BOZICH | Louisville introduced to World of Great Expectations ag - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville introduced to World of Great Expectations against Duke

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Louisville receiver James Quick delivered a stiff arm in the Cards' win over Duke Friday. (Tim Easley, AP Photo.) Louisville receiver James Quick delivered a stiff arm in the Cards' win over Duke Friday. (Tim Easley, AP Photo.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — You beat Florida State as thoroughly as anybody has ever beaten one of college football's 5-star programs and if you’re the University of Louisville you’ve done the equivalent of running a sub 4-minute mile.

You scored 63 on the Seminoles and at least 59 on three other teams. You went into Death Valley and stuck 36 on Clemson, although you stalled one possession from beating the Tigers.

In today’s world, you’re expected to keep scoring 60 every week. Maybe more. You’re ranked seventh. Keep running those sub-4 minute miles.

Your fans and the people that report on your every move started the season by discussing whether your team is going to win nine or 10 games. Barely halfway into the season everybody injected another phrase into the analysis:

Style points.

Can you beat Duke by enough style points to please a committee that won’t even start ranking the best college football teams in America for several weeks?

Not this time. 

This time it was Louisville 24, Duke 14 Friday night at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Make the Cardinals 5-1 with North Carolina State booked for a visit next Saturday.

The comparative score game that is delightful to play when you’re trying to gain respect isn’t as wonderful when you’re on the Flip Side. Welcome to the Flip Side because Northwestern and Virginia, teams with losing records, had less trouble dispatching the Blue Devils. This is no sub 4-minute mile. It's a 4:20 mile.

Welcome to life in the Top 10.

Welcome to life in the national playoff chase — the expectations as well as the exhilaration. Beating Duke by 10 is fine if you're unbeaten. Beating Duke by 10 when you're trying to overtake the unbeatens won't work.

Welcome to a world where — dare I say it? — you’ve become everybody’s Super Bowl (for at least the next six games).

“It’s an ESPN game, 7 o’clock, prime time,” Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris said.  “You’ve got to show out. That’s what we came to do. We’re going to not play four quarters?

“If you come into the game expecting to lose, (because) oh, they have so and so, they have this, they have that, they’re number 7 in the country, you're never going to win.”

Louisville was not great against the Blue Devils. The offense stalled after an opening touchdown drive of 80 yards. The next four U of L drives were punctuated by punt, punt, missed field goal and punt.

At halftime the score was Louisville 10, Duke 7 — in a game where Las Vegas expected the Cardinals to win by 35 and for the teams to combine for 70 points or more.

“When you’re used to scoring 70 points on people and you have 14 going into the fourth quarter or whatever it was, I forget the score, yeah, they were pressing,” Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys said. 

Humphreys noted that one Louisville player was not pressing -- quarterback Lamar Jackson. He said Jackson was faster than he looked on tape and that Jackson left no doubt who was in charge. Humphreys said when players were talking on the field, Jackson was first to stop the chatter. "He's a humble guy," Humphreys said. "I respect that out of him."

Duke never led but Louisville never led by more than 10.

“That was our goal," Humphreys said. "We had them right there.”

Not really. I never sensed Louisville was going to lose anything other than the expectations game. The Cardinals had nearly double the yardage that Duke generated (469-239).

Bobby Petrino’s team simply didn’t break as many jumbo plays as they usually break. The field goal game needs to improve. The Cards lost a fumble. They weren’t great on third down in the first half. Todd Grantham’s defense did not generate any turnovers. That's not the formula for the usual blowout.

David Cutcliffe of Duke is a masterful football coach. I knew that. He’s done something that only Steve Spurrier has done in my lifetime: Deliver winning football seasons in Durham.

No dummy, Cutcliffe is conditioned to playing against (and sometimes beating) teams with superior players, like Florida State, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Duke rarely has better pieces but has become a dangerous moment on every ACC schedule.

When the other team has better players, you do everything you can do to shorten the game. Duke ran the ball 39 times — and passed it only 21. It converted eight of 16 plays on third down. Duke did not rush. They burned the clock.

The Blue Devils possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes — and would have had a chance to drive for a game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown if they had not earned a personal foul when U of L’s Evan O’Hara missed a 46-yard field goal with 1:59 to play.

“The best defense against a player the caliber of Lamar Jackson and the rest of that offensive talent is for them to be watching us make first downs,” Cutcliffe said.

“We’re always going to try to do that. We’re always going to try to keep our offense on the field and make first downs.”

Duke made Louisville work. The Cardinals won. Not by nearly as many points as the world expected them to win. But they won.

Welcome to the world of great expectations.

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