Out of the corner of [their] eye [The Jackets] saw that the blocks of the [field] really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees—[they] could climb to it, if [they] climbed [together], and once there [they] could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder [, a bowl game].
[Their] heart[s] beat faster and faster as [bowl eligibility]’s face came up to [their] own. [They] knew that when [they] [took] this [opportunity], and forever wed [their] unutterable visions to [its] perishable breath, [their] mind[s] would never romp again like the mind of God. So [they] waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then [they played Miami]. At [their] [option]’s touch [bowl eligibility] blossomed for [them] like a flower and the incarnation was complete.
Anyone who’s ever played any sport knows that the feeling of one more game is one of the greatest drives known to man. For me, a lowly tennis player, the only thing I could think about walking off the court after a loss was getting back out there. College football doesn’t reward good teams with a trophy, it rewards them with a chance. A chance for one more opportunity to put on your school’s colors and compete for something. If that’s not the most pure motivation there is, I don’t know what could be.
For any fan of college football a bowl game is everything. The moment the team you love achieves bowl eligibility is such an incredible release of tension. Sure, maybe it should’ve happened earlier in the season. Sure, maybe a bowl game should be a minimum expectation, not a reward to be thankful for. Who cares. All that matters is that we made it.
The path took us through some awful moments but here we are. The team that started 1-3 pulled itself together and pulled off a 5-1 run with wins over Virginia Tech and Miami to get to that sixth win. I think after the USF and Pitt losses we were all disheartened and unsure of what was going to happen as the season unfolded. Tensions ran high, fans were angry, and we may never know how close we actually got to losing our coach. But still, here we are. I’m excited.
Let’s shift gears and talk a little more about the Miami game now. It wasn’t pretty, but I actually think this was our best performance of the season. Why? Ball control and finishing ability.
If we played this game in week three I think it’s a loss. If we played this game last year it’s a loss. But this is starting to become a different team. It started against UNC, holding off a late surge from the Heels and maintaining control. This game went much the same way, only this time the opponent was vastly more dangerous. Miami might look inept right now, but make no mistake: they are a dangerous team. Their defense is extremely tough and they are never short on stud athletes. I can’t help but think at some point they’re going to figure it out and lay 60 on someone.
I digress. What was so impressive about this game to me is that this team fought hard the entire game and didn’t give up control after taking the lead. We’ve seen the opposite so many times before: we play well, take a lead, and then all of a sudden it’s late in the fourth quarter and the other team is driving to go up. USF this year. 2017 Tennessee, Miami, and Virginia. After Miami drove 95 yards in 15 plays to make it a six point game, I was as nervous as I’ve ever been. I thought back to those four games over the past two years and how they ripped my heart out. But not this time. Instead, the offense put together a 12 play 6:43 drive to close the game, converting three huge third downs along the way. It was beautiful, and a total reversal of the pattern that we’ve seen for the past couple seasons.
Did we have turnover luck? Of course, tons of it. That will probably be the only dropped punt Jeff Thomas has in his entire career. But what matters is that we capitalized. Taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes is crucial, especially against good teams. Getting three turnovers (two on special teams) is lucky, but scoring 13 points off of them isn’t. That to me is a huge signal that this team is ready to compete, a signal that we’re done beating ourselves and ready to beat everyone else. I think this game represents a shift towards a mature team, one that is really ready to take charge of what happens to them. It feels like this team is putting it together and I love it.
Now let’s get two more wins and make it eight.