By halftime, hapless Kent State had already proven it was not going to join fellow MAC schools, Northern Illinois, Ohio, and two Michigan Directionals (Eastern and Central) with a W this year over a Power 5 foe.
The Cardinals, as expected, were rolling, even if they hadn’t gotten in touch with juggernaut status.
U of L led 28-3. Breakout RB Malik Williams had rushed for two scores. Lamar Jackson was 12/14 passing for 200 yards.
Louisville’s D had held the inept Golden Flashes to 11 yards in the air, and only 72 more on the ground. Real frosh Dorian Etheridge with 4 tackles was continuing to establish that eventually he’ll be compared with all-time Card LB greats, Tom Jackson, Otis Wilson and Doug Buffone.
With all that, what might you suppose drew the biggest cheer of the day? As well as the most chatter during the mid-game break?
The Squirrel Who Scored.
During a timeout late in the 2d, in the visitors only scoring drive of the day, a Sciuridae Spermophilus (Though, to be honest, I couldn’t tell from the press box whether that’s the exact species or not) took over the gridiron, starting its rush to the north end zone and superstardom at mid field. Displaying straight ahead speed, the ability to stop on a dime and change direction with more panache than Saquon Barkley, the Rodentia soon enough became a fan favorite.
When it reached paydirt, the crowd went wilder than when Tommy hit the stage.
Which brings me to one of two lasting visuals of the day.
And the elephant that still resides in the lounge of the Louisville Cardinal Football Complex.
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On a sunny — if absurdly hot — autumn Saturday, at High Noon (A time that left the rest of the day open for shopping, cutting the grass, time with the family or a trip down memory lane at an old farts rock & roll fest.), Papa Johns was embarrassingly empty.
The crowd was announced as 47,812.
Which number is legit fake news. To pull out an old quip because I can’t think of one more clever, half those fans showed up as empty seats. A camera shot of the crowd, if the ACC network dared display one, would have shown lots of sun-bleached unoccupied red plastic grandstand.
Which underscores the folly of the folderol that U of L is on the cusp of becoming a big time football school.
Of course, playing such nonentities like Kent State isn’t the most alluring of pigskin battles. But how many fans were in the stands do you suppose when the Golden Flashes visited Death Valley for their opener against Clemson?
80,121. And those seats had orange and purple-clad Tiger faithful in them.
U of L’s football culture remains as much a work in progress as that of the Cardinal team itself.
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The other image that stood out for me Saturday afternoon came with 13:37 to play in the 4th Q.
After Russ Yeast immaturely received a punt inside the five and was downed on the Cards’ own one yard line.
At which juncture, Cardinal QB of the Future Puma Pass entered the game for the first time in his career.
No big deal. Your first appearance. 1st and 10 at your own one. Which sphincter-tightening test young Jawon passed with flying colors. If memory serves, his two heralded predecessors — Teddy B and LJ, that Heisman winner who is still around — threw picks on their first passing attempts. (If I’m wrong about that, I’m sure I’ll be corrected.)
Undaunted, displaying an impressive command of the situation, on 1st down, Pass completed an eight yarder to real frosh Josh Johnson. Then handed it off to another real rookie, future Card RB star Colin Wilson, who plowed with strength and speed for 21 yards. Pass followed that with pinpoint tosses to Emonee Spence for 9 and 15 yards.
In mop up duty, albeit against Kent State second teamers, Pass was 5/8 for 75 yards.
He will be ready when the time comes. Which he better be. Since his first start will likely come against the Crimson Tide in next season’s opener.
Wilson was also steady in his initial action. Three carries for 33 yards, and a reception.
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Lamar Jackson finished 18/22 on the day.
Every one of his tosses, save for his second pick, hit his targets in the hands. His first pick glanced off Dez Fitzpatrick’s mitts, and the other two incompletions simply couldn’t be gathered in.
It is true that Kent State’s defenders were inept, but even against tackling dummies, 82% accuracy is righteous.
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I’m not sure anything else about yesterday’s game matters much. U of L took care of business. Lots of newcomers got valuable PT.
Louisville has another scrimmage — against Murray State — before things get serious.
N.C. State, the Cards’ opponent in two weeks, proved its preseason hype as conference dark horse might be accurate, finally living up to the hype yesterday. The Wolfpack won in Tallahassee.
— Seedy K