CRAWFORD | Louisville delivers another high-noon knockout, beats - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville delivers another high-noon knockout, beats N.C. State 54-13

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Take a memo, to the Atlantic Coast Conference office. What’s that? Nobody takes memos at media companies anymore? All right. I’ll type it myself.

To whom it may concern, the University of Louisville football team hereby requests that its games kick off at noon the rest of the season.

Sure, it throws a crimp into Cardinal fans’ tailgating style. But you can’t argue with the results on the field. In two noon kickoffs at home this season, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents — Florida State and North Carolina State — 79-10, and outgained them 754-181.

For that kind of success, Louisville fans ought to be willing to douse the grill fires a little early. For the Cardinals, High Noon is becoming a classic theme.

N.C. State certainly was wishing it could’ve gotten a reprieve from the noon knockout punch that Louisville threw early Saturday. It took the Cardinals only a minute and 33 seconds to score their first touchdown, and they rolled to a 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and led 44-0 at the half.

In the end, the No. 7-ranked Cardinals rolled to a 54-13 victory before a crowd of 55,218, the eighth-largest in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history. The victory -- the fifth this season in which the Cardinals topped the 50-point mark -- makes Louisville bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive season.

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"I think we got a little tired all week long of hearing about how physical a team they were and how hard they hit and I think our guys took it personally and felt like we were the more physical team out there today," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We executed well. We wanted to start the game out throwing the ball. We knew they were going to bring their safeties to the run and try to outnumber us in the run, so the game plan going in was to throw the football, and our guys ran really good routes and we had good protection and Lamar (Jackson) was very accurate with his throws."

The offensive numbers were impressive — Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-frontrunner quarterback Lamar Jackson produced 359 yards of first-half offense. N.C. State had only 54.

But this was just as much a defensive statement. The Cardinals (6-1, 4-1 ACC) grabbed three interceptions in the half, which U of L turned into 17 points, and gave up just 10 yards rushing on 14 carries.

It was a dominant performance. In N.C. State’s first 10 offensive drive, it averaged six yards per possession and managed only a single first down. By then, the game was over.

When Petrino said Louisville wanted to open the game throwing, he wasn't kidding. After completing passes of eight, 12 and 16 yards on Louisville’s first three plays, Jackson carried on a designed run up the middle, pulling free of one tackle then sprinting 36 yards for the touchdown. One play later, Trumaine Washington grabbed an interception and the Cardinals turned it into a field goal. Midway through the first quarter, a 71-yard TD strike from Jackson to Jaylen Smith broke the game open.

Of Jackson, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said, "He's what we thought he was going to be. He's been great all year. He's breaking records left and right and we new that coming in. The thing that he's got around him, like I said multiple times this week, is he has really good players around him. I think that's a really good football team. Offense, defense, special teams, they do a really nice job."

The Cardinals wore special adidas cleats which featured glow-in-the-dark stripes that were pretty much worthless. But just wait — tonight, N.C. State players certainly will see them in their nightmares.

The Louisville defense turned in its most complete performance of the season, despite a couple of late scores by the Wolfpack. N.C. State (4-3, 1-2) came into the game averaging 436 yards of offense per game and converting just over 46 percent of its third-down chances. It averaged 31.2 points per game and was coming off an overtime loss at No. 4 Clemson in which it hit the game-winning field goal in regulation, but just after Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called timeout to ice the kicker. It worked.

Clearly, N.C. State had a hangover from that loss, not unlike a bit of the rust Louisville showed in a 24-14 win over Duke a week ago.

"I'm not going to blame it on that," Doeren said. "I thought that we did practice better than I thought we would, coming out of what we dealt with last week. But Louisville executed at a high level today and it obviously wasn't our best against their best. They played a really good game."

The Cardinals were sharp, particularly in the first half. Jackson completed 20 of 34 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried for 76 yards and a score. Those TDs broke the single-season Louisville record for touchdowns accounted for. He has 34. Dave Ragone in 2000 and Brian Brohm in 2007 had 33.

Cole Hikutini led the Cardinal receivers with six catches for 118 yards and a touchdown -- though he couldn't quite leap a defender the way Jackson did at Syracuse. He tried it, but wound up landing on his own head.

"I probably shouldn't have tried to jump over him," Hikutini said. "But I wanted a cool picture like Lamar did."

Jeremy Smith ran 14 times for 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 18 points from kicker Blanton Creque, who had field goals of 37, 33, 24 and 27 yards, also are a single-game Louisville record.

Keith Kelsey led the Cards with eight tackles (four solo), while Chucky Williams and Stacy Thomas had six each. U of L had eight tackles for loss and allowed just four yards per play. U of L's 54 interceptions since the beginning of the 2014 season are the most in the nation in that span.

"I think we're really good on defense," Petrino said. "I think that we do what you need to do to be a good defensive team, which is control the line of scrimmage, have linebackers that have great instincts and understand what's going on out there. And then we're able to get pass rush, which leads to turnovers. We're a smart defensive football team. We are able to do some things with our coverage."

Louisville outgained N.C. State 553 to 250. The Wolfpack managed just 14 net yards rushing. They came into the game averaging 186 rushing yards per game.

Next up for the Cards — another noon kickoff, next Saturday at Virginia.

CARDINAL CLIPS

-- With a touchdown on its opening possession, Louisville has now scored on its first drive in five of its past seven games.

-- Petrino improved to 12-0 against schools from the state of North Carolina (Wake 3-0, ECU 2-0, UNC 2-0, N.C. State 3-0, Charlotte 1-0, Duke 1-0). Three of the Cards' six wins this season have come against teams from North Carolina.

-- Jackson now is responsible for 342 career points, seventh on the school's career list. His 204 this season are the most in program history. He has both a rushing and a passing touchdown in 10 consecutive games. He now has 16 rushing TDs on the season and 27 for his career. His 1,868 career rushing yards rank him 15th in school history. His 908 rushing yards this season are the fourth-highest U of L rushing total for a Cardinal in the past 10 years. And Jackson now has a rushing and passing touchdown in each of the past 10 games.

-- Brandon Radcliff rushed for just 19 yards in a pass-happy contest, but passed the 2,000-yard career milestone, making him just the 14th Louisville player to do that.

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