They then proceeded to do what teams starting to get good do in such situations.
THEY CLOSED THE DEAL.
Two drives told the tale.
Second one first. Josh Appleby had just landed a pooch punt on the Wolfpack 4 yard line, as gently as a mama loving on the first pup in her litter. State had 1:45 to go 95 yards, to hope to knot the game up, or win it on a last second two-point conversion.
Instead, thanks to Louisville’s stalwart D, which played huge all day, the home team gained nine yards in :32, and surrendered the ball and ball game to U of L.
The big play was, of course, LB James Burgess MONSTER HIT on State RB Matt Hayes.
When it needed it the most, State, with the game on the line, on fourth and one, got none and, toss off the headsets, done.
Which cherry on the sundae defensive series was preceded by my favorite U of L offensive drive of the season.
Up 7 with 7:23 to play, the ball back on the Cards’ own 20, U of L manned up and played smash mouth, old time, choke on this Wolfpack, Bo and Woody football. With “vet” Reggie Bonnafon under center for the last eight of the drive’s ten plays, Louisville milked the clock, chewed up yardage, wore down the home team’s D, and set things up for Appleby’s splendid punt, previously extolled.
Brandon Radcliffe for 3. Lamar Jackson for 3. Timeout State. Enter Bonnafon. Radcliffe for 5. Radcliffe for 11. Tick tock. Radcliffe for no gain. Jeremy Smith for 2. Then on 3d & 9 at its own 43, Bonnafon for 12 on a , marvelously called, beautifully executed QB draw. Tick tock. Radcliffe for 5. Timeout State, its last. Radcliffe twice for no gain, after which the Cards ran the clock down as far as possible, before calling timeout.
Then Appleby’s punt.
10 plays. 37 yards. 5:38 off the clock. Forced State to use up the last of its timeouts.
* * * * *
Todd Grantham’s splendid D notched three sacks, 10 tackles for loss total.
Sheldon Rankins spent so much time behind the Wolfpack line, the IRS has declared it his domicile. 2 1/2 tackles for loss, including a sack.
Burgess had nine stops, and a whole mess of defenders three or four. Team effort.
State QB Jacoby Brissett, a cool customer though beleaguered all day, was 16/28. That 57% completion rate was way below his 78% previously on the season.
My second favorite D play of the day, ended State second possession of the game. On 3d & 5 at its own 48, Brissett hit WR Ramos, who was on his way to the end zone, with Trumaine Washington, riding him like a bucking bronco, forcing a fumble. Which was recovered by Chucky Williams on U of L’s four.1
When it mattered, i.e. late with a lead, the Cards held State to two first downs and only 47 yards on its last 5 possessions.
* * * * *
U of L took 72 offensive snaps, to but 58 for the losers. Possession time advantage: 33:04 to 26:56.
The Wolfpack had 45 yards rushing. They had been averaging 258 ypg.
James Quick is starting to emerge. Despite a couple drops, he was the leading Cardinal receiver with four. His best catch of the day didn’t count. On U of L’s second TD drive, he pinned one on his shoulder while going out of bounds.
That second TD was classic Bobby Petrino. He had lanky DeVante Peets isolated on a State LB in the endzone. Jackson connected.
John Wallace converted both his FG attempts.
* * * * *
As important and, well, mature, as the W was, there is still lots of room for the Cardinals to improve.
The Cards still seriously mediocre O line gave up 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and way too many hurries. Without Jackson’s facility to escape, there could have been double the number takedowns behind the line.
That kickoff return immediately after taking a 14-0 lead. Which ended with a Card facemask penalty, handing the ball to State at point blank range. From which they halved Louisville’s lead.
Too many penalties. Including Chucky Williams failure to disengage more than five yards out of bounds. Unsportsmanlike conduct.
Of course, Jackson, extremely talented is a work in progress. Still, he needs to learn to hand the ball off. And how to play under center. He must calibrate accuracy with that bazooka of his on downfield throws. At some point teams will wise up and prevent those pivot reverse breakaways, when he appears stymied behind the line.
Have I mentioned that the play of the O line is still underwhelming.
* * * * *
U of L gets a week off, before traveling to Tallahassee.
A W there, far from impossible, and the season brightens considerably.
— Seedy K