CRAWFORD | Yes, Louisville, that really happened (again) - a clo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Yes, Louisville, that really happened (again) - a closer look at Jackson vs. FSU

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Lamar Jackson has the end zone in sight during his final TD run against Florida State. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Lamar Jackson has the end zone in sight during his final TD run against Florida State. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Three games, three Lamar Jackson columns. I know now, I should have paced myself. We all should’ve paced ourselves.

But, goodness knows, Jackson isn’t. Even if he still hasn’t played a full game yet this season.

After he scored eight touchdowns in one half against Charlotte, I called him The Greatest Show on Turf. When he scored five, including a meme-worthy hurdle over a defender near the goal line, and produced an ACC-record 610 yards in three quarters at Syracuse, I compared him to one of those martial arts wire actors and proclaimed him the Heisman front-runner.

After each of those, I got mail. After Charlotte, people said, “Wait till he faces a real team.” After Syracuse, it was, “Wait till he faces a good team.”

On Saturday, he had five more touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 passing) and generated 362 yards of offense in a 63-20 win over No. 2 ranked Florida State.

What will they say this week? Wait till he faces an NFL team? Next week, it’ll be, ‘Wait till he faces a team of extra-terrestrials.”

Saturday was Jackson’s introduction to a national football audience, with an ABC game telecast and ESPN’s College GameDay on campus. He got the full-feature treatment. An all-access segment on SportsCenter last Tuesday, and Saturday morning looks at his offseason preparation and more.

It was said that “he came out of nowhere” after Jackson passed for 216 yards and ran for 146 more to beat the No. 2 team in the country. They might be surprised to know that in his past five games, he’s run for 876 yards and been responsible for 24 touchdowns.

This season alone, he now is responsible for 18 TDs. He’s been doing all this stuff for a while. People outside of Louisville and the ACC are just starting to notice.

A lot of them. He was still trending nationally on Twitter two hours after the game, with 224,000 Tweets in an hour.

One of those Tweets was from Michael Vick, who said, “Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech....Enough said!! #future”

Don’t think they didn’t see that pretty quickly in the Louisville locker room after the game.

“It means a lot. That’s my favorite player,” Jackson said. “Coming from him? I was amazed when they told me in the locker room. I was happy.”

For a second straight game, Jackson was asked to grade his performance. After scoring on three of the game’s first five plays at Syracuse and producing five touchdowns and 610 total yards, Jackson gave the offense a “C.”

Saturday, Jackson gave his receivers and running backs and offensive line an A, but said his own mark would be much lower.

“Have to be a D,” he said. “I threw an interception at the goal line. I think it was seven incomplete passes I did. Bad balls.”

That’s Petrino coming out in this guy. Petrino, we’ve learned in stories in recent days, really worked on Jackson over the summer. Jackson was coming in at 6 a.m. all summer studying the offense. He was watching game video with virtual reality goggles to get a feel for defenses. But more than just a knowledge of the game seems to have been picked up in the transfer. Jackson also has downloaded Petrino’s perfectionism.

His team had just secured perhaps the most impressive win in program history, and Petrino said this about how he’d follow it up.

“We'll come back and watch the video, and they might not know they won the game that much,” he said. “Because we will be very critical, very hard on them, and they need to be hard on themselves. You need to really watch the video and see if you utilized your technique right. See if you played hard every play.”

What surprised me? When Jackson looked like he was playing in fifth gear and everyone else was in fourth against Charlotte and Syracuse and all these other teams, I’d grown accustomed to it. But when he looked that way against Florida State, well that’s something different.

But probably the most significant thing about Jackson’s game Saturday was this: It was the biggest game of his career to date, and he knew Florida State was going to be preoccupied with him, so he began to put the ball in other people’s hands. Running back Brandon Radcliff got the first carry and went 30 yards. He used play action and spread the ball around to receivers. He didn’t force his own running game.

By doing that, he began to open up lanes for himself. He still scored five touchdowns, even though that really wasn’t his plan going in. He’s so slippery around the goal line, forget it. And Petrino is calling plays so well, that the second you commit to stopping him, the ball is in someone else’s hands headed for the end zone.

The more other threats are developed and utilized, the more dangerous Jackson will be.

Jackson didn’t even need his last TD run for an impressive performance. But what the heck? Reading the defense’s reaction to earlier plays, he faked a handoff going right, got the defense leaning, then pulled the ball back and took off. In about four strides he was into the Florida State secondary. He made one defensive back miss by about three yards. He didn’t get touched until right at the goal line, when a Florida State defender rushed to him and he punched the Madden spin-button at the last second, brushing the defender lightly as he spun and extended the ball into the end zone.

The play went 47 yards. Louisville went up 56-10 just 33 seconds into the fourth quarter. And the football world went crazy.

But the most important play of the game came earlier, after Florida State had cut a 14-0 deficit to 14-10 midway through the second quarter. Louisville needed to make something good happen to keep the Seminoles from grabbing more momentum. The game, at that point, could’ve gone either way. Jackson took the snap, faked the handoff, then sprinted, and I do mean sprinted, to his right and around the corner for a 16-yard pickup.

With Louisville’s offensive rhythm, that’s really all it took. Two plays later he hit James Quick on a 30-yard slant. A couple of plays after that, he ran left for 10 yards, making the wrong read on a handoff but still making a defender miss to pick up a first down. Next play, he sprinted right again for nine yards. Just over three minutes after Florida State closed the gap, it was 21-10. Then the Seminoles fumbled on their first play, and a couple minutes later it was 28-10. And the game was over.

“Ya’ll watch him, he does it every game. That’s an explosive, electric guy,” Radcliff said. “It’s nothing new. You give him one little seam, he gone. We all know what Lamar can do, and what he will do if we give him that opportunity. He’s a great player, and we all look for those moments.

According to ESPN, Jackson became only the fifth player in the past 10 years to rush for three touchdowns against Florida State. ESPNU Tweeted its updated Heisman list: “1). Lamar Jackson. 2). Who cares?”

We all know how this works. One week everyone is building you up, the next you’re a little off and people are tearing you down. The fact is, Jackson was a bit off on Saturday. He overthrew some big passes. But this willingness to lean on his teammates, to put the ball wherever it needed to go, that was the most impressive thing about Jackson’s game against Florida State.

And the play of his offensive line also was a development. With only a couple of exceptions, the line was dominant. And Jackson went out of his way to say so.

“You know they're mature, and they be pumping me up before the game,” Jackson said. “They'll be like, ‘Bro we got you.’ And that's a great line. I tell them they're like All-Madden. Isn't anything wrong with that.”

Nor is there anything wrong with throwing to receivers who are so open they’re beginning to suffer from separation anxiety.

Three games in, Jackson leads the nation in rushing touchdowns and is second in the nation in rushing yards (464) and yards per game (154.7). He is eighth in passing efficiency and third in yards per attempt (11.1).

Petrino is on his game. So are Radcliff, Quick and other receivers. So is the offensive line. But the season is only three games old. I’ll be at Marshall next week, then Clemson.

We all need to pace ourselves. Even if Jackson isn’t.

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