By Dalton Ray–
The third-ranked Louisville football team walked into a hostile environment in Huntington, West Virginia and played tight with Marshall for the first 24 minutes. Of Louisville’s first five drives, Louisville had a punt, missed field goal and a interception. And just like that, Louisville jumped up 52-7.
The final score read 59-28. The talk of the nation, Lamar Jackson, ended with stats everyone is used to seeing. Jackson totaled 479 yards and seven touchdowns. Cole Hikutini, James Quick and Jamari Staples each ended with over 85 yards receiving.
Brandon Radcliff led the rushing attack with 131 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. Defensively, Josh Harvey-Clemons lead the way with 11 tackles. The Louisville defense held Marshall to under 70 yards passing.
Dare them to throw
Louisville’s defense came out ready to play in Huntington against the Thundering Herd. MU’s starting quarterback was pulled due to injury just before the game and forced a true freshman in the game. Garet Morrell went 4-for-11 in the first half with 15 yards.
U of L loaded the box, pressed the receivers and squeezed the down on the running lanes. Marshall couldn’t dive too deep into their playbook as they mainly called inside zone, speed-out or screens.
Louisville had a golden opportunity with a true freshman starting his first game and they took advantage. The Cardinals only allowed 74 total yards in the first half.
Jackson starts sluggish
Just like the Florida State game, Jackson seemed to be forcing passes early in the game, and the results weren’t pretty. After the first quarter, Jackson went 5-for-13 with 129 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Without his 71-yard bomb to a wide-open Quick, the Heisman front runner went 4-for-12 for 58 yards and a pick.
Marshall took advantage with a muffed punt and scored, giving U of L 36 seconds to drive 75 yards. Jackson handled the pressure beautifully as he led the Cardinals straight down the field. Jackson found Staples, Bonnafon, Staples then Bonnafon on four consecutive plays that took Louisville 50-plus yards. Hikutini pulled in the touchdown with two seconds remaining in the half.
Marshall coach Doc Holliday wasn’t shocked by Jackson’s performance.
“It didn’t surprised me. I mean just watch the film, he did the same thing to Florida State and Syracuse. He can throw it and he can run it,” Holliday said. “He is a tremendous player, anyone will have a hard time trying to limit him.”
Jackson found his rhythm late in the second and the Louisville offense followed right after. The Cardinals poured on 28 points during the second 15 quarter and began distancing themselves from the Herd. U of L scored 45 points in the second and third quarters.
The championship recipe
It’s very early in the college football season, but it’s hard to deny what Louisville has accomplished to this point. On paper what they’ve done is beat three inferior teams by a large margin and one top-rated opponent. It’s a little different when one begins to break down the games.
Every championship football team needs to be able to run the ball and stop the run. Louisville leads in the nation in total rushing yards and ranks in the top 25 in yards allowed per carry.
Championship teams need an electric player that changes the entire game. Is there more of a personification of lightning in a bottle than Lamarvelous Jackson?
Separate sides of the ball need to step up when one isn’t performing well. Louisville’s offense and defense have been clicking together for about 45 of the first 48 quarters through 2016. But in the quarters they haven’t been in sync, the opposite have stepped up and held their ground.
The season is still young, but Louisville is taking care of the small things early on that lead in big seasons.
The business trip was a success
This isn’t the game on U of L’s radar and everyone knows it. While the Cardinals needed to focus on Marshall this week, the real challenge is in South Carolina against the Clemson Tigers. Louisville made the two-and-a-half hour trip this week and finished this game like a national power does.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Louisville led 52-7 and were dominating the game. The Herd cashed in on some garbage-time scoring as they punched in another two touchdowns.
Louisville now moves on to a top-five, conference match up against the Clemson Tigers.
Photo by Laurel Slaughter / The Louisville Cardinal