CRAWFORD | Parker, Dyer add punch to Louisville offense in win o - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Parker, Dyer add punch to Louisville offense in win over N.C. State

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AP photo. AP photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Neither DeVante Parker nor Michael Dyer showed up to do any postgame interviews after leading the University of Louisville to a 30-18 win over North Carolina State Saturday in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

But as long as those two combine for 307 of U of L's 369 net yards, the Cardinal faithful probably won't care if they don't do an interview the rest of the season.

The way they played Saturday night spoke loudly enough -- in fact, it made you wonder how U of L ever got along without them.

Dyer is one thing. He's the fourth U of L back to run for 100-plus yards this season.

But Parker? The difference was evident from the moment he stepped on the field. He entered the game on U of L's second play from scrimmage, and Will Gardner hit him on a slant that he took 37 yards and nearly broke free for more.

"I thought he was gone," Gardner said.

He wasn't, but he was off and running.

"I was really impressed with the way he ran after the catch," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said. "I thought he'd get open, I thought he'd catch the ball, but I didn't expect to see that many yards after the catch."

It makes all the difference for a quarterback like Gardner, who continues to try to find a rhythm. Of Parker's nine catches, six were for first-down yardage, and three of those were big third-down catches. Parker also drew double-coverage and opened up running lanes, and even other passing options for Gardner. He was the centerpiece of the offense before going down with a broken foot in the preseason, and immediately changed the way an opposing defense had to react to the Cardinals.

"He came in and we threw a slant and he almost breaks it for a touchdown," Gardner said. "That was big to see, the first one of the game and I thought he was going to break it."

The confidence level that one play brought the Louisville offense was significant. It didn't solve all of the Cardinals' offensive problems, but it solved some of them.

"It obviously makes us a lot better," Petrino said. "When you get one-on-one coverage and you've got a guy that everyone believes in -- he'll win and catch the ball. We left a few out there. I thought we had a few touchdown passes that we missed. But it was good to see things start executing and getting better. I think that's the biggest key -- that we got better."

Dyer was no small part of that. Petrino said he could see that kind of game coming all week from Dyer, who earned the starting spot after practicing well. Dyer was slowed by a thigh injury in a scrimmage before the opener, and really hasn't looked like the back he was expected to be for much of the season.

But Petrino said that changed last week in practice.

"We could tell on Tuesday his quickness is back," Petrino said. ". . . He's really battled the injury, and he's worked hard at it," Petrino said. "And it was frustrating for him; there's no question about that. We tried to get him in there and get him some work in some of the games, but he just wasn't himself. So to see him in practice this week, we were watching video on Tuesday night, and every coach goes, 'That's a little bit different. That's a lot different.'"

He was effective from the outset. He and Parker were the only two players to touch the ball on U of L's opening drive until Gardner hit Eli Rogers for a 13-yard TD completion. Seven straight plays.

Dyer had 59 yards rushing by halftime, and was already over 100 yards when he broke a 46-yard touchdown run on the Cardinals' final play from scrimmage to finish with 173 yards on 24 carries.

"Michael ran the ball great tonight," Gardner said. "He had some big plays and he was explosive. It was good to get to watch him run like that so I was very excited and proud of him. Mike works hard every day and it shows, and it just showed tonight on the field.

"I told Michael on the sideline man you're running the ball good I like the way you're running the ball, you've had big runs but you just haven't had that finish yet," Gardner continued. "I told him, 'You'll break one, you're getting close.' He said, 'I got ya, I got ya.' Last play of the game he broke one, and it was good to see that."

There was offensive progress all around on Saturday. There wasn't a single false start or hold by the offensive line. They protected Gardner for the most part. He hit on 21 of 36 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and didn't throw an interception. This was a depleted N.C. State defense, playing without its leading tackler. U of L's offense didn't completely roll the way Petrino wants it to, but it did improve.

"We ran the ball good tonight and the pass game's got to get there, and a lot of that has to do with me," Gardner said. "I missed a lot of guys and I just have to hit guys when they're wide open and complete balls."

After the game, someone asked Petrino if this is how he envisioned the offense.

"Eh, not yet," Petrino said. "We're just a work in progress. We're trying to get where we're better. It's fun to see us be better out there and feel more comfortable with mixing things up and calling plays and doing that, but we still have a long way to go to get where we need to be."

Parker finished with 9 catches for 132 yards. Dyer finished in style.

Neither spoke after the game, but their play on the field announced the return of a couple of weapons that the Cardinals thought would figure prominently in their offense all season.

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