CRAWFORD | Yes, Louisville, that really happened - a closer look at Jackson's record-setting night
A closer look from WDRB's Eric Crawford, with reaction all around, from Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Syracuse coaches and players, national writers, and Lamar Jackson himself.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WDRB) -- It was one of those games that you need to sleep on, wake up the next morning and check the highlights to make sure it really happened.
Yep. This is real. Lamar Jackson really did all those things for the University of Louisville football team in its 62-28 win at Syracuse. He actually did produce three touchdowns the first five times he touched the ball. The school-record and ACC-record 610 yards from scrimmage? Those were real, too. Jackson jumping over that dude in the second quarter? Actually happened, yes.
That one, we had to ask Jackson about.
“I had nothing else to do,” Jackson said of the play. “Dude was like there, it was on the angle. I just had to take flight.”
Oh, Jackson did that. There’s photographic proof. Rich Barnes, shooting the game for USA Today, was right there. He caught Jackson at the apex of his leap. There he is, suspended over the diving defender, like he’s in some martial arts movie. But Jackson is doing these stunts without a wire. Lamar-velous, I believe was said, several times.
By mid second-quarter, national sportswriters were throwing the H-word around Jackson like it was his middle name. And I’m not talking about “halfback.” Some headlines:
Sports Illustrated: Lamar Jackson for Heisman?
ESPN: Two games, 13 touchdowns, one big Lamar Jackson Heisman run.
CBS Sports. Lamar Jackson’s record-setting night proves he’s better than most entire offenses.
The lead to that CBS Story reads: “Lamar Jackson is making an early statement for best player in college football.”
Shoot, even Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter rated this guy: “True.” All right, I made that up. But there’s a lot coming at this young guy pretty quickly. The next hurdle he has to leap, in all likelihood, is handling the hype.
After Friday night’s performance, he seemed grounded. Asked to grade himself and the Louisville offense, he said, “I was (impressed) numbers-wise, but we had too many mistakes out there on the field. And those things, we can’t have those.”
Asked to grade the offense, he said, “I’d say a ‘C.’ Because we had too many mistakes. Dropped passes, fumbles, we’re not supposed to have those.”
A ‘C?’ Really? Not even a C-plus?
“No,” Jackson said. “‘C.’ Average. No mistakes. That’s our goal, The offense is supposed to be perfect. Go out there and score every drive.”
Syracuse coach Dino Babers was among those who were impressed. He couldn’t even get too mad at his defense, looking back.
"Obviously, we'd like to tackle him," Babers said after the game. "I'm not sure we have anybody who could catch him. You get mad because we couldn't catch the guy. He's the fastest guy on the football field, on both teams. But then I watch him outrun contain, where three guys were exactly where they were supposed to be, and we should have tackled him for a two-yard-loss, and he runs all the way to the other side for an eight-yard gain and runs out of bounds. And you can't get mad at them, because you had two yards of outside leverage on the guy, and they still couldn't touch him. He's an extremely talented football player."
Asked about his team's defensive effort against Jackson, Syracuse junior linebacker Zaire Franklin said: "Obviously not successful. But when I think of his performance today, it's really just him being a really good player. . . . It kind of didn't matter whether guys were in position. He took plays that against a lot of other running quarterbacks may go 15 yards and he took them 80."
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said he was proud of Jackson’s preparation. He noted that even if he sometimes makes it look easy, he has put an immense amount of work into his game during the offseason. When you score on three of your first five plays, clearly, you were razor-sharp in the week leading up to the game.
“What I’m most proud of is how he prepared,” Petrino said. “He worked extremely hard all week. He did a great job of leading during the week, getting everybody else to work hard. He came and and executed. He threw the ball around and ran real well.”
After the quick start, Jackson said the offense got “over-hyped” and lost some focus. It won’t be able to do that moving forward. And at some point, more athletic defenses, and they are just ahead on the schedule, are going to focus in on Jackson and he’ll have to make even more plays for others.
But he showed on Friday night, he’s perfectly capable of doing that. He’s a more dangerous passer even than his 411 yards passing will show. There were at least eight dropped passes. There were a couple of fumbles after catches.
Now, the inevitable national close-up is coming. Louisville welcomes Florida State to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in a week. If ESPN’s College GameDay isn’t in the house, it’s missing a golden opportunity. Jackson said all the right things after the game Friday night.
“I’ve still got room for improvement,” he said. “I threw a lot of bad balls, a lot of bad reads on my behalf. But I think I did all right.”
Yeah, 610 yards. Five touchdowns. Louisville’ was, several Syracuse reporters said, the most potent offense to perform in the Carrier Dome in 36 years.
“That’s crazy,” Jackson said when asked about it. “We wasn’t expecting that.”
The tough question for Jackson is, what do you keep doing for an encore?
In his past four games (opponents Kentucky, Texas A&M, Charlotte and Syracuse) Jackson has rushed for 730 yards on 71 carries, an average of 10.2 yards per carry.
He has accounted for 36 touchdowns in the 14 games he has played.
He became Friday night just the second player in college football history to rush for 150-plus yards and throw for more than 400. He’s believed to be the first to rush for 175-plus and throw for 400-plus.
Asked about all that, Jackson responded, “That wasn’t nothing yet.”
The way Jackson is rolling right now, it’s hard to doubt him.
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