Andrea AdelsonESPN Senior Writer5 minutes of reading
Miami Gardens, Fla. — a 38-31 down-to-the-wire win after the final seconds On Saturday in Miami, jubilant Louisville players ran onto the field and chanted, ‘First year! We’re going to that ‘ship!’ Near midfield, coach Jeff Brohm finished a television interview — his daughter by his side — and then got a hug from his beaming dad, Oscar.
What Brohm did in his first year as Louisville’s head coach will be the stuff of legend in school history.
Brohm returned to Louisville to lead his hometown team, earning a player’s welcome and leading the No. 10 Cardinals (10-1) to their first ACC Championship Game appearance. In doing so, Brohm became the first Power 5 coach — having done it last year with Purdue in the Big Ten — to lead different teams to back-to-back conference championship games in consecutive years.
When asked what the feat meant to him during his post-game interview, Brohm admitted he didn’t know he was the first to do it. It should be noted that Jamie Chadwell has done that with Coastal Carolina and Liberty.
“It’s to be very honest with you,” Brohm said. “Being at Purdue, we worked hard to win games. Getting the Big Ten Championship was as good as anything I’ve done there, and we had some big wins. So, Year 1, here we are. This championship game means a lot.
“It shows that if you put in the work, surround yourself with good people, buy others in and work together, take the blame when things don’t go right, good things happen normally.”
Louisville had to fight back against Florida State, needing its fourth comeback win of the season. The Miami Cardinals stifled the run game, a strength matchup. That meant putting the ball in the hands of quarterback Jack Plummer, who continued to press — in fact, Miami blitzed Plummer on 23-of-39 drop backs, the highest blitz rate and second blitz he’s faced in his career. Career according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Plummer thrived under pressure, especially in the second half, and used his tight ends to make big plays when it mattered most. Plummer threw for 195 yards and all three of his touchdowns came against the blitz.
One of them went to tight end Nate Kuriski. Another went to offensive lineman Trevonte Sylvester on a tackle-worthy play. Kuriski led all Louisville receivers with five catches, and 12 different players caught a pass.
“We’re trying to find any way to score and we’ve got to use everyone on the team,” Plummer said. “The play with Trevonte, we’ve been practicing it for a few weeks now and we had a good situation to call it.”
After Miami tied the game at 31 with 5:34 to play, Plummer led a quick scoring drive — throwing a 58-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Coleman after Miami defensive backs Jayden Davis and Decorey Koch collided. Wide open field to score.
Miami drove down the field and went for fourth-and-goal with 1:30 left, but Tyler Van Dyke threw incomplete to Jackalby George. The Hurricanes had one last chance with 3 seconds left. Van Dyke threw a ball toward the end zone that ended up in the hands of Xavier Restrepo just short of the goal line.
There was celebration for Louisville, a team ranked eighth in the preseason ACC media poll.
“It was crazy,” cornerback Quincy Riley said. “Nobody expected us to come here, first year with new coaches, new players, something that’s never been done in history? You know what it was like. It was crazy, a crazy environment.”
For Brohm, the win must have been so satisfying that Louisville wanted to take over the program. He was Kentucky’s “Mr. Football” in 1998 and played at Louisville. His brother Greg also played at Louisville. Greg now serves as his chief of staff. Visible throughout the Oscars prom show.
At the ACC Kickoff in July, Brohm said he wants to capitalize on the energy and excitement that has engulfed the entire fan base and program since he replaced Scott Satterfield last year. But did he know that all this would be possible in year 1? If he did, he didn’t say Saturday afternoon.
“I’m one of those guys who doesn’t look very far down the road,” Brohm said. “I understand the challenges of winning football matches at the highest level, it takes a lot. It takes great training. It takes recruiting, you need to buy players who want to play and work hard. You need a bit of luck. You need some fight and some unity in your team.
“But to come back home and do it for my university, for my hometown, in front of these fans is really special. I feel the pressure. I want to win and everybody wants to win. But it takes work, it takes sacrifice and a lot of people put their Gotta play the part. So it’s exciting to play in a great championship game.”