The third-ranked Louisville Cardinals and their Heisman Trophy candidate Lamar Jackson kept the early season momentum rolling Saturday night on the road in a 59-28 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd in front of an over-capacitated crowd of 40,592 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Despite a slow start, Jackson still finished with gaudy numbers and despite a valiant effort by the Herd’s defense, the Cardinals (4-0) still got a convincing win.
Marshall’s defense forced a stop on Louisville’s opening possession of the game, which was the first time this season the Cardinals failed to score on their opening possession.
But the Herd’s offense failed to get anything going and unfortunately for Marshall (1-2) , that theme continued throughout the night under true freshman quarterback Garet Morrell. Morrell made his first career start filling in for Marshall’s star quarterback Chase Litton who missed the game due to a concussion.
Louisville struck in a big way when Jackson connected with James Quick for a 71-yard touchdown strike to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 10:57 remaining in the first quarter.
The Herd’s offense continued to sputter, but the defense held Louisville scoreless for the remainder of the first quarter.
The Cardinals found the end zone early in the second quarter when Jackson connected with Cole Hikutini for an 8-yard touchdown pass to extend Louisville’s lead to 14-0.
Following more offensive ineptitude from Marshall, the Cardinals got things rolling throughout the remainder of the second quarter.
Louisville took a commanding 28-0 lead late in the second quarter until a fumble on a punt return gave Marshall’s offense the ball inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line.
The Herd took advantage and Morrell connected with Ryan Yurachek for a 16-yard touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 28-7 with just 36 seconds remaining until halftime.
But 36 seconds was plenty enough time for Jackson and the Louisville offense and Jackson connected with Reggie Bonnafon for an 8-yard touchdown with just 2 seconds remaining until halftime to give the Cardinals a 35-7 halftime lead.
Louisville continued to add to its lead in the third quarter and held a 52-7 lead after the third quarter came to a close.
Marshall’s offense found the end zone for the second time when Morrell connected with Keion Davis for a 12-yard touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 52-14.
The Herd quickly added another touchdown when Ty Tyler returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead down to 52-21.
The Cardinals quickly answered with a Brandon Radcliff 10-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 59-21.
The Herd set the final score at 59-28 when Tony Pittman found the end zone from 13 yards out with only 2:41 remaining in the game.
For Louisville, Jackson finished the game completing 24 of 44 pass attempts for 417 yards and five touchdowns with one interception while also running for 62 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Radcliff finished with 131 rushing yards on 19 carries and one touchdown. Quick finished with four receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown and Hikutini finished with four receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Herd, Morrell finished his first career start by completing 9 of 21 pass attempts for 59 yards and two touchdowns with one interception against a talented Louisville defense that limited Marshall to just 207 total yards.
From the Cardinals’ perspective, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and remain undefeated for a huge showdown with the fifth-ranked Clemson Tigers on Oct. 1 at Death Valley.
For Marshall, there is still a lot of work to do as the season progresses and the ultra-conservative play calling offensively was not nearly enough to hang with the third-ranked team in college football.
It makes sense to play it safe with a true freshman starting his first career game in front of the second biggest home crowd in Marshall history, but many feel the offensive game plan was just too conservative and it did not give the Herd a true chance to have success offensively.
The Herd needs Litton to return as soon as possible with a trip to Pittsburgh looming on Oct. 1. Marshall’s defense held Jackson to a season-low 62 yards rushing and got good pressure on him throughout the majority of the first half, so those are certainly positives to take away from this game.
But all in all, this game helped further prove Louisville’s place among the elite teams in college football and showed that Marshall still has to improve as the season progresses with conference play set to begin Oct. 8.