It might have been a bit dramatic to say prior to Saturday that the Louisville-Florida State matchup was the biggest in the ACC this season. However, it’s not at all an understatement to claim it was the biggest regular-season victory in the history of the Cardinals’ football program.
Sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his torrid pace, scoring five total touchdowns on his way to absolutely destroying the Florida State defense. The 63-20 Louisville victory will have lasting effects for both programs, but most importantly, it proves that Jackson and the Cardinals will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.
Jackson came into Saturday’s contest leading the nation with 13 total touchdowns and an incredible 1,015 yards. Those numbers, though, were posted against Charlotte and Syracuse, not exactly the powerhouses of college football. Critics wanted to see what the sophomore could do against an elite defense.
A quick synopsis of Saturday’s test versus Florida State — Jackson dominated just as he did the first two weeks.
Jackson attempted 20 passes, completing 13 of them for 216 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 10.8 yards per pass, and through three games, he is earning 11.1 yards per attempt.
The sophomore had just two poor passes all game. He missed a wide open Jaylen Smith streaking down the sidelines, who likely would have scored, on the fourth play of the game. Jackson also threw an interception, a pass he could have lofted to the corner of the end zone rather than to the inside of the receiver, late in the third quarter. Other than that, it was a virtually perfect day for him.
Jackson actually looked nervous early on, which explained the missed opportunity to Smith. He started the game 2-for-5, but then finished 11-of-15 until the starters left the game with about 10 minutes to go.
Jackson’s biggest weapon on Saturday was his pair of legs. He carried the ball 17 times for 146 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson averaged 8.6 yards per rush, and that is his lowest rushing average in three games this year.
This marked the eighth time in his young career he passed and rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game. He has run for more than 100 yards and passed for greater than 200 in all three contests in 2016.
With his 304.3 passing yards and 154.7 rushing yards per game, along with 18 total touchdowns, Jackson is clearly leading the way for Louisville, which will suddenly be considered a playoff contender, but redshirt senior running back Brandon Radcliff makes Louisville’s offense even more dangerous.
Radcliff nearly averaged the same amount of yards per carry as Jackson, rushing for 118 yards on just 14 attempts versus Florida State. In two ACC games, the senior has 274 yards and a 11.4 yards-per-rush average.
His power makes him the perfect complement to Jackson, who looks like the shiftiest quarterback in college football. Tackling Jackson is about as easy as grabbing a bar of wet soap. When defenses are on their heels, the Cardinals can then run them over with Radcliff’s power. The combination produced five touchdowns on the ground against a defense that yielded just 10 rushing touchdowns in 13 games last year.
As great as they looked Saturday, this is far from the end of the road for these Cardinals. Whether they can deal with expectations and the pressure of being the new favorites in the ACC are their new question marks, but one thing is for certain – Jackson and Louisville’s offense are poised to dominate college football.