Another installment of Yes, This Happened. A collection of sports events that blow me away when I’m reminded of them. This time around is the 2007 Orange Bowl between Wake Forest and Louisville.
Game: 2007 Orange Bowl
In 2006, Wake Forest had an unbelievable defense. Their offense was in the bottom half, scoring 21.6 points per game (78th of 119 schools). Their defense allowed only 15.4 points per game, which ranked them 12th. Their stunning defense was led by Joseph Abbate. This man was a Heisman finalist in 2006 with 120 tackles at linebacker. Also making an appearance was Aaron Curry. He later went on to be one of the more memorable busts in the NFL (sorry Seahawks fans).
Louisville emerged from a crazy 2006 season in the Big East where West Virginia and Rutgers challenged them all season. The more hardcore college football fans will remember West Virginia’s Pat White and Noel Devine and Rutgers’ Ryan Teel and Ray Rice. While Ray Rice became very famous (on and off the field, unfortunately), could you have named him being from Rutgers?
Louisville was led by Brian Brohm, Mario Urrutia, and Michael Bush on offense. On defense, they had the 19 year-old Amobi Okoye. Louisville ranked 4th in offensive points per game and 17th on defense for points allowed per game. With those stats coupled with the fact that the Big East was perhaps the second best conference that year, they certainly seemed poised to beat Wake Forest handedly. Louisville won, but not by much: 24-13.
What’s so ridiculous about that?
Just the opening blurb is enough to make me pause. Louisville has had a very impressive history in the 2000-Present time frame for football. Wake Forest, however, has never been lauded for their athletic ability. Only seven times since 1950 have they ever been ranked in the Top 25 for football. They are slightly better at basketball, but not by a whole lot. Their best football alumni is Calvin Pace, which is pretty solid. Their next best, though, is Rickey Proehl. It drops off harder from there.
As I mentioned before, Aaron Curry was the only notable guy to emerge from this Demon Deacon team. He promptly busted in the NFL after a few injuries and proving to be more of a weight room warrior than a field general. Jim Grobe, Wake’s coach, coached until 2013, but never had another double digit win season. He was able to get his team ranked the next two seasons, but ended on a sour 40-57 record until he ultimately retired on a sour note.
Uh, how did this happen?
Honest to God, I could not tell you. When someone on a podcast I listen to mentioned this off-hand, I immediately went to go look this up. Sure enough, I saw the Wikipedia article staring me back in the face. Jim Grobe won Coach of the Year (deservedly so) that year. I have to believe it was a combination of the ACC being very weak (they played a 9-5 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship) and the Associated Press rankings voters refusing to believe that the winner of a power conference like the ACC wasn’t something spectacular. Their solid performance in the Orange Bowl shows that they had talent, but I really cannot believe they were as good as the numbers tell us.