As you may have heard, Friday’s matchup with Central Florida is the 100th Louisville game to be played in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Since its opening in 1998, the Oven has played host to plenty of great games, and it is only fitting to take a look back at the biggest games that PJCS has ever seen
5. #16 Louisville 34 Vs. Cincinnati 31 (OT), October 26, 2012
While looking for the matchups to round out this list, it quickly became clear that the Oven hasn’t hosted a ranked team in a long time. According to my research (I may be wrong,) the last ranked opponent to come to PJCS was #22 Cincinnati in November of 2008. Yikes. #GoACC
There had to be a game from the Bridgewater/Strong era on this list, and this one comes up immediately. The Friday night tilt with the Bearcats was circled at the beginning of the season as a potential thriller, and it absolutely lived up to it.
This game could be labeled as Teddy Bridgewater’s coming out party. Bridgewater threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns in the cold & wet night. All after Bearcats QB Munchie Legaux had said earlier in the week that he was the better player. Turns out he was wrong. The Louisville defense picked Legaux off three times, once in the end zone during overtime to set up a 30-yard field goal for John Wallace.
From that turnover to the two gorgeous touchdown passes to DeVante Parker in the fourth quarter, this game had it all. Let’s not forget that Louisville took the lead with 1:56 remaining only to have the Cinci offense march to a score in 53 seconds. However, the Louisville defense proved to be the difference, and Louisville moved to 8-0.
4. Louisville 41 vs Rutgers 38, November 29, 2007
This game was mentioned in last week’s piece on the rivalry with Rutgers, but its best known as Brian Brohm’s final game as a Cardinal. It was also the game where Cardinal great Art Carmody secured his place in history as the NCAA’s top career scorer. Perhaps most of all, this was revenge for the 2006 loss at Piscataway.
The matchup swung in Rutgers’ favor for the majority of the game. After Ray Rice and Kenny Britt took the Knights up 21-3, things quickly began looking grim. The Krag had lead this previously highly ranked team into the ground, and fans quickly began losing hope that he could even the season at 6-6.
After Jeremy Ito (ugh) made it a two possession game in the fourth quarter, the fans began to file out. It was a week night, and Louisville fans just wanted the season to be over.
Confession: We left Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium early that night. I know, I know, I’m a bad fan but it was a school night. However we flipped on Paul Rogers in the car, only to find out that Louisville was coming back. My friend’s dad turned the car around and we pulled into a spot right at the front of the stadium. We came back just in time to see Brock Bolen run it in to tie the game. Maybe a ¼ of the stands were full at this point, but the fans who were there watched intently. They were rewarded for their loyalty, by Carmody’s game winner with 20 second left.
The field was stormed. Jeremy Ito wasn’t happy. Brian Brohm’s legacy was complete.
3. #12 Louisville 31 Vs #17 Miami 7, 2006
Sure, this game wasn’t close but it said more about the trajectory of these two programs that makes it historically important. The day began with the Hurricanes stomping on the Cardinal logo. (Note: Why do teams do this? Does this ever end well?) It ended wth Louisville fans on the field after a huge win.
The Cardinals were seeking revenge over Miami after 2004’s loss to the Hurricanes cost Louisville an undefeated season. The Cards had their way with the Canes. Brian Brohm was excellent through three quarters but then was injured. However, backup Hunter Cantwell performed admirably throwing for 113 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals defense was excellent in holding Miami to a single score and forced two fumbles. The Canes were stagnant all game and it became clear quickly the never stood a chance.
Miami’s performance can be seen as one of the major signposts on their recent slide. The Hurricanes have since become a shadow of their former dominance, and Louisville has become a football power. This beatdown quickly became a signature win as Louisville was building their national championship resume.
2. Louisville 26, #4 Florida State 20, September 26, 2002
Many will say that this win deserves to be at the top of this list. You could certainly make the argument for it. I’ll explain why later.
Before the 2002 football season, Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles were widely seen as a contender for the National Championship. FSU quarterback Chris Rix was even considered a possible Heisman contender. However, this wouldn’t be the case.
In the remnants of Hurricane Isidore, the Cardinals were able to run with one of the best teams in the country. Louisville entered halftime down 13-6 and were able to take the lead early in the third quarter. After Florida State fired back, Louisville was able to equalize in the fourth quarter.
In overtime, Florida State went for the end zone in the very first play. However, Anthony Floyd intercepted Chris Rix at the goal line to give Louisville an opportunity to win. Cardinal quarterback Dave Ragone handed the ball off to Henry Miller who ran 25 yards for the touchdown in the very next play.
The fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts. Louisville’s win was quickly cited as the reason why elite programs rarely travel to mid-major schools early in the season. Schools looking for an undefeated season quickly began keeping non-conference games at home, hoping to better chances at a title run.
1. #5 Louisville 44 Vs #3 West Virginia 34, November 2, 2006
When histories are written about Louisville football, no doubt both the West Virginia and Florida State game will be discussed. Upsets happen, it’s a part of sport; but games like the one against WVU define programs. The matchup against the Mountaineers turned Louisville into a program to be respected. Look at it this way, if you had to take one win away which would hurt the program less. The FSU game is clearly the answer to that question.
The city was buzzing the entire week, with Louisville fans ready to exact revenge from the previous season’s loss in Morgantown. This matchup would have a huge impact on getting Louisville to its first BCS bowl, and would push the Cardinals into the national limelight.
Everything about the West Virginia game was electric: the atmosphere despite below freezing temps, Brian Brohm’s 354 yard effort, and the Louisville defense forcing three turnovers.
Rich Rodriguez’ West Virginia had lit the world on fire with their potent offense. That night was no different. WVU quarterback Pat White led the team in passing and rushing, and ran for four touchdowns. However, Louisville returned a fumble and a punt for scores early in the third quarter to bust the game wide open.
It’s a shame that the win was only celebrated for a week before the Cardinals went down to Rutgers. (ITTTOOOOOOO) However, the win over West Virginia has to be considered not only the biggest game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium but also the biggest game in Louisville football history. Want more proof? The matchup became the second largest audience ever for an ESPN game as nearly 5 million homes tuned in.
As we enter Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as Louisville fans for the 100th time, let’s remember how great the stadium has been to Louisville. The amazing games its hosted, and all the great games its sure to host in the future.<