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October 19, 2013
It is hard to remember a loss in football hurting as badly as this one does.
The intensity on the defense disintegrating abruptly after the University of Louisville jumps to a 28-7 lead. Third quarter, wait it out, the game is in the bag. Everyone knew it, the defensive line, the TV guys, even Paul Rogers on the radio, everyone in the crowd of 55,215 fans.
Everyone in the stadium except the University of Central Florida offensive unit, which would take full advantage of the relaxed posture of the UofL defense and the gift of the Senorise Perry fumble to storm into the lead.
Then there was those three minutes on the clock after Louisville's final touchdown -- an eternity in college football. UCF still feeling the energy from a remarkable comeback, knowing the Cardinals defense was drained, frustrated, desperate and, worse, already celebrating another victory. UofL could be had, and the Golden Knights knew it.
A similar defensive collapse occurred last season when UofL hung on dear life after outscoring North Carolina 36-7 in the first half only to win 39-34 when UNC receiver caught and dropped a ball in the end zone in the final seconds. The UofL defense miraculously made one more stop.
You know the rest, the blown opportunity of jumping in the polls on a weekend when five of the top 10 teams lost, any further discussion of a national championship game and probably any chance of claiming the conference championship outright and another BCS bowl.
Equally disappointing is the potential effect on fan support. Three games with more than 55,000 fans on hand, two other surpassing 50,000. This community had finally embraced Louisville football in a big way, and that saying a lot about an area that puts basketball on a towering pedestal. Stadium expansion talk had begun, the sky was the limit.
For someone who has followed UofL football for five decades, totally sidetracking what could have been a very special season, it is demoralizing. Haven't felt such a letdown since UofL basketball lost to UCLA in overtime in the Final Four during the 1974-75 season. UofL had that game won, and possibly would have won a national championship had Terry Howard not missed a free throw in a one-and-one situation, his only miss that season.
Major setbacks are inevitable in any sport. I'm confident that Louisville football now has the commitment and support to not only recover, but to return to where it was before Friday's loss. Whether that occurs this season is doubtful, but it will be back.
For now, that's the only consolation.