First things first, wow. What happened inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium yesterday still hasn’t fully hit me yet. The No. 2 ranked Florida State Seminoles came to Louisville having beaten the Cardinals two times in a row since Louisville joined the ACC. For the first time ever, College Gameday was in town and the city, fans, and players in Louisville uniforms were electric.
Two Heisman candidates entered yesterday with high hopes of building their campaign. One of those players solidified himself as the frontrunner, while the other fell way behind. If you read that last sentence without watching the game, you might have thought Dalvin Cook put on another monster performance against the Cardinal defense. But in fact, it was Lamar Jackson who stole the show. Jackson put up unbelievable numbers once again, but this time there are no questions of validity due to opponent strength. Jackson flat out embarrassed the Seminole defense who seemed to have no answers for the Sophomore sensation. He rushed for 4 touchdowns and 146 yards while throwing for a touchdown with 216 yards on 13-20 passing. His only hiccup was a poorly thrown shot to the end zone that was intercepted. Brandon Radcliffe added 118 yards on the ground with a touchdown and Jeremy Smith found the end zone twice as well. James Quick was the leading receiver with 7 receptions for 122 yards but Jaylen Smith caught the sole touchdown pass for the Cardinals.
Aside from Lamar’s outstanding performance, the defense might have been the biggest standout throughout the entire game. The Cardinal defense controlled the line of scrimmage, shut down Dalvin Cook, and rocked Francois to his core. Francois finished 7-18 with 101 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Dalvin Cook rushed for 54 yards on 16 carries and was never able to produce the ground game the Seminoles so desperately needed. Jaire Alexander played a phenomenal game on defense but also on special teams. In the 3rd quarter with 14 minutes left Alexander caught a punt with room to work, and he did just that. The shifty return man made everyone miss on his way to the first punt return touchdown for a Louisville player in 6 years, and he should’ve had two but got tripped up by the last guy to beat. It was an all around effort by a team that will no longer be overlooked in the national scene.
I know this recap may seem a little unexcitable. That’s only because the magnitude of what happened yesterday still hasn’t fully hit me. The Cardinals not only got over the hump against a “top tier” ACC powerhouse for the first time in its ACC journey but they did so handing FSU it’s 3rd worst loss in program history and put up 60+ points on the Seminoles for another program first for Florida State. It will be interesting to see where the Cardinals jump in the rankings, realistically I don’t see them jumping Alabama for the No. 1 spot. However, a No. 2 or No. 3 ranking is where I expect to find Louisville, and deservedly so. Let that sink because for some reason I can’t. Louisville fans have seen struggle and success. After last year’s 0-3 start, I can honestly say I don’t think anyone predicted we’d be talking about a Heisman frontrunner in the red, black and white to couple with a top 3 national ranking. As crazy as that is to think about, that’s the reality that will soon set in when the newest polls are released.
Up next the Cardinals will have to take on Marshall on the road on Saturday at 8pm. A game most could see as a trap game before Louisville travels to Clemson the next week. However, after the performance we saw yesterday, I don’t see a game on the schedule Louisville shouldn’t win. The Cardinals flat out embarrassed a team many experts had picked to win the ACC and even the national championship. 63-20 is a score you might overlook against Charlotte or even Syracuse, but not against Florida State. The stars are aligning, and the Cardinals can now control their own destiny. Take it all in Louisville fans, this is something special.