Because the Cardinal stats for this 70-14 evisceration of Charlotte are so glossy, thanks to the 49ers ineptitude, we must be careful not to read too awfully much into them. Given how awful the visitors were, this could be a false positive.
It is what happens when a school plays a money game to open the season. Instead of battling Kentucky or Miami or Auburn as in the recent past, or Notre Dame or Alabama or even down on its luck Purdue as will be the case in the seasons to come.
It’s a reminder of the norm during what should be the best opening weekend in memory. Big School pays a patsy to come and play victim. It’s been going on at least since the 19teens, when Georgia Tech coach John Heisman — Yes, that John Heisman — paid Cumberland $500 to visit and be tackling dummies for his Ramblin’ Wreck, turning Atlanta’s Grant Field into a 222-0 abattoir.
Louisville’s victory last evening wasn’t quite that decisive. But it certainly could have been, had mercy not been on display after the break.
Card coach Bobby Petrino is a pedal to the metal mentor. He called a timeout with seconds to go before halftime, so QB Lamar Jackson could get some red zone experience. The tally just before the whistle gave U of L a 56-0 lead.
Had he chosen to play his starters the entire second half as Heisman apparently did, Louisville would have hit triple figures. Which to be honest would not have been that admirable.
* * * * *
What did Cardinal fans learn?
This: Lamar Jackson is giving more hints he may supplant Teddy Bridgewater as U of L’s best pigskinner ever. Who would have believed that might have come so soon?
In the opening quarter, he ran for 104 yards, and two TDs. (Actually 112, but was downed for an 8 yard loss on a scramble.) And passed for 70 yards more yards and a couple more touchdowns.
His TD strikes to Reggie Bonnafon at the endline for a score and to James Quick in the deep corner of paydirt were as precise as they were beauteous. We learned he had a bazooka last season. Now he has calibrated the gun-sight.
On his 36 yard scoring scamper, he left several 49ers searching the field turf for whatever these players wear these days instead of jock straps.
And this: Kyle Bolin remains a more than capable backup. He was 9/12 with two TD strikes. Even with his pick, he had a 186.8 QB rating. (LJ’s was a seriously lofty 264.5.)
And this: Louisville’s linebacking corps may be as good as they come. Stacy Thomas, showing zero ill effects of his medical issue whatever it was, Keith Kelsey, James Hearns and Devonte Fields garnered 22 tackles and a couple of sacks.
On one first quarter play, Fields displayed why he’s a legit All-American candidate. Charging in from the edge, he failed to immediately recognize a screen pass had been called. Charlotte’s punk QB Kevin Olsen lofted an effective toss over Fields head. DF quickly pivoted, and caught the receiver from behind before he could get traction.
Safety Zykiesis Cannon and cornerback Jaire Alexander also caught my attention. Cannon had 5 tackles, three solo and a breakup. Alexander had five tackles, four solo and a TFL.
And this: When Traveon Samuel sits next to Lamar Jackson on the bench, the photo of their backs goes nationwide.
And this: Heralded rookie QB Jawon Pass will be redshirted.
Which we suspected but learned for sure when Evan Horton was inserted into the lineup after Bolin’s stint as signal caller. Walkon Horton’s name doesn’t even appear on the roster in the media guide. Which didn’t prevent him from drawing Bobby P’s ire when he lost a fumble.
And this: The key to Louisville’s success this season, the offensive line, got off to a shaky start, was especially sketchy on Louisville’s second and third possessions.
The contingent did steady. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut, it was against Charlotte.
Syracuse will be a better gauge whether the gang of big uns has jelled enough for U of L to be really good or not.
And this: There were a couple of comely young women in Cardinal gear playing better D than Charlotte, as they fended off a couple of flirtatious dudes in the concourse at halftime.
* * * * *
Lots of Cardinals saw action in the scrimmage.
Eight different players registered at least one carry.
Sixteen different receivers caught at least one pass, eight scored a TD, the paradigm of “spreading it around.”
Twenty four defenders registered at least one tackle.
* * * * *
49er QB Kevin Olsen is forever and always a punk.
If memory serves he was suspended when at Miami, and left for a JC in Cali, before arriving to play for the worst team in FBS.
He visibly screamed at his OL, blaming them when he fumbled. And drew a taunting penalty when his team was down five TDs or so in the 2d half. Putz.
* * * * *
Realizing that perspective must be maintained, it is still difficult not to be over the top excited about Lamar Jackson’s talent and future, considering he did the same thing essentially to SEC’s Texas A&M in Music City as he did to hapless Charlotte.
Which I mention because of this “slight.”
Stewart Mandel, now at Fox Sports, is one of the more astute college pigskin pundits. Yesterday, he posted his 10 Best Heisman hopefuls.
The list includes five QBs: Houston’s Greg Ward, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Ohio State’s JT Barrett and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson.
You see who is missing. LJ gets to go head to head with at least two of those guys.
It’s going to be a fun ride.
Now that the exhibition season is over, the real deal starts next Friday when the Cards visit the Carrier Dome.
— Seedy K