was, Steve Kragthorpe, whose press conference skills normally end at all-coachspeak-all-the-time, rose somewhat to the occasion. He even tried to be funny, saying, “Potential is a French word that means you haven’t done it yet.”

Mostly he reverted to form: 

“We’ve come a long way, but have a long way to go.”

“We didn’t play a complete game tonight. We have to strive to continue to do that.”

“We’re going to correct the things that need to be corrected.”

“We’ve started to turn the corner, but we haven’t fully turned it yet.”

“We’ll keep our nose to the grindstone.”

I know the Schnell. You, Coach Steve, are no Schnell.

Which doesn’t mean he can’t coach ’em up. The game has, for the time being anyway, silenced the nay-saying nabobs of negativitude. We know who we are. 

Kragthorpe’s charges showed resilience and improvement. Mettle was manifest both on the field and sideline. Gamebreakers came out of hiding. They’re local guys too, named Anderson, Beaumont and Heyman.

The first fellow to shake Kragthorpe’s hand was his head cheerleader, a smiling Tom Jurich. In the booth, ESPN’s gridiron gurus declared Louisville’s swagger was back.

The game could have meant lights out for Louisville’s season. Instead, Papa J’s was Electric Ladyland. The Cards and their fans drove home on Electric Avenue, snacking on electrical banana. 

In victory, they sing the body electric.