For the first time all season, the Louisville offense appeared out of sorts in the first quarter. Lamar started the game missing receivers, forcing passes, and the running game was never really there for the speedy quarterback. Once the offense settled down, we saw the nation’s top ranked offense do what we’ve become accustomed to, put a lot of points on the scoreboard.
Louisville’s offense recorded a season low 7 points in the first quarter. Then the second quarter began. Lamar found his tight end, Cole Hikutini in the end zone twice, ran for a score, and then found Reggie Bonnafon in the end zone to close out a 28 point second quarter to go into halftime up 35-7. The announcers were not shy in their disappointment in the Louisville offense early on. It seemed as though no matter what the offense did right, there was always something they could’ve been doing better. As a fan, I’ve never experienced a team being so critiqued while building an insurmountable lead but that’s where we are now in the program which is a great thing.
Lamar Jackson continued to build on his Heisman campaign after a slow start. He accounted for 7 of the 8 touchdowns, with 5 through the air and 2 on the ground. He was 24-44 through the air for 417 yards and added 62 yards on 12 carries with 2 touchdowns as well. Brandon Radcliff continued his stellar season with 131 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Reggie Bonnafon, Jaylen Smith, Cole Hikutini, and James Quick caught the touchdown passes from Jackson. Quick had 98 yards on 4 receptions, including his monster 71 yard touchdown grab to put the Cards on the scoreboard. Jamari Staples finished with 5 receptions tallying 94 yards. And Cole Hikutini showed the promise we saw last season by grabbing 4 passes for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns which pushed the Cards well in front of the amped Thundering Herd.
Much like the Florida State game, the defense was wildly impressive throughout. The defensive unit wreaked havoc on the Marshall offense, with the exception of the 21 points scored in the 4th quarter (one touchdown was a fumble recovery) the defense did not give an inch. Marshall only recorded 16 first downs to Louisville’s 32, and the total yards gained was even more lopsided. Louisville posted another huge number with 690 yards, 417 passing and 273 rushing. While Marshall finished with 207 total yards, 59 passing and 148 rushing. Any time our defense can allow our offense to outgain the opponent by over 3 times the total yardage, it’s going to translate into a win. The crazy part is the time of possession was almost even, Louisville had the ball for 30:54 and Marshall had it for 29:06. Equal opportunities, drastic difference in taking advantage of them.
This game was considered a ‘trap game’ by most throughout the nation. Kirk Herbstreit fully expected Marshall to be in this game most of the way. One ESPN writer even wrote an article predicting Lamar to suffer a “Heisman setback” following his large performance against the No. 2 team in the nation, THE NUMBER 2 TEAM THE CARDINALS EMBARRASSED WORSE THAN ANY GAME SINCE THE 1980s! Most of the nation is recognizing this team as a contender for the national championship, but like we’ve seen in the past, there are always doubters. I love that, and so should this team. Because, until the Louisville football team reaches that coveted position in college football, there will always be doubters. That should serve as fuel to put the nation on notice that this is a program that will remain the national spotlight for years to come.
There is still a lot of work to do, though. The Cardinals travel to Clemson next week to take on the 3rd/5th ranked (Coaches’ and AP Poll respectively) Tigers. A win in Death Valley will surely translate to an ACC regular season championship. A loss and the Cardinals will be watching the FSU vs Clemson game with hopes of the Seminoles knocking off the Tigers to force a potential 3 way tie in the Atlantic. With the opportunity to control their own destiny, the Cardinals have to seize this opportunity. Beating FSU for the first time in the ACC by 43 points was a great accomplishment, but that’s not the goal this team set. The goal is a national championship, as Coach Bobby Petrino has eluded to many times. The first step is completed, beating FSU and getting past Marshall to get to Clemson undefeated with the chance to win the ACC Atlantic in the 5th week. Now the Cardinals must answer the bell again, this time we as fans will have to cheer from home and watch as the Cardinals try to make history. Lamar and Co., along with the defense will be ready. A win at Clemson will change this program forever. One Goliath down, one to go.