BOZICH | Louisville's playoff hopes soar (4th in Sagarin) after - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville's playoff hopes soar (4th in Sagarin) after beating Wake Forest

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Louisville trailed Wake Forest, 12-3, at halftime Saturday. Louisville trailed Wake Forest, 12-3, at halftime Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — What was supposed to be a relaxing night of scoreboard watching dissolved into an episode of "Survivor," for the University of Louisville football team.

No reason to fret. Just follow the plot. But the end of the night the Cardinals had reason to celebrate Super Saturday, after rallying to beat Wake Forest, 44-12.

Clemson, ranked second, stumbled — and lost to Pittsburgh. 43-42.

Michigan, ranked third, came from ahead to lose to Iowa, 14-13.

Washington, ranked fourth, crashed at home to Southern Cal, 26-13.

Three jarring losses, two to unranked opponents. That's more Ls than you see flashed by Louisville students. By Sunday morning at least one respected college football computer ranking (Sagarin) had the Cardinals ranked No. 4, behind Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan, but ahead of Clemson and Washington.

"I found out after the game that Clemson got beat and that Washington was behind," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said. "That's the only two things that I was told."

"We had a feeling that eventually the top teams would start going down," said U of L defensive lineman DeAngelo Brown. "We've just got to keep winning, keep dominating our opponents and let it all play out."

All Petrino’s team had to do was follow the forecast by Las Vegas — beat Wake Forest by 35 points (or more). Then the one-loss Cardinals could watch the College Football Playoff show Tuesday night and expect to inch closer to one of the favored positions for the four-team playoff.

Sounds simple. That's not the way it turned out, no matter what the final score suggests. The Cardinals rallied by outscoring Wake Forest 41-0 in the second half to win 44-12 as 51,218 folks exhaled at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Louisville did not lead until the fourth quarter, which they owned, 34-0.

This time the rescue was not strictly a Lamar Jackson production. Credit halfback Brandon Radcliff with three touchdowns from 55, 7 and 19 yards. Not a bad night for a guy who had not scored in Louisville's previous five games.

"He does a great job of toting the rock," Brown said of Radcliff, his roommate.

Jackson added to his Heisman Trophy candidacy with 153 yards rushing as well as 145 passing yards, highlighted by a 2-yard TD strike to Cole Hikutini.

"I thought it was good for him to have to come back," Petrino said.

Cornerback Ronald Walker added a touchdown with a 31-yard interception. Then Malik Williams scored from 2 yards with 50 seconds to play, just in case the playoff committee changes its mind about the value of margin of victory.

"I thought our guys were really excited about coming from behind and winning the game," Petrino said. "It was a little different style than we have been winning. Today it took the second half to go and win the game."

Will the win be enough to bump the Cardinals forward from sixth, their spot in the latest CFP Top 25?

Sure. Louisville will certainly vault Washington and Michigan. The Huskies lost at home. The Wolverines failed to beat 4-loss Iowa. The Cards have to be at least Number 4. Maybe higher. It's Alabama one, Ohio State two. After that?

The Louisville/Clemson comparison is certain to inspire some fussing. Clemson lost at home to a four-loss Pitt team. The Tigers also flirted with losses to Florida State (37-34) and North Carolina State (24-17) over the last month.

The flip side? Clemson beat Louisville -- and the Cards failed to win style points with their wins against Virginia and Wake Forest (until the fourth quarter).

There will be plenty of time to discuss all that. Louisville is fortunate there is something to discuss as they begin a short week that will feature a Thursday night game at Houston, which is 8-2 and defeated Louisville last season.

"We've got to start preparing for them now, like (Sunday)," Brown said.

By halftime the Cardinals had urgently shifted to Plan B, determined to turn away a significant upset push by the unranked (but 6-win) Demon Deacons. They trailed 12-3, the third time Louisville has trailed at halftime this season. 

For Louisville, the script read fumble, fumble, fumble.

For Wake, the script read field goal, field goal, field goal, field goal. 

The offensive line was not firing. Receivers were either dropping balls (Jamari Staples) or failing to get open. It wasn't Lamar Jackson's most complete performance.

Louisville needed a 28-yard field goal by Brandon Creque with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to avoid their first scoreless half of the season. 

Don’t show the halftime stats to Petrino. Wake possessed the ball for more than 21 of 30 minutes. The Demon Deacons outgained Louisville 177-128, limiting the Cards to 46 yards passing. They doubled U of L’s first down total — 12-6.

There was actually a fourth Louisville fumble, but the Cards did not lose that one.

Even Jackson was not able to make something from nothing, finishing the first half with 65 yards rushing and 46 yards passing, while completing only 4 of 9. Jackson had one of the Cards' fumbles. The others were credited to receiver Jaylen Smith and Radcliff.

But Radcliff redeemed himself -- multiple times. His 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest run of his career. His fourth-quarter scoring runs confirmed his determination to keep Louisville in the playoff conversation.

"When it was our time to eat, we ate, too," Brown said.

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