BOZICH | Number One, Heisman, Playoff all in play for Louisville football, Jackson
What's in play for the Louisville football team after the Cards dominated Florida State Saturday? Another GameDay appearance, a trip up the polls, a legit Heisman contender, the playoffs.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Everything is in play now for the University of Louisville football team.
Use as much imagination as Lamar Jackson every time he crackles between linebackers and safeties into end zone after end zone.
Another appearance on ESPN’s College GameDay Show? Sure, perhaps in only two weeks when the Cardinals visit Clemson Oct. 1.
A trip to the top of the national college football polls? By defeating Florida State, 63-20, Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the Cardinals are rocketing toward the top five — or higher.
Led by a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, a dynamic player who won’t require a bobblehead or refrigerator magnet to earn his invitation to the Heisman ceremony in New York City Dec. 10?
In three games, Lamar Jackson has run for 464 yards and 10 touchdowns while passing for another 913 yards and eight TDs, drawing love from Michael Vick, Teddy Bridgewater, Knute Rockne and Siri. Next.
A reasonable chance to play their way into the four-team national playoff at the conclusion of the 2016 season?
I’ll keep it simple but direct:
That’s my takeaway after Louisville beat the Number 2 team in America as thoroughly and relentlessly as the Seminoles have ever been beaten. This was as one-sided as stiff-arming Charlotte or Syracuse. It was the way FSU used to knock Louisville around 20 or 30 years ago.
“We could not have scripted this,” U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said.
The point spread favored FSU by two points but it wasn’t unreasonable to believe the Cardinals would beat a program that had handled them by double figures in back-to-back seasons.
I picked the Cards (but only by a point). Eric Crawford picked them. Lee Corso picked them. So did everybody on the GameDay crew, including the ones that grilled the chicken and burgers.
But who had Louisville winning 63-20, after leading 14-3 after the first quarter and 35-10 at halftime? Did you expect dominance like this?
“Actually, I didn’t,” said Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Nobody expected Louisville to outscore Florida State by at least 11 points in each of the first three quarters, set a record for the most points scored against FSU or to outgain the Seminoles by 246 yards. Bobby Petrino's team outclassed FSU so completely that even guys like former U of L halfback Michael Bush went on Twitter to implore Petrino to empty his bench before somebody got injured.
By the time Petrino complied, Louisville led 63-10.
Maybe that’s why the Seminoles talked like a team that took an extra swig of Sour when I went to their post-game press conference. I expected praise. Petrino, Jackson and the rest of the Cardinals earned it.
Some praise was delivered, but Fisher and his guys sounded more unhappy with themselves than thrilled with U of L. I can't wait to watch the locker room version of what Fisher said to his players when the Showtime cameras were on.
I reminded Fisher this was the third consecutive game that Jackson, a Florida native (for the record), has put up eye-popping numbers. What makes him so difficult to stop?
“Who?” Fisher asked.
No wonder one Florida sports writer asked Fisher if he was suggesting there was something "flukey," about the U of L win. (Fisher said, "No.") No wonder Florida State had so much trouble with the U of L quarterback. Fisher never mentioned Jackson by name during his entire press conference. Maybe they weren't expecting Number 8 to do what he has done to Kentucky, Texas A&M, Charlotte and Syracuse in his last four games.
Fisher did not say Jackson wasn’t a great player. Just didn’t say his name. “He can run and he can throw and he’s got weapons around him,” Fisher said.
Memory lapse? Don’t think so. In Fisher’s opening statement, when he tried to explain what happened, he also said this: “They found the inches we didn’t find.”
Florida State was out-gained by 8,856 inches but Fisher tried to argue this game got away from his team because of a few inches the Seminoles failed to make before they lost a fumble on a drive midway through the second quarter when Louisville was already ahead, 21-10.
“I’m going to tell you what my team told me,” Jackson said. “They were like, ‘We aren’t taking our foot off the gas.’ You know that goes for anybody we’re playing. Trying to score every time we get the ball.”
It wasn’t only the FSU coach who was struggling to accept the concept that the race in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference has officially expanded beyond Florida State and Clemson.
I asked FSU defensive lineman Jacob Pugh if Jackson was as good as Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the pre-season favorite for the Heisman.
“No comment,” Pugh said.
I’ll comment. The great Michael Vick went on Twitter and argued that Jackson was performing like a guy five times better than Vick was at Virginia Tech . Somebody at ESPNU Tweeted that the current Heisman Race was 1) Lamar Jackson and 2) Who cares?
That will be the challenge for Louisville this week, dealing with all that love, hyperbole and risk of looking far, far ahead. The non-stop noise is inevitable when a team opens its season by winning three games by a combined score of 195-62.
For Team Petrino, the external challenges will be much more daunting than Marshall, the trip Louisville will make next Saturday.
The Thundering Herd were thundered on by visiting Akron, 65-38, Saturday.
Akron scores 65. Louisville scores (fill in the blank).
The score for Louisville fans to watch next week will be Clemson’s Thursday night trip to Georgia Tech. If the Tigers win that one and the Cardinals handle their responsibilities in West Virginia, then a pair of 4-0 teams will collide at Clemson Oct. 1.
Both teams should be ranked in the top five.
GameDay, Part II.
After Saturday, everybody has an opportunity to use their imaginations about all the marvelous things that are possible for Bobby Petrino, Lamar Jackson and this University of Louisville football team again.
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