Tuesday Night Lights, as Chryst sees it, are a means to that end, though not everyone shares his enthusiasm. In a dank stadium hallway after the game, I offer condolences to Novak on his eighth loss to Toledo, then ask him how he feels about playing on this night of the week. "I'm totally against it," he says. "I love the exposure, but I just don't think Tuesday night was meant for college football. We get so entranced by this thinking that it's such a big deal to be on TV, but we're prostituting these kids a little bit."
Joe, tell us how you really feel.
NOV 10: TCU AT LOUISVILLE
HUMP DAY AT PAPA JOHN'S
He cannot answer your questions, cannot speak at all while in costume. No self-respecting mascot would. After putting in a strong half during the Louisville-- Texas Christian game, Jason Wade hits the dressing room inside Papa John's Stadium. But after pulling off his beaked head, stepping out of his winged suit and turning it all over to his understudy, Wade, a.k.a. the Cardinal, proves quite voluble indeed.
He's not thrilled to be working on a Wednesday. For one thing, he says, his team had a short week to prepare, while the Horned Frogs had 11 days. His other concern relates to the Cardinal March--the team's promenade through throngs of cheering fans two hours before kickoff. On a Wednesday a lot of people couldn't make it. "The March was lackluster tonight," the senior says. "I know it's important to be on TV as much as possible, but I hope that Wednesday-, Thursday- and Friday-night games aren't going to become a fixture, once we get into a better conference."
In case you haven't heard, Louisville is not long for Conference USA. The Cardinals, like the Jeffersons, are movin' on up. As the cover of the football media guide says, LOUISVILLE GOES BIG EAST 2005.
Even if the Big East has taken it on the chin of late, losing Miami, Virginia Tech and (next year) Boston College to the ACC, it carries more cachet than C-USA--not to mention an automatic BCS bowl bid. The upgrade is in keeping with Louisville's dramatic rise. Playing in the palatial Papa John's, the Cardinals were improved first by coach John L. Smith, who was hired away by Michigan State two years ago, then by his successor, Bobby Petrino. Known for his fertile offensive mind and his ability to cultivate quarterbacks, Petrino has brought the Cardinals into this hump-day game at No. 12 in the AP poll, the team's highest ranking ever. They look better than that against TCU, taking a 55-14 lead in the fourth quarter before backups give up two meaningless scores.
"In the last month," says Petrino, "our games have been on Thursday, Friday, Thursday and Wednesday. We don't know what Saturday football's even about."
Junior linebacker Brandon Johnson longs to get back to Saturday games. He is tired of being ... well, tired. Morning classes on days following a night game on the road are the worst, he says. "I'm in class with my head bobbing, but the professor doesn't want to hear about how tired I am. Trust me, the professor does not care."