Louisville Takes Care of Marshall; Wins 59-28
In what I would consider an ugly game, Louisville went on the road, took care of business, and got the hell out of Dodge. Yes, the Cards put up 59 points and Lamar Jackson put up his second 7 touchdown game of the season, but there are some things to address. For those counting at home, LJ8 has as many 7 touchdown games as Michael Vick, Robert Griffin III, Vince Young, Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow, and Johnny Manziel had in 222 combined games (per Joe Giglio). Lamar Jackson has more total touchdowns than every FBS team except for Michigan, who has yet to play a ranked team or a road game. And he’s done it in 11 of 16 possible quarters. The young man is having a magical season and I’m happy to get the chance watch him in person and cheer for him.
The interesting thing about this season is that, with increased performance and recognition, comes increased expectation. We are allowed to nitpick at negative things when the team wins by 30 for the fourth time this season because there is a lot on the line. In a normal Louisville season, some of the things I’m about to harp on might be looked over. We fans might be content with where we sat and a close loss on the road at Clemson might be brushed off with the domination of Florida State still fresh in our minds. But not this year. I truly believe that this iteration of the Louisville Football squad has every tool and the talent to compete with, and beat, every other team in the country.
That said, here are some of the things I saw that were off about last night’s game. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you disagree. First, the offensive line took a huge step back against Marshall. The announcers (who were terrible) said that this was the blueprint that other teams needed to look at to see how to get pressure on Lamar Jackson, but that’s not true. Marshall didn’t do anything special to try to put more pressure on Lamar, and if you don’t think that FSU was dialing up everything they could to get to him, you’re mistaken. Marshall got in Lamar’s face because of blown assignments and because the O-line was flat out getting beaten. Every replay of a failed run for Lamar showed a tackle or guard getting blown by or just whiffing on a block. The offensive line has played better than that this season and will need to against Clemson to prevent a slow start. Louisville is one of 6 teams in the country that has not trailed this season. I’m not sure how they would react to it, but I’d rather not find out. Fortunately, the Cards were resilient enough last night to turn things around in the second quarter.
The second thing that frustrated me was the amount of mental mistakes the team made. Louisville racked up 145 penalty yards, their most in a game since accruing 147 in 2000. Holds brought back offensive gains, defensive penalties extended drives, and personal fouls gave up free ground. Combined with 3 turnovers—including a muffed fair catch (come on, man)—that is the perfect recipe for a team to shoot itself in the foot enough to give up a game. I’ll also tack on a mental mistake for the coaching staff here. Once Lamar Jackson comes out of the game, unless there is a real chance for the opposing team to come back and win, he should stay out of it. Marshall was headhunting all night, but even more so after being incensed by coaches sending the first team back out. Fortunately, the Cards offense took care of business cleanly and got back off of the field. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to play it safer.
Lastly, the whole team lacked the crispness we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Lamar missed throws he really shouldn’t have. Receivers ran routes that took them completely out of plays. The defense missed tackles and lost coverage in ways that a better quarterback (like Deshaun Watson or Greg Ward, Jr.) will absolutely take advantage of. The special teams had the aforementioned muffed punt, a missed field goal, an offsides on a kickoff, and allowed a big return. We’ve gotten used to seeing a team clicking on all cylinders. Last night we saw a group with all kinds of misfires. It is encouraging to still come away with a road win while having so much trouble, but I really hope that they can clean things up this week in practice with all focus on what might be the biggest game of the season.
I’ve been particularly negative today, but make no mistake that I’m still in awe of what this team has accomplished so far. We were a Bobby Petrino act of mercy away from scoring 60 for the fourth time this season. They will receive first place votes in tomorrow’s polls just like last week. They’ll be a part of College GameDay for the second time in three weeks. They have a real chance to do things never before done by this program. Today, and last night during the game, I was a picky analyst, but I’m still on the train and just along for the ride. There’s a big game coming up Saturday night. Let’s see what our Cards are made of. Beat Clemson.
Men’s Soccer Blows Out Virginia, 6-1
The Cardinal XI, who were left out of the preseason rankings, have gone about getting their national attention this season the hard way. Louisville has started the season with a 7-1-1 (3-0-0 ACC) record with the only draw coming on opening night against Butler and the only loss coming against the pesky Wildcats. The Cards have climbed to number 13 (depending on what soccer rankings you look at. Top Drawer has them all the way up to 6), and took care of number 16 Virginia last night in style, piling on 6 goals in a very one sided affair. It appears that Ken Lolla may have more up his sleeve than people previously thought. I, for one, am hoping that they can keep it rolling, and I’m excited to see what they can accomplish for the rest of the season.
Until next time, Go Cards.