On the karmic scale of 0-100, Wake Forest’s 56-35 victory at Louisville yesterday registered somewhere north of 250.
Even someone who trained themselves for four decades to not exult or despair over the outcome of an athletic event could take deep satisfaction in the way this one came down.
There was Bobby Petrino, as reptilian of a coach as I ever had the displeasure of crossing paths with, screaming at a team that had clearly given up on him, in front of a cavernous stadium with row after row of empty seats.
There was Lonnie Galloway, the former Wake assistant who conspired to cheat his old employer, standing on the Louisville sidelines wondering where he’ll be coaching next season.
There was Matt Colburn, the running back who had his scholarship offer from Louisville yanked two days before signing day, running over, around and through the dispirited Cardinal defense to three touchdowns and a career-best 243 rushing yards.
There was a Wake defense that had been summarily dismantled by Boston College, Notre Dame and Clemson reassembling at least well enough to keep the Deacons’ bowl hopes alive.
And making the spectacle all the more enjoyable was the opportunity to take it all in with an old friend. I call him an old friend, even though he’s only about half my age.
His name is Evan Lepler, and he was the play-by-play guy in yesterday’s Fox Sport Southeast telecast.
I was lucky enough to get to know Evan during his pass through Wake Forest a dozen or so years ago, and even had the pleasure of meeting his folks, Steve and Ramie of Sharon, Mass., on that historic day the Deacons played Louisville in the Orange Bowl.
I’ve closely followed Lepler’s rise through the ranks from the play-by-play announcer for the Salem Redbirds of the Carolina League, through his involvement with Ultimate Frisbee on to an ever-increasing number of assignments to major college football and basketball. A favorite saying of mine is that good things happen to good people, and the good things that have been happening to Evan Lepler these past couple of years include the marriage to his sweetheart Caleigh, and the arrival of the apple of their eyes, little miss Olivia Bennett.
Listen. Evan is a friend so I’m going to tell you he’s a good play-by-play regardless of his abilities. But thankfully I don’t have to deceive anyone by saying Evan is not only good, he’s getting better game by game.
That’s the way with smart people. They get better the more they do whatever they’ve chosen to do, and I fully expect Evan Lepler to be a heavyweight in his chosen field long before Olivia Bennett begins to consider colleges she might attend.
He’s clearly a pro, which is why anyone who didn’t know his background could have ever guessed he graduated from Wake in 2007. It would have been disappointing to hear him spend the telecast waving black and gold pom poms.
But by this point in his career, I have to believe he doesn’t live and die with the outcome of a sporting event. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and Saturday’s game might have been as close to that exception as Evan is going to experience this season.
Again, smart people get better the more they do what they’ve chosen to do. In that vein, Dave Clawson has spent 19 years getting better and better as a football coach.
As I’ve written before, coaches, like players, like everybody, have their good seasons and their bad seasons. Coming out of last week’s loss at Florida State, it was pretty apparent that Dave Clawson was having a bad season.
The argument could be made that he was a victim of his own success, that he had raised the expectations to a point that it was becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy the masses. And there’s no disputing that the breaks have gone against the Deacons this season, what with the early suspension to Kendall Hinton and the epidemic of injuries that have ravaged critical positions on defense.
But here we are eight games into the season, and the Deacons have a fighting chance to win six games and play in a bowl for the third straight campaign. They gave themselves that chance by beating Louisville and improving to 4-4 with Syracuse (home), N.C. State (away), Pitt (home) and Duke (away) left to play.
Dave Clawson proved to me in his first four seasons at Wake that he’s a good coach, one of the best the school has ever been lucky enough to hire. And I remained convinced Dave Clawson is a good football coach – albeit one having a bad season — even when his team was giving up 41 points to BC, 56 to Notre Dame and 63 to Clemson.
But if he can somehow get this team to a bowl in this, of all seasons, then it would be one of the best performances from any coach I’ve every crossed paths with. If Wake plays in a bowl in 2018, the school should erect a statue to Dave Clawson.
If Wake plays in a bowl in 2018, he’ll be worth more to the school than said school could ever hope to pay him.
Speaking of schools paying football coaches, it’s going to be fun to see if Louisville digs deep enough to come up with the $14 million buyout it will take to get rid of Bobby Petrino.
On a day that Petrino was looking about as a bad as coach can look, two folks from Wake – one in the television booth and one directing the victory on the sidelines — were looking mighty, mighty good.
Never bet against karma.