Offense Returns to Form; UofL Routs NC State 54-13
Yesterday was a pretty big day for Louisville football. I'll talk more about the national picture in a bit, but the biggest story of the day for the Cards was the return of a high octane offense and a suffocating defense. The Cards were clicking on all cylinders in the first half of yesterday's game, with Lamar Jackson racking up four touchdowns and the defense picking up three interceptions on the way to a 44-0 halftime lead. Louisville went on to let up in the second half, with NC State actually winning the half 13-10. Of course, during this time, Louisville attempted fewer big plays down the field, played much more conservatively on defense, and got a bit sloppy overall. I would be disappointed, but with the game in hand so early, I'm really just surprised that the starters stayed in as long as they did.
The defense deserves some love. After disappointing performances in the Clemson game and the third quarter of the Duke game, the Cardinals defense came out with their hair on fire against NC State. The aforementioned three interceptions were just a product of continual pressure on the quarterback and yielding absolutely no ground in the run game. The defense played with a purpose, to show that while Louisville may live and die on the performance of Lamar Jackson, the defense will fight tooth and nail to the death if he isn't performing well. This half was a reminder that when all the parts of the Louisville team are operating the way they should, this team can dominate anyone, just like they showed against FSU. The starting defense was tagged for all 13 NC State points, but they did their fair share to make up for it. (I still think the receiver was out of bounds for their first touchdown anyway.) Outside of Shaq Wiggins getting torched (not sure why he replaced Jaire Alexander as the starter again), the defense was on point. In addition to the interceptions, they tallied up a blocked punt and turned two Louisville turnovers inside their own 40 yard line into zero NC State points. Welcome back, Cardinal Defense, you've been missed.
|LJ8 has been practicing this pose all season.|
You know who else deserves some love? The kicking game. Namely, Blanton Creque and Mason King. After Evan O'Hara missed two field goals before taking the roughing penalty that saved the game last week, Blanton Creque regained the starting spot this week. I think that he did plenty to cement it, going out and tying the school record for points in a game by a kicker with 18 (4/4 field goals and 6/6 extra points). He had a lot of help from punter, Mason King, who is also the holder. As NC State showed, a holder is just as important as a kicker, as a muffed hold led to a missed extra point on NC State's second touchdown. Mason King had a good kicking game of his own, sticking two punts inside the 5 yard line. Let's remember that all these guys in the kicking game are freshmen, and get excited about their potential growth in a Louisville uniform.
With defense and special teams covered, the only thing left to talk about is the offense. Although they stalled in the second half (am I still allowed to blame bad ACC officiating if we win by 40?), the offense returned to form against NC State, scoring on all but one drive in the first half, with the one stop being a very strange fumble by James Quick. Lamar Jackson accounted for four touchdowns and gained 459 total yards (though he lost 28 of those via sacks). It was a good day to get his Heisman campaign back on track, even if Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech) put up more video game like numbers against JV defenses in the night game. Lamar Jackson has now accounted for 34 touchdowns on the season, and while his average per game has dropped below five, I think that he still has a great opportunity to break Colt Brennan's record for touchdowns in a single season (63).
The National Picture
After Louisville's loss to Clemson, the road to the playoff got a bit windier. Louisville needed to win the rest of its games (check so far) and needed to pray to the college football gods for chaos. Until yesterday, that chaos hadn't quite come about yet. First, the bad. Houston lost again. This time it was at SMU, and they will surely fall like a rock from their top 15 position. That November road game has gone from a potential statement win for the Cards to a must win, lest we lose a lot of the national respect we've garnered this season. Also coming into the bad column is a Kentucky win. Of course, from a purely objective standpoint, we want Kentucky to win every game that isn't against Louisville. From a personal standpoint, though, this one makes me sad for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I generally just don't like Kentucky. The second reason is because I have to attend a wedding at 5:30 on the day of the Louisville vs Kentucky football game and I quite desperately need Kentucky to continue being bad so that game is played at noon.
Now onto the good things that happened for Louisville. Stanford and Oregon continue to lose. That's fantastic because the more they lose, the less impressive Washington's "statement wins" end up being. If it is a one loss beauty contest between Louisville and Washington, we need the PAC-12 to be completely terrible so that Washington comes out of that conference looking like the prettiest pig. That said, Washington still needs to lose, and they have yet to do that. Alabama beat Texas A&M, which is good, because a one loss non-conference champion Alabama would definitely get in over a Louisville team of similar stature. I'm not sure A&M carries that same weight, but I'd rather them lose again at some point to be sure. Finally, Ohio State was upset at Penn State last night. That loss is huge for the Cards. The Michigan vs Ohio State game is interesting now. I personally think that Louisville makes it easily over Michigan if they both have one loss and don't win their respective conferences. However, if Michigan goes out and beats Ohio State, then the B1G seals its fate with only one playoff team.
Things are looking up Cards fans. The Lamar Jackson show hits the road this week to take on Virginia. As always, we'll look for Bobby to mop the floor with the opposition.
The Men's Basketball Team is Doing Stuff!!
And that stuff doesn't include paying for scandalous things in dorms or overcrowding the aisle at a football game in a manner that is clearly a fire hazard. With the Notice of Allegations coming out last week, it looks like Louisville is out of the woods on this whole scandal thing, and will face no more than the previously imposed postseason ban and a potential suspension for Rick Pitino. That's all I really care about saying or speculating on that matter, though, and there are plenty of other sources where you can go gorge yourself of information about it.
The Men's Basketball team has now completed both of its Red v White scrimmages, which is a clear sign that the season is upon us. After a barn burner in the first game, a 105-102 final, one team ran away with the show Friday night. The White team took it to the Red team, winning 123-80. Jay Henderson (yep, Jay Henderson) paced the White team with 29 points, hitting 9 of 10 shots from behind the arc. Quentin Snider and Deng Adel each had 8 assists for the white team, and Donovan Mitchell put together and impressive line of 21 points, five assists, three steals, and a block. The Red team's bright point on Friday was Ray Spalding with 12 boards and 11 points.
The Cards take the floor against their first opponent that isn't themselves on November 3rd at 7:00 PM. Kentucky Wesleyan will come to town and play their part in the first exhibition game of the season.
On the Road Again...
It's a busy day for Cardinal athletics, but you'd be hard pressed to attend any of these games, as they're all on the road. Here's the lightening round. Women's soccer is at Florida State. After a rough outing against Miami they need points however they can get them to make it to the ACC tournament. Women's volleyball is at Pittsburgh. I don't know anything about Pittsburgh, but I know that Anne Kordes would love for her team to start winning some ACC matches. Men's soccer is at NC State. They had a rough week, but righted the ship with a win over Ohio State. They'll be looking to solidify their conference lead with good performances today and Friday when a top ten Clemson team comes to town. Finally, field hockey is at James Madison. They'll look to round out the non conference regular season with wins, but will have to not look ahead to the conference tournament too much. The Cards tied for 3rd in the conference with three other teams (too few conference games will do that), and will take on North Carolina in their first game in the conference tournament. Reminder that Louisville won that regular season matchup 1-0 at Trager while UNC was ranked in the top five.
Case, you forgot the radio link.
No, I didn't. Due to the timing of yesterday's game, we decided to take the week off from the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. We'll be back in the WCHQ studio next week where you can hear me talk like I know more than I really do about college football. You can also hear Paulie and Wordlwide talk about things they actually know about, like Louisville women's sports. If you absolutely need your fix, head on over to Crescent Hill Radio's website and check out some of the old shows in the archives.
Until next time, Go Cards.