CRAWFORD | At the horn: Louisville pounds No. 2 Florida State 63 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At the horn: Louisville pounds No. 2 Florida State 63-20

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Time is no longer the variable.

When he arrived as University of Louisville football coach in 1985, Howard Schnellenberger elicited some chuckles when he said of the program, “Louisville is on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.”

It was easy to understand anyone who laughed. Louisville was a program that had barely escaped being downsized, no football conference affiliation, playing in an old baseball stadium.

On Saturday, a crowd of 55,632, the largest in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history, watched the No. 10-ranked Cardinals dominate the nation’s No. 2-ranked team, Florida State, 63-20.

They watched Lamar Jackson, installed as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner by USA Today and ESPN before the game, run for 146 yards and 4 touchdowns, while passing for 216 yards and another one, to cement his status.

They watched a defense, which walked off the field in Tallahassee last season after a second-half meltdown, absolutely shut down Florida State in the second half of this one. Louisville outgained FSU 530 to 284.

With ESPN’s College GameDay on hand, with butterfly-shaped “Ali” helmet stickers and the same logo painted beyond the end zone, with Ali tributes being played during timeouts, they saw a performance that you can typeset for the Louisville football history books right now, regardless of what happens the rest of the season.

But you might want to watch the rest of the season. Time is no longer the variable. The variable now is whether Louisville can win at Clemson. Whether Louisville can win at Houston. Whether it can win a bunch of games in which it will be favored in the ACC. Whether it can get to the ACC championship game and win it.

A lot of things would still have to go Louisville’s way to reach the College Football Playoff and a shot at a football national championship. There are still some variables to manage.

Time, however, isn’t one of them. They played championship football on Saturday. The time is now. The only question is whether this group of coaches and players will be able to accomplish its goals, and whether they can stay healthy.

1). GOT THE JOB DONE: Again, Lamar Jackson. You saw the numbers. Of his three performances, it was probably his least impressive of the season, because he missed on several passes and threw a bad interception in the end zone. And he still put up better numbers than perhaps anyone will on Florida State all season. He still looked like the fastest guy on the field -- against one of the fastest programs in the country.

But I also want to single out Brandon Radcliff, who hadn’t garnered a lot of attention despite leading the nation in yards per carry coming. And James Quick, who caught 7 passes for 122 yards -- including one with his knees.

Jaire Alexander had a 69-yard punt-return touchdown and 130 yards in punt returns. Josh Harvey-Clemons had a team-best eight tackles.

2). DIDN’T GET THE JOB DONE. You won’t see this very often, but Florida State had no answers, not in the first half when Louisville jumped out to its lead, nor in the first series of the second half, when the program has made a living of heartbreaking comebacks, much like the one they managed in Louisville two years ago.

3). TURNING POINT. Florida State had cut a 14-0 deficit to 14-10, when Louisville came out after the kickoff needing to do something to re-establish itself. On the first play of that drive, Lamar Jackson faked a handoff to Radcliff then sprinted to his right for 16 yards. That one play got the Cards going. A slant to Quick for 30 yards a couple of plays later kept the momentum. The Cards scored to go up 21-10, then recovered a Deondre Francois fumble on the first play of FSU’s next possession, leading to another touchdown.

4). SURPRISE, SURPRISE. The margin. Louisville figured to reach the Top 5 in most polls. They might wind up higher than that on the basis of this margin. “They took a step today,” Kirk Herbstreit said on the ABC broadcast.

5). PLAYERS OF THE GAME. Let the team have this one. There were great things done in all three phases -- offense, defense, special teams.

6). STAT OF THE DAY. Louisville’s 63 points were the most ever scored against a Florida State football team. And that’s a pretty proud history.

7). WHAT WE LEARNED. Louisville is for real. Louisville has arrived. Now we get to see what they’ll do now that they’re in an elite position, in a major conference.

8). WHAT’S NEXT. The Cardinals visit Marshall on Saturday.

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