MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — After the final seconds ticked off the clock in a down-to-the-wire 38-31 win over Miami on Saturday, jubilant Louisville players ran onto the field and started screaming, ‘First year! We’re going to that ‘ship!’ Near midfield, coach Jeff Brohm finished up 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 coach will go down in school history as the literal stuff of legends.
Brohm returned to Louisville to lead his hometown team, to a hero’s welcome, and has guided the No. 10 Cardinals (10-1) to their first ACC championship game appearance. In doing so, Brohm becomes the first Power 5 coach to take different teams to back-to-back conference championship games in consecutive years — having done it with Purdue last year in the Big Ten.
When asked what that accomplishment meant to him during his postgame interview, Brohm admitted he had no idea he was the first to do that. It should be noted Jamey Chadwell has also done it, with Coastal Carolina and Liberty.
“That does mean a lot to be quite honest with you,” Brohm said. “Being at Purdue, we worked hard to win games. Getting to the Big Ten championship was as good as any accomplishment I had there, and we had some big wins. So, we come here, Year 1, to find a way to get to this championship game means a whole lot.
“It just shows that if you’re willing to put in the work, surround yourself with good people, allow others to buy in and work together, take the blame when things aren’t going well, good things can normally happen.”
Louisville had to fight to clinch its spot against Florida State, needing its fourth comeback victory of the season. Miami stymied the Cardinals’ run game, a strength headed into the matchup. That meant putting the ball in the hands of quarterback Jack Plummer, who was pressured constantly — in fact, Miami blitzed Plummer on 23 of 39 dropbacks, the highest blitz rate and second-most blitzes he has faced in a game in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Plummer thrived under the pressure, particularly in the second half, and utilized his tight ends to make huge plays when it mattered most. Plummer threw for 195 yards and all three of his touchdown passes against the blitz.
One of them went to tight end Nate Kurisky. Another went to offensive lineman Trevonte Sylvester on a tackle-eligible play. Kurisky led all Louisville receivers with five catches, and 12 different players caught a pass.
“We’re trying to find any way possible to score, and we’ve got to utilize everyone we’ve got on the team,” Plummer said. “The play with Trevonte, we’ve been practicing that one for a few weeks now, and we had a good situation to call it.”
After Miami tied the game at 31 with 5:34 left, Plummer led a quick scoring drive — throwing a 58-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Coleman after Miami defensive backs Jaden Davis and Te’Cory Couch collided with each other, leaving Coleman a wide open field to score.
Miami drove down the field and had fourth-and-goal with 1:30 remaining, but Tyler Van Dyke threw incomplete for Jacolby George. The Hurricanes had one last chance with 3 seconds left. Van Dyke heaved a ball toward the end zone, and it ended up in the hands of Xavier Restrepo just short of the goal line.
The celebration ensued for Louisville, a team picked eighth in the preseason ACC media poll.
“It was crazy,” cornerback Quincy Riley said. “Nobody expected us to be here, and first year for the new coaching staff, new players, something that’s never been done in history? You got to know what it was like. It was crazy, a crazy environment.”
For Brohm, the victory had to have been especially satisfying, knowing how badly Louisville wanted him 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. Another brother, Brian, also played at Louisville and is now the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Oscar Brohm is visible around the program, too.
Back in July at ACC Kickoff, Brohm said he wanted to be able to capitalize on the energy and excitement that had engulfed the entire fan base and program since he arrived last year to replace Scott Satterfield. But did he know all this would be possible in Year 1? If he did, he wasn’t saying on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m one of those guys that doesn’t look too far down the road,” Brohm said. “I understand the challenges that it is to win football games at a high level, and it takes a lot. It takes great coaching. It takes recruiting, it takes players wanting to buy in and work hard. It takes a little luck on your side. It takes some fight, and some unity that has to happen on your team.
But to come back home and do it for my university, my hometown, in front of these fans is really special. I feel the pressure. I want to win, and I want to win for everybody. But it takes work, and it takes sacrifice and it takes a lot of people doing their part. So it’s just exciting to be able to go play in a great championship game.”