CRAWFORD | Louisville uses playoff ranking as motivation in 52-7 rout of Boston College
After being ranked lower than many expected in the College Football Playoff rankings, the University of Louisville football team came out motivated at Boston College.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (WDRB) — Forget game video. The only video Bobby Petrino’s University of Louisville football team needed to watch was Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings show. The only number it needed for motivation was No. 7.
That’s where the committee ranked the Cardinals, leaving their ability to claim one of four available playoff spots in question.
Louisville responded with a couple of sevens of its own. Lamar Jackson accounted for seven touchdowns and the Cardinal defense held Boston College to seven points in an emphatic 52-7 road victory.
Normally, you ask Petrino about “statement wins” and he deflects the question. Not so after this game.
“I hope so,” when asked if the win sends a statement to the College Football Playoff Selection committee. “You know, I feel like we’re a really good football team. . . . We’ve got great players and we know how to play the game. So hopefully it helps us.”
With the Presidential election three days away, Petrino shifted into campaign mode, talking about his team’s reaction to the playoff ranking. He mentioned it to his players again before they took the field at Boston College, telling them, “Here’s your chance to prove that you’re better.”
“I think they’re all a little upset,” Petrino said. “And if anything, (the ranking) motivated us. Our practices were really good the rest of the week.”
He’ll get no argument from Boston College coach Steve Addazio. After watching the Cardinals outgain his team 515 to 207, he sounded convinced.
“Make no mistake about the team we just played — I would say that I've been around long enough to know that it's one of the top three most talented teams in America right now, okay,” Addazio said. “That was a real operation right there. That quarterback is electric."
Jackson threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for 185 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. On the third play of the game, he sprinted 69 yards untouched for a TD. It was one of those Jackson afternoons, where every fourth or fifth play could be tabbed for a highlight reel somewhere.
He found James Quick three times early, twice for touchdowns. Jaylen Smith caught six passes for 123 yards. Boston College came into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation against the run, giving up 93 yards per contest. Jackson had that by his first carry of the second quarter.
“We came out prepared,” Jackson said. “They told us all week that it was a great defense we were coming up on and we watched them on film and it was a great defense.”
About the only thing that could stop Jackson was a cramp in his forearm at the end of the first half, when he sat out two possessions. It caused him some numbness in his fingers, and helped lead to his only interception in the game. But he got intravenous fluids at halftime and went on to play the third quarter.
Addazio couldn’t find enough good things to say.
“There were a few times we had him completely boxed, and he came out of there and hit a crease and he's gone,” he said. “He's electric. I mean, he's a -- I think I've been around some of the best quarterbacks in the country in my day, and this guy is really something now. He's got a great arm. He's got a great release. He's got a real knack of knowing what's around him and coming out of trouble. He can throw it, and he's as an elite of a runner as I've ever seen. He reminds me running like Percy Harvin reminded me when we had him at Florida. He's that kind of runner, but yet he can throw the rock, and when he's on, he's on. He was on tonight. Sometimes, like anybody else, you can be off a little bit, but he was on. They've got some -- this is the best quarterback-receiver combination play that we've had in the ACC ever, and you're seeing it right now.”
Whether a win like this is enough to make a difference to the playoff selection committee, however, is another story. Again departing from his usual approach, Petrino addressed the question head on when asked if his team was going to have to post lopsided wins from here on out.
“I guess we do, you know,” he said. “I guess we do. It’s sad, because there’s something called sportsmanship. But maybe I made a mistake, looking back at it, Florida State we should’ve kept all the starters in and scored 80 points and done that. But I don’t understand why it’s like that. I really don’t. And then you look at Clemson and the schedule they’ve beat and the guys in the Top 10 that they’ve beat, and what Alabama’s done. Why isn’t Clemson rated No. 1?”
Players said that they took the playoff rating to heart this week, but that they didn’t have much discussion of it among themselves. One evidence of their focus -- U of L was not flagged for a penalty. It was their first game with zero penalty yards since 1979.
“Whenever someone says there’s someone better than we are, it motivates us,” linebacker Keith Kelsey said. “Even this game, people said they were the No. 1 defense in the ACC. We wanted to prove that we’re the No. 1 defense in the ACC.”
Louisville didn’t allow much all day. They gave up only 57 rushing yards. Boston College’s only score came after a Jackson fumble gave the Eagles a short field. Former Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 13 of 21 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
“That's an extremely talented football team,” Towles said. “They do a very good job pressuring. . . . They’ve got some really kind of complex blitzes. It's a really good football team, and I can't give enough credit to them. They played really, really well. We did not, so that's why the score was what it was.”
Texas A&M, ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, lost at Mississippi State for its second loss of the season. So the scoreboard watching for Louisville will continue. Petrino said he doesn’t know what his team can do from here on but win.
“I can’t figure it out,” he said. “They talk about our schedule, so, we move down from fifth to seventh, and then you see what Clemson has done, they should be ahead of Alabama. If they’re really going to talk about schedule, they should do it for every team.”
Asked if he thinks there are six teams in the nation better than his, he responded, “I don’t think so. But heck, I don’t know. What do I know? I know we played well today, and I really like our football team.”
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