LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Lamar Jackson, not surprisingly, should get the nod at quarterback for the University of Louisville football team heading into its Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl appearance against Texas A&M, scheduled for Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.

Jackson rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals back from a 21-point deficit in their regular-season ending win over Kentucky. But more than that, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino thought Jackson showed an understanding of the read-option attack that he hadn’t before.

“He was reading the defense, not just guessing,” Petrino said after the game, and Petrino said he’s eager to build on that before the Cardinals’ Dec. 30 bowl matchup against a Texas A&M defense that ranked 42nd nationally in total defense but just 104th against the run, giving up nearly 206 yards per game on the ground.

It wasn’t just Jackson’s passing that pleased Petrino. He also threw for 130 yards, though he completed only 8 of 21 passes.

“I’m very impressed the way Lamar came out and played,” Petrino said Sunday. “I don’t think we release the depth chart until we get closer to the game, but I would anticipate Lamar being the starter. I think he came out in a tough situation, performed extremely well, threw the ball and made some great throws, ran the ball and made some really good runs, but he executed the offense and his decision making was good, when to give the ball, when to keep it, and did some nice things at the line of scrimmage that helped us win the game.”

Petrino said the Cardinals (7-5) would begin bowl practices on Friday, and that they had an extra spring in their step in the weight room over the past week after their rivalry win over Kentucky.

He said coaches will get to work immediately on Texas A&M, a team he said he didn’t get to watch at all during the season.

“I really haven’t,” he said. “We don’t get to watch many games on TV, but I don’t think I’ve seen Texas A&M at all, so we’ll certainly have a lot of preparation. We do have time to do it. We’re going to finish up and work hard this week in recruiting. We’ll start practicing on Friday, but I am looking forward to the preparation, the extra practices and getting ready for A&M.”

Neither team in this bowl game had quite the season they wanted to have. Texas A&M went 8-4. Its losses to No. 2 Alabama and No. 16 Ole Miss were nothing to be ashamed of, and the Aggies fell to No. 22 LSU in an emotional game in Baton Rouge that many players and fans believed could have been Les Miles’ last as coach. But the Aggies also lost at home to Auburn, 26-10. After a 5-0 start, they spent two weeks at No. 9 in the AP poll, but won just three of their final seven games.

For Louisville, the season developed the other way around. The Cards lost their first three games, but rallied late in the season — a disappointing loss at Pittsburgh notwithstanding. Petrino said he liked his team’s attitude and resilience all season, but said it wasn’t the season he’d hoped to have.

“On the positive side I think that we continued to develop, and we continued to get better as the year went on, and that was really good to see,” Petrino said. “We were very young and inexperienced on offense and certainly showed our struggles, particularly early in the year, but we made great improvement, and we got in position in the last part of the season where we could score points and expect to take the ball and go score when we got it. Defensively, I don’t think we were as consistent as I thought we would be. You know, I think we had a couple of games where we didn’t perform and do the things that we showed that we could do. So I think it was one of those years where you feel like you left a couple of wins out there, but I am proud of the development and really look forward to the future.”

“I think we have a group of guys who are very dedicated,” Petrino said later. “They don’t expect to go 7-5. We don’t feel like that’s a great year for us. So we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure we do a better job next year.”

A year ago, U of L had gotten every indication that it would be headed for the Music City Bowl, then something happened behind the scenes, and it found itself in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., instead.

This year, there were no surprises, and that was fine with Petrino, who said he’s excited to make the program’s first Nashville bowl appearance, and that it’s an easy drive for its fans.

Petrino said he was watching the national junior college championship game when someone tapped him on the shoulder to tell him of the team’s bowl bid and opponent.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a great deal for all of us. For us as a team to just be able to get on a bus and drive down and go. I’m certain that our fans will come out and show great support like they always do.”

Petrino even said he might embrace the country music scene, after revving up his locker room by doing “The Dab” dance after the win at Kentucky.

“I might go down and do a little two-steppin’ and swingin’,” he said.

Fans interested in tickets can get information and order directly by visiting the school’s bowl ticket information web page here.

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