Sunday, November 23, 2008

To Louisville and Back

Good ol' Louisville. Last time I was there in 2006, it was a night game and Louisville was on their way to winning the Big East and the Orange Bowl. Two years later, they are barely hanging onto hopes for 6-6 and would be happy to make any bowl. Two years ago, fans flocked to and filled Papa Johns Stadium in an impressive blackout. Now, they were lucky to have over half the fans show up by kickoff and those fans left by 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Here's my Louisville story for 2008:

Left for Louisville on Friday afternoon and it's a pretty long haul really. Following the speed limits, which I tend to do, led to about 6-hours on the road. The GPS took us right to the hotel which was thankfully placed less than a half-mile from Papa Johns Stadium. After getting checked in, we tracked down a local Wal-Mart to get a few things and decided to grab some dinner. Since it was after midnight, the pickings were slim. Unfortunately there was a White Castle nearby and how do you pass that up? Seriously, I wish I knew how because White Castle is disgusting. Took it back to the hotel and ate 2 the time I took a bite of the third, I was sure I was going to throw up. That was the end of dinner.

The night went by pretty quick and headed over to the stadium about 10:30. Since the hotel was close, they said we could leave the vehicle there and walk. It wasn't too bad but it was cold out. I'd say around 22-degrees at 10:30, so it was brisk walk. There were very few tailgaters out and about on this particular Saturday morning. And those few that dared to tailgate for Louisville were somewhat questionable. From one bonfire we could hear great tailgating music, such as "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis. Not usually considered a tailgating song...but, hey, whatever gets a Louisville fan fired up.

Since there was an hour to kill before kickoff, we decided to take a brief sojourn around Papa Johns Stadium to look for other activities that had to exist. Other than an old, retired train that was turned into a sports bar and two blow-up games, there was nothing. We attempted to enter the Trager Center, only to be rebuffed by security. A similar fate befell us at the Johnny Unitas Football Museum. We did enter the upper area of the Johnny Unitas area and viewed the warmup facilities before being asked to vacate the premises. Apparently only recruits were allowed in the Johnny Unitas complex and the West Virginia apparel didn't quite mesh with the recruiting requirements.

Since it appeared we had exhausted all pre-game activities at Papa Johns Stadium (NOTE: none), we decided to venture into the stadium. Imagine the surprise when we saw that they sell Papa Johns pizza. We arrived to our seats just in time to watch a little scuffle between Louisville players and WVU players on the Louisville Cardinal at midfield. Apparently Louisville players don't take too kindly to people stomping on the cardinal. According to post-game scuttle, no team has (or had) ever beaten Louisville after taking out any agression on the cardinal. Despite having his face stomped by the Mountaineer football team, the Louisville mascot still went to the fifty and got his groove on.

Since it was Louisville's final home game, they introduced the seniors and the Louisville band performed their pre-game show. I'm not saying it was bad...but they're definitely no "Pride of West Virginia." Louisville entered to a few fireworks and stuff and was applauded heartily by the half-full stadium. Fans eventually showed up but it never approached full. To fire up the Mountaineer fans, none other than the governor was on hand. Somehow watching Joe Manchin attempt to lead the Mountaineers onto the field had the opposite effect on me. Regardless, he was there and Bill Stewart was there too.

The first half went by relatively quickly. We made friends with the ladies sitting in front of us. One got to meet Pat White's father before kickoff and was thrilled. She was also on TV...she received multiple phone calls informing her of this. It was her first football game of the season and it appeared she was enjoying it. The only true excitement of the first half was when WVU was stuffed on third and fourth down at the one. It appeared to me they scored on third down and they were short on fourth...but I was on the opposite side and had to rely on replay, just like the officials. Let me get this out of the way now: Louisville's scoreboard is superior to WVU's. So, we head into the lockerroom with a 7-7 tie and a lot of disgruntled Mountaineer fans.

Let me take this halftime to say that Louisville's PA people love rap music. Young Nitt, Code Red and B Simms, among others. I could go the rest of my life without hearing "Clic Clac, here come the red and black." Don't believe me, check it out for yourself. Clic clac, here come the red and black...clic clac, here come the red and black, repeat ad nauseum. Trust me, the Cardinals repeat this song nonstop throughout every break. R U READY???

Second half goes much better than the first. After a nice scoring drive and a couple turnovers by Louisville, it becomes obvious that WVU probably has the game well in hand. Bill Stewart tries his best to keep Louisville in the game with as many odd calls as possible but Pat White is determined to win and Hunter Cantwell can't seem to get the ball over the defensive line. By the end of the third quarter, the Cardinal fans have given up and leave Papa Johns Stadium and head back to listen to more Randy Travis. Not sure if they're leaving the game because they're losing or because they can't handle anymore B Simms.

At this point, my entertainment is coming from the group sitting in front of us, which includes Newman from Seinfeld:

And this guy who does enjoy Young Nitt and the crew:

35-21, the game drew to a close. The Louisville fans were cordial as we made our way back to the Ramada to retrieve the vehicle. Traffic patterns to depart the stadium area were poor and we sat in traffic for a brief time. Listening to local coverage of the game, fans were more upset with Kragthorpe than with Louisville's play. The commentators and fans agreed that it was a shame that Louisville didn't play with more intensity considering WVU stomped the cardinal. They also agreed that Pat White is classless with his taunting. And there was plenty of taunting going on. They're happy to see him move on. I'm not.

All in all, a successful venture down into the heart of Kentucky. A win is a win...still not sure about some of the coaching decision but you can't argue against a victory. Unfortunately Pittsburgh couldn't do anything with Cincinnati last night so it appears Cincy is probably going to win the Big East and get the BCS bowl. WVU will probably end up in the Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. I'm just debating on whether I'm going to end up there as well. That pretty much covers the was fun and, if Coach Stewart doesn't drive us into the ground before, I may go back in 2010.

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