By Eric the Red
We start with a #3 ranking, and continuous NATIONAL chat about Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and how the Heisman Trophy is his to lose. This frames how well Louisville played Florida State. It was not just a win; it was a statement game where the Cardinals played calm, cool, collected football where FSU was not in the game, ever. It was not just an offensive effort, but also a dominating effort with defense, and special teams. Another Maxwell award for Jackson, and a cover story in Sports Illustrated, but Lamar is the first person to say he likes to win, and it is a team sport. His leadership is giving the Cards a team mentality where he says each player gives whatever it takes to win. So far, it shows in attitude and in the numbers.
In the victory over FSU, the total team effort shows in the stats. Louisville had total rushing yards of 314 over 171 FSU. 216 passing yards to 113, total yards of offense, 530 to 284 for the 63-20 Cardinal victory. This tells the story of complete team play on all sides of the ball. Now, this said, the kicker position went 0-1 on field goals. Jackson threw an INT trying to force a ball into coverage. The majority of FSU points came with the second string Cards in, so there is work needed to improve before the next game.
Now big game today at Marshal, and a 3 hours bus ride to West Virginia hopefully gets the teams attention and keeps them humble, as the Thundering Heard is no team to overlook. While Akron put it on Marshal last week, they still average 50 points a game. Cards will have to play smart ball, play by play to get the win. Now, back to team development as there should be times this season where the back ups should be able to get some playing time as everyone wants to keep the team healthy. I would love to see Bolin get time in to run the offense and not just hand offs. Let’s see the 2nd string defense keep the opposition out of the end zone. One big improvement was not seeing as much referee laundry on the field (yellow flags). Play clean and play well… that is something champions are made of.
I turn my eyes to Clemson, a trip to ‘’Death Valley’’ and set up for what has now been announced as Louisville’s SECOND appearance on ESPN’s College Game Day. This will be a battle for the ACC, and to see if Louisville is having the collision course with destiny season it seems to be having. Comparing the teams, Louisville will go for the big play without fear, and with the quadruple threat that lines up from QB, RB, TE, Receiving, there is too much to defend which opens passing lanes, rushing lanes, etc… Clemson is calm and steady. They are happy to maintain possession and chip away on yardage play after play, to open a big play from the QB. Clemson is in for the win, and aside from the 59-0 win over South Carolina State, they have not run the score up. 19-13 over Auburn, 30-24 over Troy, and last weeks 26-7 win over Georgia Tech which seemed to be one play away from being back in the game. Granted, the GT QB seemed to pass with a hope for a reception. Clemson did not run up the score as GT did get stops in during the game. So it is a battle of undefeated teams. At the time, #2 Clemson was tested by unranked Auburn; #10 Louisville was tested by #2 Florida State. Louisville is averaging double the offensive output of Clemson, so this writer is looking for aspects of the game that will challenge the Cards. What about atmosphere and crowd noise? After the loud hotbox game at Syracuse, and today’s game at a sold out Marshal I think they will be able to handle the noise. Scoring points is good at calming the crowd and that was proof at Syracuse.
Today’s game looks to be a win for Louisville. This is shared by the Marshal fans who when polled said they give it to the Cards well over 60%. As for next week, I think Louisville wins, and wins big on the second away game in two weeks, with College Game Day there to hype the ACC Heisman contenders of Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s’ Deshaun Watson. Clemson will be a total team game where Louisville has to bring the same effort every game on offense, defense, and special teams.
It’s not just about Louisville winning, but how they win. As long as the Marshal game is another big performance game, and they win big over Clemson, I predict a third College Game Day appearance later in the season when the Cardinals meet Houston. Before then, there is plenty of football to enjoy, memories to be made, and time to remember this is the type of overall atmosphere Cardinal fans have been wanting. The spotlight is on, the first month of football is nearly in the books and Louisville is looking good, VERY good.