CRAWFORD | Four verticals: Malik Williams breaks out in Louisville's win at UNC
Eric Crawford with four key players or plays in Saturday's 47-35 Louisville win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WDRB) – If you want to talk about individuals in Louisville’s 47-35 win at North Carolina on Saturday, you have to start with Lamar Jackson, who kicked his Heisman encore into high gear with his 525 total yards against the Tar Heels.
That’s why I gave him his own story. In the Four Verticals, we take a look at four players (or issues) that shaped the game just finished. And in the case of this victory, we have no shortage.
1). MALIK WILLIAMS. The Cardinals had a welcome running back appearance on Saturday. Sophomore Malik Williams took his first carry around the right corner for 11 yards. He came back with a nine-yard run. Though there seemed to be long lapses in his appearances, whenever he touched the ball, he made good things happen on Saturday against a North Carolina defense that has been decent against the run.
His ability to fight for good yardage in the running game – and a couple of dump offs to him for near double-digit gains early in the second half – really opened up the running room for Jackson, who took advantage of the defense watching Williams to run 43 yards for a score in the third quarter.
Williams, meanwhile, got his big run later. Pinned at their own one-yard line late after a North Carolina fumble, Louisville just handed the ball to Williams. He took the first carry up the middle for two yards. The next he took around the right corner for nine. The next he broke outside for 74 yards before being pushed out of bounds.
“Malik did a really nice job,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “He made them miss tackles. He cut back. He’s a physical guy. We’ve been waiting for him to get going. Unfortunately he had a bad injury last year and didn’t go in spring ball, and it’s a credit to him how hard he’s worked.”
Williams finished with 149 yards rushing on 13 carries (11.5 yards per carry) and caught a pair of passes for 18 yards.
2). JAYLEN SMITH. The wideout got off to a fast start, and at one point had four straight completions, for gains of 9, 22, 16 and 75 yards.
Now, after two games, he has 271 receiving yards, the most in a two-game stretch for any receiver in Louisville history, according to Cardinals’ stat guru Kelly Dickey. The next highest was 251 for Harry Doulas in 2007.
“Jaylen’s huge,” Jackson said. “He’s huge. He’s 6-4, about 220. He’s not going to go down easy. He’s hard to tackle. I have 100 percent confidence in him. He’s going to make the catch, and not just that but he’s going to get yards after the catch.”
Freshman Dez Fitzpatrick said he noticed something about defenders lining up against Smith.
“Jaylen is big, fast strong, and can run routes,” Fitzpatrick said. “He can play slot, he can play outside. Most defenders are scared of him out there. They won’t even put a hand on him.”
3). DEZ FITZPATRICK. The freshman receiver continues to impress, with four catches on Saturday for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has caught eight passes, three for touchdowns on the season.
Two of those TDs came in big fourth-quarter situations, but Fitzpatrick said he’s not any more focused then than at anytime.
“Whenever I hear my formation and my number called in the huddle, I’m going to be ready,” he said. “I know if the coaches have the confidence to go to me, I need to deliver and make a play.”
Fitzpatrick’s big grab came with 9:32 to play and Louisville up 32-28. Jackson found him over the middle for a 30-yard TD pass.
“It was an excellent ball, thrown away from the linebacker,” Fitzpatrick said. “We work on those routes every day before practice. Sometimes I just have to jump and twist and make the catch.”
4). FUMBLES AND PENALTY COUNT. These were the stars of most pregame discussions surrounding the Cards, and they were seldom mentioned after kickoff.
Louisville still had a couple of false start penalties, but nothing like they had a week ago against Purdue. They finished with 6 penalties for 61 yards.
And more importantly, they had no turnovers. It was their first game without losing a fumble since beating Florida State 63-20 last September. A string of 11 straight games.
“That was good to see,” Petrino said. “Our coaches have been working really hard on those things, and players have been working hard, and it was good to see some results.”
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