It was the type of step up when necessary performance at crunch time you expect from the best player in the game.
While that Lamar Jackson reference certainly applies to his sealing the deal ways last night at Lucas Oil against feisty Purdue, it is meant to reassert that the U of L QB deserved his Heisman last season, that he remains the best player in the game meaning in the whole game of college football, and it shall be so until some other guy out there proves himself more scintillating, talented and athletic.
In a back and forth affair which was far too competitive than necessary due to Louisville’s generally dispirited and lackluster execution (for the fourth game in a row), LJ grabbed the affair by the short and curlies late and derailed the Boilermakers.
U of L fell behind yet again with 10:48 to play, 25-28, as student Jeff Brohm appeared he had mastered all the lessons learned from teacher Bobby Petrino, and taken over the lectern to teach tutor what an offense of the day looks like in 2017.
Then Jackson led a crisp, 6 play, 75 yard, 1;47 scoring drive to take the lead for good, displaying the kind of offensive efficiency and panache that was MIA most of the evening. Two completions to breakout wideout Dez Fitzpatrick in his first game, totaled 59 yards. The first was on a critical 3d & 6, the second went for 20 and the tally, after a nifty 12 yard LJ scamper.
After the Cardinals defense, which stiffened late when it was necessary, held Purdue to a 3 & Out, LJ led the victors on another scoring drive. Which included Jackson’s most amazing run of the night, a Big Boy start right, pivot, swirl to the left, shifting and slithering around end for 15 yards and another U of L 1st down at the Purdue 21.
Though Louisville had the ball 1st & Goal at the 8, the Cardinals ninth and last False Start penalty thwarted Uncle Mo. They had to settle for Blanton Creque’s third successful FG of the night for the final 35-28 margin.
* * * * *
Two significant areas of concern reemerged for U of L’s offense. Not red flags, but flashing red lights with alarm sirens blaring.
It seemed like deja vu all over again. Lack of discipline and execution.
Fumbles. Continuing last year’s plague when it coughed it up more than any other team in the land, the Cards lost the handle three times. Twice in the red zone. Actually thrice in the Red Zone, since Reggie Bonnafon was bobbling the ball on his TD run, and it went out of bounds in the endzone. Had the score been overturned, Purdue would have taken possession on its 20 and the Cards would still have been behind by eight.
Too damn familiar, one guy’s opinion.
False Starts. Ten of the them, as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
By eight or nine different Cardinals, and far from all by interior linemen. Five on 1st down, two of those inside the Purdue 10.
* * * * *
Against a not so heralded defense, the Offensive Line performed, uh, well, OK. Better than last year, though the improvement appears marginal so far.
They surrendered nary a sack, and only one TFL. The Boilermakers did officially hurry Lamar six times, though he seemed more harried than that.
While the spate of False Starts may be placed on Robbie Bell’s shoulders, it must be remembered the starting center is a red shirt Frosh, playing his first game. He performed better than his predecessor.
* * * * *
One thing that struck me at last Monday’s media Q&A was Jaire Alexander’s cockiness. He’s a corner. Like wideouts, they are prone to swagger. Which is likely to ratchet up when one is a preseason first time All-American.
That said, one must ask, what the hell was he thinking when he tried to scoop and run with a missed FG? It was a dunderheaded play for any number of reasons. Field position being the primary one.
Alexander paid for his lack of wisdom by being injured on a play he never should have attempted.
The extent of the ankle/knee/leg damage to the Cards’ premier DB is yet to be determined.
* * * * *
Kudos to the Cardinal defense for three huge picks.
Stacy Thomas’s 61 yard Pick Six gave U of L its first lead late in the 3d Q, 25-21.
Real Frosh TreSean Smith ended the ensuing Purdue foray with an acrobatic interception in the endzone.
After the Cards settled for a 7 point cushion very late at 35-28, Chucky Williams grab along the sideline crushed Purdue’s hopes for immediate retaliation.
And, after the Cards couldn’t run out the clock, U of L’s D held the Boilermakers to 4 & Out with under two minutes to play.
Louisville registered seven TFLs and four sacks. Zykiesis Cannon led the Cards with 9 tackles.
* * * * *
Louisville displayed no classic running game at all.
One must ask: OL??? Or, lack of a breakout RB???
The Cardinals rushed 33 times, 21 of which were by LJ. Admittedly he’s the best on the squad, but only a dozen attempts by others?
* * * * *
This & That:
It was U of L’s first W over a Big Ten school since ’98.
LJ had 481 yards of Total Offense. Ho hum!
Jaylen Smith led the receivers with 8 catches.
Eight true freshmen saw action.
Next: North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
— Seedy K