CRAWFORD | Offense better, but Cards needed even more in 42-31 l - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Offense better, but Cards needed even more in 42-31 loss to No. 2 FSU

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Play all the defense you want against Florida State and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, if you want to beat them, you'd better have some offense in reserve at the end.

More clubs in your bag, more gas in your tank, more money in your pocket, more rounds in your chamber, more metaphors on your keyboard. Pick your poison, you'd better have some in the fourth quarter, no matter what happens in the first 45 minutes of the game.

So far in Winston's college career, no one has. The University of Louisville football team did not either, falling 42-31 before the second-largest crowd in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium history, 55,414, ending coach Bobby Petrino's 22-game winning streak in the building.

But the Cardinals had their chance. They got their fourth quarter moment, even after Winston erased a 21-0 deficit to put his team in front 28-24 in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals answered behind a long completion to DeVante Parker and Michael Dyer's third TD run of the game to go up 31-28, then got their biggest defensive play of the game, a sack of Winston on third down that gave them the ball back.

The Cards took over at their own 12 yard line with 5:55 to play. In Petrino's Louisville prime, this is when the Cards would line up with two tight ends, rev up the offensive line and pound the ball forward. They call it the “kill the clock” drive in practice, but really it's a kill the will drive. Florida State is a great team, but it is not a great defense. Somehow, after Winston's second-half magic, the Cardinals had their moment. They had the ball with a chance to grind their way to an upset victory.

“I thought we could drive it and finish the game,” Petrino said. “We weren't able to do that.”

Instead, Dyer ran for two yards on first down, then the Cards were called for a false start on second, not only killing the clock, but putting them into a passing situation. They couldn't move the chains. Two Will Gardner incompletions later they were punting. A play after that FSU scored on Dalvin Cook's second TD of the game, and after U of L failed to convert again on third and fourth down, the game was over.

“We need to be a little more powerful running the ball,” Petrino said. “Will saw something and made a check and we wound up jumping and hurting ourselves. It's hard to do that when you get the penalty there. It's just a situation where we still are working to get better. I think we made improvement from the last time out, offensively, but not enough, not when you play in a game like that against a team like that. We just couldn't score enough points to win.”

Louisville came into the game with the No. 1-ranked defense, statistically, in the nation. Winston shredded it in the second half. It's what he does. He has started 21 games for Florida State, and the Seminoles have scored at least 31 points in all of them. He's thrown for 2,302 and 23 touchdowns in seven career ACC road games.

You might have a great defense. Against Winston, it's probably not going to look great. U of L's certainly did not.

In the end, you have to score.

Having a healthy DeVante Parker not only available to play but for a full 10 days of practice before the Florida State game gave Petrino a preparation edge that he had not had all season. And it showed from the opening play — a 71-yard completion to Parker that coaches thought would be a one-play touchdown. Instead, Parker was run down at the 4-yard line, and the Cards could not punch it in, coming up short on both third and fourth down, a theme which would recur throughout the game.

“We kind of made the decision going into the game that we were going to really be aggressive, and felt like we had to take our opportunities, take our shots down the field, opened up with the real deep throw, but unfortunately we didn't score when we got down there and they came back and really hurt us,” Petrino said.

Parker would keep catching passes. He caught eight for 214 yards.

“Best player on the field,” said one of the 30-plus NFL scouts in attendance. And there were some good ones out there.

Said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher: “He's a great, big player, physical and strong. He walked by me on the field, I saw him in pregame. He walked out and you see that body and just the way he's built and his length and the way he runs and ball-catching skills. That guy can go across the middle and go deep, he's the real deal. He's a heck of a football player.”

But so is the guy running Fisher's offense. As he dialed up big play after big play, Petrino knew the Cards would have to counter.

Petrino had other weapons. Michael Dyer carried 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, but the Cards managed only 53 rushing yards in the second half. Gardner completed 20 of 38 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown, but again the offense bogged down in the third quarter, when Florida State made its move.

“We were running the ball right at them in the first half and we were able to run some lead plays at some smaller inside linebackers, and I thought we did a real good job of it,” Petrino said. “Then they made some adjustments by moving their front and filling some holes, and, you know, we weren't able to knock them off the ball or get the ball outside. It was kind of a back-and-forth game. We were able to get the one drive where we went down and scored (in the fourth quarter), and we were able to run the ball real well on that drive, but you know, it was a situation where I thought we got them early with our lead plays, then they made adjustments, and you have to counter with something else.”

In the end, they didn't have an answer for Winston.

The Cardinals went 1-for-11 on third down, with the one conversion coming after Florida State had scored late to effectively put the game out of reach.

“We didn't execute well,” Petrino said of his team's third- and fourth-down performance. “You know, we had some chances, they made some good tight coverage plays, but we had some chances, too. We missed a couple of throws when a guy was open. But that's really, when you look at the game offensively, that's the one area that really killed us.”

It was, in the end, probably Gardner's best game at quarterback. But against a team of that caliber, he needed to be even better.

“It's a game of big offense, now,” Petrino said. “We needed to score more points. . . . You're playing a team that's real explosive, that's why they were the national champions last year. And you have to give them credit for coming back. At halftime, we knew they have been a team that's been good in the second half, but we weren't able to stop them.”

“They're a very good team,” Fisher said of Louisville. “I think Bobby's a very good coach, I think they're coached well in all phases, they got very good skill players, big guys and they got big D-linemen. You saw that battle out there. It was a heck of a football game. Louisville's been a very good team, Charlie recruited here very well for those years, and they've won a bunch of games here. Remember they were Sugar Bowl champs here a couple of years ago. And then they beat Miami in a bowl game last year and I think they went like 24-2 the past two years, so this is a very good football team.”

Good, but not as good as the one they faced Thursday night.

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