By Derek DeBurger

The Louisville Cardinals barely scraped by with their first road win in Raleigh, N.C.

An uphill battle from the start

From the very beginning of the Friday night matchup with the NC State Wolfpack, it was apparent that the toughest team would win. The two defenses did anything and everything to stop the opposing offense. Louisville and NC State were held to just 306 and 201 total yards respectively. Each defense also forced three turnovers a piece.

The first half was a pure field position game.

Offensively, the Wolfpack were unable to do anything in the first quarter. On the flipside, the Cards couldn’t consistently keep their swallowing pass rush at bay. Throughout the game, head coach Jeff Brohm called strategic screen-plays to keep the Wolfpack defense on their toes, but the pressure kept coming.

The first real swing in momentum came when kicker Brock Travelstead attempted a 53-yard field goal and missed badly. Great starting field position and a fake punt attempt led to the first points on the board when running back Delbert Mimms ran it in for a four-yard touchdown.

Things just seemed to spiral after that. Quarterback Jack Plummer turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions. The second turnover — an interception at the 32-yard line — led to a field goal and a 10-0 Wolfpack lead going into the half.

Kevin Coleman runs the ball during the game against NC State.

Defense steps up

The second half almost started in disastrous fashion as the Wolfpack marched right down the field into the redzone. However, safety Cam’Ron Kelly snagged his second interception of the season, bailing the Cards out and injecting some hope into his team.

A couple of drives later it seemed everything clicked. Plummer marched the Cards down the field in just three plays for a Louisville touchdown. Wide receiver Chris Bell got his first collegiate touchdown to cut the lead to three.

The ensuing drive for the Wolfpack would result in a fumble and a Louisville recovery. After six plays and a controversial incomplete pass call to wide receiver Jadon Thompson, Travelstead would kick to even the score at 10.

Another three-and-out for the Wolfpack led to a great punt return by wide receiver Kevin Coleman putting the Cards in excellent position. Unfortunately, Plummer threw his second interception of the game in the endzone.

After yet another unsuccessful drive for the Wolfpack, Louisville took the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter on a 53-yard field goal by Travelstead. The life in Carter-Finley Stadium was all but gone.

After another forced three-and-out by the defense, Louisville attempted to run out the clock but was stopped by the tough Wolfpack defense. The Cards were forced to punt on fourth-and-three, but a running-into-the-kicker penalty kept the Cardinal offense out on the field for three more plays to try and kill the clock.

Louisville eventually punted to the Wolfpack with under two minutes remaining in the game and no timeouts. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Brennan Armstrong was hit as he threw and cornerback Quincy Riley came up with the interception.

Louisville takes it, 13-10.

Louisville fans celebrate after the win against NC State.

5-0 for the first time in a decade

I said before the game that Louisville would need to get pressure on Armstrong, attack the safeties, and get the ground game going to get the win. It turns out they only needed two out of the three.

Louisville’s defense was amazing this game; they were getting guys in the backfield all game long. The defensive unit as a whole had two sacks, eight tackles for loss, and forced Armstrong into three turnovers on the game. This performance was exactly what defensive coordinator Ron English and coach Brohm have been looking for all season long.

The coaching staff also made fantastic adjustments at the half, as they have all season long. For example, the first half had NC State pressuring Plummer’s at will, so the offense was never able to get any momentum. In the second half, Plummer was able to stand tall in the pocket, get the ball out quickly, and test the safeties of the Wolfpack. Nearly every time Plummer threw up a 50/50 ball, our receivers came out on top. Chris Bell finished the game with 85 yards and a touchdown on just three catches.

The team’s run game, however, was not very effective. Jawhar Jordan—the ACC’s leading rusher—finished the game with 32 rushing yards. Wide receiver Jamari Thrash was also noticeably unimpressive in this game as the Wolfpack focused in on Louisville’s star players. Coach Brohm has a saying — “feed the studs” —  which informs the foundation of what he tries to do on offense. It’s nice to know when the studs aren’t performing how you would like, others can step up and make big plays.

Louisville is now 3-0 in ACC play for the first time in school history, and 5-0 on the year for the first time since 2013 — the last year before Louisville joined the ACC.

Louisville will look to keep stacking wins next Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 pm against No. 11 Notre Dame.

Photo Courtesy // Taris Smith, Louisville Athletics