BOZICH | A win is a win: Eight takeaways from Louisville's 20-19 win at Wake Forest
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Wake Forest is the closest thing there is to a cruise-control victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Demon Deacons had won two of their last 17 ACC games, one this season.They had allowed 85 points the last two weeks against North Carolina and North Carolina State. Their average margin of defeat in four league losses this season has been nearly 19 points per game.
This was no cruise control victory for the University of Louisville Friday night at Wake Forest. On a night when the Cards were favored by 11 ½ points, they had to rally from a two-point halftime deficit to defeat Wake Forest, 20-19. The victory was not secure until the final two minutes.
The victory lifted the Cardinals' record to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. Bobby Petrino used three quarterbacks who spread their 23 completions to nine receivers. Coordinator Todd Grantham's defense forced five turnovers on Wake Forest’s six possessions in the second half. Ball game.
GOT THE JOB DONE: The Louisville secondary. The Cardinals had not intercepted a pass in their last three games, a strange drought for a defense that led the nation in picks last season. The secondary made up for it Friday night, intercepting four passes – all the in the second half.
The first was by freshman Dee Smith, his first career pick. The second was by safety Chucky Williams, and it set up the Cardinals’ go-ahead field goal in the third quarter.
The third was by cornerback Trumaine Washington. It stopped the Demon Deacons from being in position to regain the lead on the field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The fourth was by cornerback Shaq Wiggins. He snatched a wobbly throw at the Louisville 2 and carried his prize 37 yards with about 3 ½ minutes remaining in the game.
Yes, the secondary was burned for two long scoring plays in the first half – the first for 78 yards, the second for 58. Both were the result of sloppy tackling.
Four second-half interceptions gave them a Get Out of Jail free card.
DIDN’T GET THE JOB DONE: Louisville’s running game. You can blame the offensive line. You can blame the backs. You can blame the scheme. You can blame the ESPN production crew -- or global warming.
Doesn’t matter. The Cards ran for only 68 yards, just 14 on 18 carries in the first half. The Cards averaged only 1.6 yards per rushing attempt. Only three Louisville running plays went for 10 or more yards. It was the fourth time in eight games that Louisville failed to rush for 100 yards this season.
Jeremy Smith emerged as Louisville’s most formidable threat between the tackles. He gained 58 yards on a dozen carries. Without Smith, Louisville could not run the football.
TURNING POINT: Many choices, but I’ll go with the pick by Chucky Williams with 3:17 left in the third quarter. Wake quarterback John Wolford thought he had a receiver open in the middle of the field, but he threw the ball too deep, off his receiver’s hands.
Williams was prepared. He grabbed the deflection at the Wake 43 and carried it to the 21.
The offense could not convert the turnover into a touchdown but John Wallace kicked a 39-yard field goal to bump the Cardinals ahead, 20-19 with 1:25 left in the third quarter. Those three points were the only points either team scored in the second half.
SURPRISE! SURPRISE! Kyle Bolin finished the game at quarterback. Both Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon sat down the stretch.
ESPN reported that Bonnafon had an injury to his upper body. Although Jackson was reportedly available in the fourth quarter, he sat while Bolin played. U of L trainers appeared to re-tape one of Jackson’s ankles after he was thrown to the ground near the sideline in the third quarter.
Bolin completed 3 of 4 passes for 38 yards, while Jackson was 19 of 26 for 207.
WDRB PLAYER OF THE GAME: Receiver Jamari Staples had his best game as a Cardinal. After catching 10 passes in his last three games, Staples came dressed as Superman against the Demon Deacons.
He caught 10 balls for 133 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his first two touchdowns at Louisville. At 6 feet 4 and 195 pounds, Staples is a large, dependable target – and Jackson appeared particularly comfortable throwing to him.
STAT OF THE DAY: Fab 5. The Cards forced five turnovers – all in the second half. The first four were interceptions.
But Trevon Young continued his charge on opposing quarterbacks by knocking the ball away from Wake Forest quarterback Kendall Hinton on the Demon Deacons’ final offensive play.Young had four tackles, and two were sacks.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Louisville is going to have to keep winning with defense. The running game is invisible. The passing game is inconsistent. The only thing that the coaching staff can depend on is the defense, which delivered another solid game, limiting Wake to 266 yards on 62 plays.
UP NEXT: The Cardinals return to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for their final two home games – Syracuse on Saturday Nov. 7 and Virginia a week later. Louisville figures to be favored in both games because both the Orangemen (3-4) and Virginia (2-5) have losing records. Louisville beat Syracuse but lost at Virginia last season. If you’d like to scout Syracuse on Saturday, the Orangemen play at Florida State at noon on ABC.
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