It is not every week that the University of Louisville puts 500 T-shirts on sale that read "Burp a Terp."
But Saturday night's game against Maryland has been circled on Cardinal Coach Vince Gibson's calendar since his first day on the job three years ago. It's on record. You can look it up.
"The first thing I did when I came here (from Kansas State) was to check the schedule for the next few years to make sure Oklahoma and Nebraska weren't on it," said Gibson. "Then I saw the Maryland game in 1978, and I promised that on that day, there would be two big-time football teams on the field."
After suffering through initial seasons of 1-10 and 4-7, Gibson turned the program around last year for a 7-4-1 mark and a bid to the Independence Bowl.
This fall, he rested his goal:
"On Sept. 16, 1978, when the University of Maryland comes to town there will definitely be two big-time collegate football teams on the field. We expect to be able to beat a strong team like Maryland simply because our program is much better now, our team is more experienced and better, and most importantly the players think they can beat them.
"I think we are to the point where we can compete successfully against a nationally proven team. And I fully expect the first sellout in our school's history."
As the proving date approaches, Don Belcher, Louisville ticket manager, said yesterday that 19,000 tickets had been sold, in addition to the 8,000 seats held for students. This is way ahead of the usual pace (Louisville averaged 15,791 last year) and Belcher said he expects a crowd of more than 34,000 which would be the Cards his great since they played Western Kentucky in 1975. Capacity at Fairgrounds Stadium is just under 40,000.
"Burp a Terp, Beat Maryland" T-shirts are going quickly, as in the more refined version, "Go Cards Go, Beat Maryland." Saturday, the city is holding what it calls the First Annual Marylandfest, which will includes everything from rock bands to turtle races, culminating with "The Magnificent Maryland Motorcade" through town.
"The Red Rage - that's what Coach Gibson calls it - it's really caught on," said third-year starting quarterback Stu Stram, son of former NFL coach Hank Stram. "Everybody feels it, and I'tell you what - it's a great feeling, expecially compared to what it was like here before.
"Deep down, everyone knows what this means to our season and to our program. A win would mean we're capable of playing with anyone in the nation. This has been Coach Gibson's goal since he came here, to win this game.
"What if we lose?
"I really think we have everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Being questioned by a reporter from the Maryland area, Gibson tempered his optimism a bit.
"It's very doubtful we can beat Maryland. They're better," he said. "But I think we can give them a good game."
Asked what he had noticed going on around campus, Gibson replied, "Oh, kids are drinking beer. Really noting is going on. This is basketball country."
Gibson said the crowd won't affect the outcome of the game. "They won't let the crowd play," he laments.
"With the crowd they're expecting it's going to be hard for anyone to come in here and dominate us," said Stram.
A coach familiar with both programs said he thought Maryland would be too physical for Louisville and thus rates the Terps 10-point favorites. Gibson said, "I think we are fairly physical. But can we stand up with them? It's a question in my mind. We have six people who can bench press 400 pounds or more. But they have eight. I counted 'em this morning."
Stram said he expects a low-scoring game, "because both teams have great defenses.
"Maryland is not a finese type team.They line up on defense and expect you to make mistakes. That's one thing we can't do. We'll have to come at 'em and play bloody-nose type foot-ball."
Like Maryland, Lousiville's opener was so lopsided (54-7 over South Dakota State) that the Cards are unsure of where they stand. Stram, who is a bit short ("You want the truth? Then I'm 5-foot-7"), runs a sprint-out, option type of game, seldom throwing, and seldom making mistakes.
"We don't throw much, because coach Gibson thinks I can't see over the linemen," said Stram. "Actually, that's true."