Saturday, October 05, 2002
Ragone's performance returns him to the national spotlight
By CHRIS DUNCAN
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. The coaches had departed the Louisville locker room, leaving quarterback Dave Ragone and the 25 players on his offense alone with their thoughts.
Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone against Florida State last week.
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It was halftime of last Thursday's game with No. 4 Florida State, and the Cardinals trailed 13-6.
Ragone had given plenty of pep talks before, but this time he decided only one word was needed.
I yelled out, 'Believe!' That's all you had to say, he said.
The Cardinals followed their senior leader onto the rain-soaked field and earned perhaps the greatest win in the program's history, a 26-20 overtime triumph.
We all just believed we were going to win, said offensive tackle Jerry Spencer. Dave is a great leader.
After the game, as fans spilled out of the seats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Ragone dove to the muddy turf in exultation.
You give kids who aren't as physically talented the idea they're still in a game with a team they shouldn't be playing with, that fuels the fire. That's what happened, Ragone said. It looked like we were the fourth-ranked team in the country.
Ragone finished 15-of-27 for a season-low 182 yards with an interception and rushed for 43 yards. But his performance was filled with gritty runs, fist pumps and fiery emotion.
The next day, Ragone was a guest on several national sports radio talk shows. On Saturday, he appeared on ESPN's College Gameday.
As he usually does, Ragone deflected praise toward his teammates, particularly his offensive line, which was heavily criticized early in the season.
Ragone was sacked 10 times in Louisville's first four games, and admitted he was becoming tentative when he dropped back.
He was sacked six times against the Seminoles, but only twice after halftime. The line's play in the second half rebuilt Ragone's confidence in the unit and himself.
I took my lumps, he said. I didn't envision the first month being like that, but I think I have grown up. The two losses we had were bitter, but we've bounced back and grown together.
Now, it seems like everything's slowed down for them up front. They're communicating a lot better, they're finishing their blocks, Ragone said. That gives me time to step into the pocket. If I'm able to step into the pocket, I'll be able to complete most of my throws.
Ragone also has renewed confidence in his underclassmen-rich receiving corps. He completed over 60 percent of his passes in 2001, but his percentage was only 51 percent heading into Thursday's game.
Ragone started 2-for-8 against the Seminoles, then connected on 13-of-19 passes in the second half. Sophomore Joshua Tinch caught four passes for 93 yards, including a 30-yard TD reception, and eight different Cardinals had catches.
They all stepped up, Ragone said. This is how the offense is supposed to work. There isn't a go-to guy. It's an efficient way to get the ball down the field.
Measure us at the end of the year and see how far we've come, he said. Each week, we're growing together and getting better and believing in one another. By the end of the season, it's going to be something special.
The Cardinals play at Memphis (2-3, 1-2 Conference USA) on Tuesday in another nationally televised game. But a few days after the landmark victory over Florida State, Ragone still wasn't ready to look ahead.
He usually doesn't watch tapes of his games from start-to-finish, but succumbed Monday night when he learned the game was playing on ESPN Classic. His close friend and former Louisville tight end Chip Mattingly watched it with him.
We were going nuts, Ragone said. You see the great Ohio State-Michigan rivalries on ESPN Classic, but who would believe you would see Florida State-Louisville? That's something that goes away in the archives, something to put away for family members.
It's huge. It's going to go beyond this year, beyond anyone's playing career, regardless of what happens after their college careers are over.
Ragone realizes the win restores Louisville's stature as the pick to win Conference USA. The Cardinals were ranked 17th in the preseason, but dropped out after opening with a 22-17 loss to Kentucky. Now, after stumbling early, they must relearn how to deal with being favorites.
Ragone thinks they will.
A guy came up to me after the game and said, 'You guys play so much better as underdogs,' and it's true, Ragone said. We know when conference comes, we're the conference champs. But outside our conference, we're looked upon as a second-tier team. We've got a lot of people talking.
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Angels 9, Yankees 6
Athletics 6, Twins 3
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Aiken 27, Belmont 6
Anderson 37, harrison 34
Batavia 44, Williamsburg 0
Bethel Tate 35, Clermont NE 0
CCD 55, Landmark Christian 28
Chaminade-Julienne 57, Purcell Marian 13
CHCA 37, Columbus Bishop Hartley 0
Clinton-Massie 33, Blanchester 0
Colerain 31, Oak Hills 13
CovCath-Highlands rescheduled for today
Dayton Dunbar 46, Western Hills 18
Dixie Heights 24, Conner 6
East Central 31, Lawrenceburg 7
Glen Este 21, Winton Woods 14
Goshen 14, Hillsboro 7
Holy Cross 36, Bellevue 6
Holy Cross 36, Bellevue 6
How Enquirer poll teams fared
Indian Hill 19, Wyoming 0
Indiana football scores
Kentucky football scores
Kettering Alter 28, Badin 14
Kings 42, Ross 13
Lakota West 33, Milford 21
Lebanon 7, Carroll 0
Lemon-Monroe 17, Talawanda 14
Lloyd 37, Newport 7
Loveland 35, Norwood 13
Madeira 29, Finneytown 0
Mason 39 , Northwest 21
Mauk sets national yards record
Meadowdale 34, Jacobs 6
Middletown 14, Fairfield 6
New Richmond 35, Western Brown 0
NewCath 48, Ludlow 0
North College Hill 44, Lockland 7
Ohio football scores
Prep football scores
Princeton 42, Lakota East 21
Reading 34, Deer Park 0
Ryle 24, Boone County 9
Scott 56, Grant Co. 6
Simon Kenton 26, Campbell County 22
St. Xavier 35, LaSalle 7
Sycamore 49, Hamilton 7
Taylor 17, Mariemont 14
Turpin 20, Amelia 12
Wilmington 6, Little Miami 0
Woodward 26, Shroder Paideia 0