BOSTON – Running back Jawhar Jordan earned a silver baseball bat as the offensive player of the game. Interim coach Deion Branch lifted the Fenway Bowl trophy. Defensive back Jarvis Browlee danced around the baseball field with the Keg of Nails.
The Cardinals are heading back to Louisville with all the prizes.
Except their coach.
Jordan ran for 115 yards, breaking free for two long touchdowns, and Scott Satterfield's former team beat his new one 24-7 on Saturday in the twice-delayed inaugural edition of the first bowl game at Fenway Park.
“It was all about closing the chapter. Closing the coach Satterfield chapter,” said Branch, the Patriots Super Bowl MVP who temporarily took over the Cardinals (8-5) when Satterfield left Louisville for Cincinnati (9-4).
“I'm enjoying it. I'm relishing it," said Branch, who will return to his job as director of player development and hand the team over to Jeff Brohm. "As of now, I'm retiring.”
With a gridiron laid out over the diamond and “Fenway Park” painted in the end zones using the traditional Red Sox font, Jordan scored from 49 yards out at the end of the first quarter and 40 at the end of the second.
Brock Domann hit Marshon Ford for another score on a 40-degree day when both teams struggled to pass — or even hold onto the ball. The Bearcats fumbled three times, losing two; Louisville fumbled twice and had two interceptions.
But Jordan and Maurice Turner, who ran 31 times for 160 yards, gave Louisville a 287-55 edge in rushing yards and bragging rights in the Ohio River rivalry that was first played in 1929 but went dormant after the Cardinals moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
“I’m disappointed today. I wish I had been able to do more for these kids,” said Cincinnati interim coach Kerry Coombs, who will be turning things over to Satterfield. “But I promise you this: These two weeks, I will count these two weeks as two of the greatest weeks of my life.”
Evan Prater, who was sacked seven times, connected with Wyatt Fischer for the Bearcats' only score, barely getting off the pass before he was brought down. Fischer cut back across the field from the 20 and outraced his defender to the end zone to make it 7-7 early in the second quarter.
But the Cardinals shut them out from there.
Football has been played at Fenway Park since the 1960s, when it was home to the American Football League’s Boston Patriots, and as recently as 2018 when it hosted The Game between Harvard and Yale. It has witnessed everything from Irish hurling and big air skiing to NHL games — a second NHL winter classic is scheduled for next month – not to mention concerts and movie nights and Shakespeare in the park.
But the pandemic wiped out the first try at the Fenway Bowl in 2020 and again last year, when the matchup between SMU and Virginia was scuttled three days before kickoff by a COVID-19 outbreak involving the Cavaliers.
Satterfield decided this month to switch sides in the erstwhile rivalry, leaving Louisville for Cincinnati. He said he was staying away from the game and spending his time recruiting.
“It’s certainly an unusual situation that we have going on right now,” he said on the broadcast.
Branch, who won two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP with the New England Patriots, led the Cardinals in place of Brohm, who is coming from Purdue; Coombs handled the Bearcats' sideline while they wait for Satterfield to get settled.
Sod was laid out over the dirt basepaths and the warning track beyond the east end zone, in front of the baseball bullpens. Because of the lack of space on the quirky and angular field, both teams shared the same sideline.
The manual scoreboard on Green Monster was repainted to record quarters instead of innings, with “CINCY” and “L’VILLE” in the spots usually reserved for baseball teams. The balls and strikes were converted to down and distance.
One goalpost was mounted near the third-base fungo circle. The other was in right field, just about at the spot where David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam in the 2013 AL Championship Series sent Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter crashing over the bullpen wall and propelled the Red Sox into the World Series.
The Cincinnati bearcat mascot and Louie, the Louisville cardinal, hung out with Wally and Tessie, the Red Sox Green Monsters. The fans sang “Sweet Caroline” between the third and fourth quarters.
The school bands tried to make up for a sparse crowd – more like Red Sox-Royals in July than a Yankees game in the thick of a pennant race. The announced attendance was 15,000, though the center field bleachers and left field grandstand were completely empty, with fans mostly clustered behind the dugouts and low in the right field bleachers; the red seat that marks Ted Williams’ longest home run stood out among the empty green rows.
“Coming back to Boston, it was was great,” said Branch, who played seven years over two stints with the Patriots. “Everything aligned exactly how it was supposed to.”
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