It was a special occasion for Louisville football and their fans as a new era dawned on a sultry Friday night in Georgia. As a son of the city and one of the great QBs in program history, Jeff Brohm came home and was now leading his hometown Cardinals in his first game as head coach of his alma mater against conference foe Georgia Tech. The air of excitement permeated the fan base as kickoff approached. Everyone expected the Cards to come out running and gunning and announce to the world Louisville football was officially back. While it wasn’t the prettiest game or the most well-executed, the program showed that it was indeed a new era. They fought, they clawed, and they persevered through a tough first half to eventually find a victory and show these Cards don’t fold.
The last two season openers have been disastrous disappointments for the team and fans. Against Ole Miss in the very same building, Louisville lost in disgusting fashion 43-24. Then last season, like this season, Louisville played a conference game as their opener against Syracuse. Once again it was an awful disappointment as they lost 31-7. This game against Georgia Tech ended up being all about momentum. Both teams weren’t their sharpest at points. However, at points they both looked ready to run away with an easy victory. Momentum swung wildly like an ill-trained farmer with a very large broadsword. It looked after the first half as if Georgia Tech would do to Louisville what Ole Miss and Syracuse had done the previous two season openers. However, these Cards didn’t fold. Instead, they were bold and grabbed momentum by the horns in the second half and flew away with a 39-36 victory.
While QB Jack Plummer started off shaky in his debut as the Cardinal QB, he eventually showed his leadership ability and toughness. He overcame the adversity of a horrendous interception and a poorly executed first half to help conduct the comeback train in the second half. Plummer finished 18-for-31 passing with 247 yards and 3 TDs. He also showed he’s a capable runner, rushing 9 times for 51 yards.
You could argue, that the true architect of the second half tsunami of 26 unanswered points was Jamari Thrash. Thrash came into the season with hype and high expectations. While he wasn’t all that much of a factor in the Cards first half, he was THE factor in the second half. Plummer looked to him and got him the ball in space numerous times. Thrash repaid Plummer and Brohm’s faith in him with numerous juked defenders and big-time yards after the catch. He also found the end zone twice, including on a beautiful double move that left the defender a statue as he sailed into the end zone for the easiest TD reception you may ever see. It seems Jamari Thrash is HIM.
The running game was a bit inconsistent, but boy did they find a groove and help ignite the offense in the second half. As mentioned above, Plummer somewhat unexpectedly rushed for 51 yards. In fact, he was the second-leading rusher. However, a familiar name led the Cardinals in rushing. It was Jawhar Jordan with 96 yards on only 7 carries. He had one TD, but it was arguably the one that iced the game. After a sack fumble, Jordan was given a hand off and he sliced through the Georgia Tech defense then hit the afterburners as he blazed into the end zone for a 74-yard TD scamper. Maurice Turner turned in a decent performance with 7 carries for 30 yards, averaging 4.3 tough yards a carry. Isaac Guerendo also got in on the action. In fact, he was the back who initially sparked the offense early in the second half. While only getting 6 carries, he got 27 punishing yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry. It seems Guerendo will be the punisher back while Turner and Jordan are the electric backs.
Defensively, it wasn’t a spectacular performance. This was just a lunch pail effort. They played hard and they were keeping Georgia Tech from getting big plays..for the most part. Unfortunately, the second quarter did happen where they were gashed on the ground and shredded through the air. However, the defensive line in the first quarter did rattle Haynes King some with pressure and did force an errant throw for an interception by Ramon Puryear. In the second half, they began to ante up to stop the run and put Georgia Tech behind the chains a lot. It forced King to throw in obvious passing situations and he began to flounder and eventually be swallowed up by the Cards defense. The only second half TD for Tech was when UofL went to a prevent defense.
As far as some individual player performances, Dez Tell had a nice game in the middle of the line. He had 3 tackles including a crucial sack that forced a fumble during the only real sustained second half drive from Tech. That fumble would be recovered by Kam Wilson and cashed in for 6 by Jawhar Jordan. Josh Minkins also had a nice game, leading the team in tackles with 7 and really helping to slow down Tech’s passing offense. TJ Quinn showed he’s going to be a problem for opposing offenses. He was the second-leading tackler with 6 and he knocked down a pass. In the second half, it seemed he was always in the hole waiting to snuff out the Yellow Jackets’ running backs or getting to the ball like a bloodhound following a scent. Finally, Quincy Riley stood out because, somewhat surprisingly, Georgia Tech tested him often, but he was always in great coverage and batted down a pass. I suspect he will get his fair share of interceptions as the season progresses. I do want to give shoutouts to Storm Duck, Antonio Watts, and Devin Neal. Duck made some nice tackles late in the game. Watts came in for Ben Perry after his questionable targeting ejection and played really well, tallying 4 tackles and a tackle for loss. Watts brought a lot of energy on the field and it definitely permeated throughout the defense. Neal ended up being the guy to replace the injured MJ Griffin and he did so admirably, with 4 tackles and good coverage throughout the game. Also, shoutout to Ashton Gillotte who, despite not getting a sack or QB hit was definitely making King uncomfortable and forcing him to run more than I think he wanted to. (Let’s be honest, he was held…All. Game. Long!)
One final player to highlight is Brock Travelstead. He took over BOTH kicking and punting duties from the departed James Turner (Michigan) and Mark Vassett (Colorado). Travelstead nailed 4 field goals and averaged 46.3 yards per punt. It seems our kicking game is going to be just fine.
While it wasn’t a beautiful blowout win, I think the way the game was won was perfect. Louisville faced adversity almost immediately. It forced Coach Brohm to use his brilliant mind to make adjustments and his motivational skills to rally the team in the locker room at half. The team galvanized and found the fortitude to overcome a horrendous second quarter. It wasn’t a coronation, it was a battle. While strategy and execution of the game plan played a role, it was sheer will that won this game. This win is an invaluable lesson as these Cards will undoubtedly face far more adversity as the season progresses and will have to tap into the their willpower to overcome it. The season still looks as bright today as it did in the hours before kickoff yesterday. Congrats to Coach Jeff Brohm on his first of what will likely be many many victories.
Below, you can catch the aftermath of the Cards first win of the Jeff Brohm era. Check out postgame pressers and game highlights.
Louisville Postgame Pressers:
Georgia Tech Postgame Pressers: