Cardinal Football

A Closer Look At The Louisville Cardinal Football Blackout Games

Chris Humphrey

The Cards messy 24-14 win over Duke was the tenth game played in the now-iconic black uniforms watched over by black-dressed fans. And while it certainly wasn’t the best Blackout game the program has ever had, it most definitely wasn’t the worst either.

The first—and the best—Blackout game occurred almost 10 years ago on November 2, 2006 in the final season of Coach Bobby Petrino’s first tenure.

The Cards were ranked fifth in the country and facing off against #3 West Virginia and their high-powered offense. Louisville would win 44-34 in a shootout on that frigid November night and move up to fourth in the country. Their joy was short lived however, as they lost to Rutgers the following week, spoiling a perfect season and an outside chance at the national title.

Petrino would leave for The Atlanta Falcons after that season, but his successor Steve Kragthorpe would continue the tradition. Instead of wearing the black uniforms for only one specific home game a season, from 2007-2009 the Cards wore black a total of six times.

The black-clad Cards of the Krags era would not be very successful at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (although they weren’t very successful period as fans well know). They would only win two of those six games, part of three seasons that were the worst in the last 20 years of the program.

Kragthorpe was fired and replaced with Charlie Strong for the 2010 season. Strong was a defensive specialist and a traditionalist when it came to football. One of the first questions he was asked upon taking the job was about the black uniforms and he stated in no uncertain terms that the Cards would not be wearing them while he was coach, sticking with the traditional red and white outfits.

While Cards fans certainly appreciated the accomplishments of the Charlie Strong era, including a 2013 Sugar Bowl win, many would still pine for the Blackout games of previous years. After four successful years at UofL, Strong would leave for Texas where he would again state his opposition to different styles of uniforms.

Petrino would return in 2014, after a seven-year stint at both the collegiate and professional levels. And his first year back at the helm of the Cards would also mark the team’s first year in the ACC.

To commemorate this new era in Louisville football, Petrino and other members of the team announced the return of the black uniforms in front of a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans down at Fourth Street Live! The Cards would play their inaugural ACC game against Miami back in black, including a spiffy reflective black helmet.

Louisville would go on to beat the Hurricanes handily 31-13, continuing the streak they started after beating them in the 2013 Citrus Bowl the previous year.

2015’s Blackout game was another ACC matchup, this time against #11 Clemson. In black uniforms with old English lettering, they lost a hard-fought game against the Tigers 20-17.

The Blackout game remains a highlight of the football season for Cards fans. And as long as Petrino is at the helm, the institution is sure to continue, with player, coaches and fans all blacked out to watch their Cards take the field.

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