It started Friday morning in Tampa when Charlie Strong’s Cardinals refused to lose to South Florida and wound up with a 34-24 victory and a share of the Big East Conference championship — and the possibility of a BCS Orange Bowl berth!
For the Orange dream to come true, Cincinnati has to lose this Saturday to Connecticut in the Queen City. That isn’t likely to happen, but stranger things have.
Strong has patiently brought this edition of the Cardinals along, improving game-by-game.
Against South Florida quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Dominique Brown played like All-Americans. Teddy threw for three touchdowns and Dominique scored the clinching TD, a nine-yard jaunt.
Freshman receiving star DeVante Parker caught two of Bridgewater’s passes for touchdowns. Parker and Bridgewater are both freshmen! If U of L fans see stars and multiple BCS bowl games when they look at that duo, they are.
The next afternoon in Lexington — well, do you believe in Rudy or the 12th man in Texas Aggies’ lore?
Because Joker Phillips’ Wildcats came up with a surprise of surprises. The Cats started a senior at quarterback who began his last season as a bad-hands receiver who was booed early in the season.
No matter, Matt Roark, who had played quarterback for his high school, North Cobb in Georgia, led the Cats to a 10-7 victory over Tennessee to end the Vols’ 26-year whammy.
Even if the Cats had lost, Phillips’ job would have been safe, his bosses said.
There was one discordant figure. On a delightful, sunny and warm fall day, the attendance was 59,655 in a stadium that seats 73,500.
The victory over Tennessee will help, but tickets may be harder to sell next season.
Back to Roark: His achievement will grow in history because some of the great Kentucky quarterbacks, including George Blanda, Babe Parilli and Tim Couch, had trouble beating Tennessee.
One of the greatest of the Wildcats, All-American end Howard Schnellenberger from old Louisville Flaget High, wound up his coaching career with a victory when Florida Atlantic won its only game of the season, 38-35 over Alabama Birmingham.
He may be the only coach in the history of football to spur the building of two stadiums. He did it for U of L and for Florida Atlantic this season.
Western Kentucky University, coached by Willie Taggart, won its final BCS game, smashing Troy of Alabama 41-18.
Good news for Kentucky basketball teams too. The undefeated Wildcats moved to the top of all college teams when North Carolina was knocked from the top by host UNLV 90-80.
UK and North Carolina will clash Saturday at Rupp Arena at noon on CBS (32).
And Rick Pitino’s Cardinals entered this week in the undefeated ranks.
Category: Earl Cox on Sports