STANDING ON TOP OF MOUNT EVEREST
By Mike Fasano
I've seen bad times.
I covered Rutgers football when they were 0-11. Truth be told … they were worse than 0-11. 0 and 11 was a compliment compared to what they really were. Rutgers football was awful. It was terrible. It was a disgrace and an embarrassment. They were outclassed and out of their league. Opponents would pull their starters before the first half was over. Rutgers simply couldn't play the game.
That was the lowest of the low.
But you can't use "low" to describe Rutgers anymore.
Now, I am standing on top of Mount Everest.
Lou Holtz says that Rutgers could run the table. Rutgers could play for the national championship.
Lou Holtz … Rutgers … National Championship.
I am standing on top of Mount Everest.
But Holtz added a qualifying phrase. Holtz added an "if"…
They could play for the national championship "if they beat Louisville."
And what an "if" that is.
The Louisville Cardinals.
Brian Brohm may be the best quarterback in America. And he has the receivers to cash in on his talent. Mario Uruttia is a 6-6 wide out. Yes, a 6-6 wide out. And he is a natural … he's six foot six and 228 pounds of silk. A 228 pound silky smooth freak-of-nature with hands like vises and speed like a cheetah.
His teammate, wideout Harry Douglas is faster still.
And there's more.
Brohm stands behind a Maginot line of brilliant blockers. The plays he runs are called by Bobby Petrino … perhaps the greatest offensive genius in the game.
And that's where Louisville's talent starts … not where it ends.
Not surprisingly, the Cards average 40 points a game. But they don't just score. This is a team that can play with a purpose.
When Miami came to Louisville and disrespected the Cardinals. Louisville reacted.
They pummeled Miami. They punished them, pounded them and pulverized them. The Hurricanes ran yelping back to Florida and hid under their beds. Louisville said, "who wants to insult us next?"
You just don't diss Louisville because the Cardinals are as gifted as magic and as intense as a nuke. But there's more to them than that. You see, Louisville knows something. They know that the National Championship is just within their grasp. And God only knows - they want to bring it home.
On Thursday night the Louisville Cardinals are coming to Rutgers Stadium.
They are undefeated.
They'll play Rutgers.
Who is undefeated.
And all of America will be watching.
But as good as Louisville is, Bobby Petrino knows the score. At Rutgers Stadium they are adding bleachers to handle the overflow crowd. They are adding security to deal with the fans - fans feeding on success and ravenous for more. When the Cardinals run onto the field they'll be plunged into a cauldron of Scarlet psychosis. Yes, Louisville can play. But Rutgers can not only play, they can avenge. After years of enduring derision, humiliation, mockery and scorn, a Rutgers team has appeared with the talent and audacity to challenge anyone in the land.
They intend to do just that.
It is not Brian Leonard who makes this team. It is not Ray Rice. It is not Clark Harris. It is something else, something indefinable but real.
It is a sense, a feeling, a power.
Connecticut felt that power.
Against Connecticut, Rutgers jogged to a 17-0 half time lead. But the Knights were winning too easy, RU got lazy. The Knights started to yawn in the third quarter and Connecticut threatened.
Then Rutgers switched it back on.
The Knights turned on the jets. They pulled away like a rocket. And they rocketed like it was nothing.
You see, this team has juice. This team has power. This team is for real.
On Thursday night this Rutgers team plays Louisville and they are both playing for keeps. It is more than just a clash of teams. This will be a clash of dreams.
And you know something, I can dream too …
I am standing on top of Mount Everest.
And when you stand up that high … well, sometimes you can fall a long way. But sometimes … sometimes … from that great a height… you can see something. In fact, sometimes from the top of Mount Everest … you can see all the way to the promised land.
Is that real or is it just a dream?
Thursday night, we'll know for sure.