Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson’s Heisman tour resumed Friday with a 24-14 win over Duke, though he received a stiff test early from rainy weather and the Blue Devils defense before an outstanding ending helped him finish with 181 passing yards, 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Even with some of Jackson’s struggles in this game, per ESPN Stats & Info, he’s already done something no quarterback in ACC history has ever done:
The game started out like so many have in 2016 for Jackson. He orchestrated a 10-play opening drive in which he ran for 17 yards and threw for 49 yards, including the five-yard touchdown to Jaylen Smith.
Dan Wolken of USA Today wanted to point out one key aspect of Jackson’s season that should not go unnoticed:
Jackson has been thrust into the spotlight this year because of his brilliant performances, but he’s still a kid trying to figure things out.
The Cardinals were a heavy favorite coming into the game, with OddsShark.com listing them as a 27.5-point favorite against their ACC rivals.
Jackson did continue to play strong in the opening quarter. He had a terrific 53-yard pass off his back foot to Seth Dawkins with less than two minutes remaining that got Louisville down to Duke’s 6-yard line, making it look like Louisville was going to go back on top.
CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli offered this observation about Jackson’s throwing ability on that pass to Dawkins:
The Cardinals were forced to settle for a field goal and 10-7 lead at the end of that drive, which would be all the scoring for both teams the rest of the first half. Even with the slow start, Jackson still accounted for 181 of Louisville’s 212 yards, though he wasn’t as efficient as he has been throughout the year.
Duke’s strategy on offense was to put together long, sustained drives that would eat the clock and keep the ball away from Jackson. The Blue Devils held the ball for almost 19 minutes in the first half, including one drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.
Some of that strategy for Duke was also to combat the rain falling in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, but head coach David Cutcliffe was well aware that Jackson had 28 total touchdowns coming into this game.
SB Nation’s Mike Rutherford made an observation about Louisville as a team that could have contributed to the slow start:
It’s easy to play focused and upbeat when Clemson and Florida State are on the other side of the field. While Duke has been a solid program with four straight bowl appearances, it’s off to a mediocre 3-3 start this year and not really a factor in the national conversation.
Just as they did on the first drive of the game, the Cardinals got a quick score to take a 17-7 lead on their first drive after halftime. Jeremy Smith did the damage with an 80-yard touchdown run on the fifth play of the drive.
Per Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD, early in the third quarter, Duke’s defense wasn’t really slowing down Louisville’s offense:
After Louisville’s defense forced a punt on Duke’s next possession, Jackson went back to work on a 28-yard completion to Jamari Staples that got the Cardinals into Blue Devils territory.
On that same drive, Jackson pulled off one of the most spectacular 13-yard runs you will see. He kept the ball on a read-option with two Blue Devils defenders in the backfield, juked forward before moving backward to his left, turning back to his right and outrunning five defenders for a first down.
Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee summed up Jackson’s run as well as anyone:
Unfortunately for Louisville, that drive ended with a turnover after Brandon Radcliff’s fumble was recovered by Alonzo Saxton II to keep the score at 17-7.
More miscues would haunt the Cardinals offense after the defense forced a quick three-and-out. Jackson hit James Quick for a 13-yard gain, but they were flagged for illegal formation. Evan O’Hara missed a 42-yard field goal two players later, keeping Duke’s window open heading into the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils were just never able to build any rhythm on offense to really challenge Louisville and make Jackson strike quickly. Their drive after the missed field goal did end in a touchdown, yet it took nearly nine minutes, leaving just over six minutes in the fourth quarter to get a defensive stop to tie or win the game.
Jackson tried to help Louisville put the game away on the ensuing drive. He had two long first-down runs that helped the Cardinals get the ball on Duke’s 17. They would stumble when Traveon Samuel was stopped for a seven-yard loss and Jackson was sacked, pushing them back to the 29-yard line and facing 3rd-and-22.
After an incomplete pass, Duke blew a golden opportunity by getting called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty on Louisville’s field-goal attempt that gave the Cardinals an automatic first down.
Jackson accounted for all 14 yards after the penalty, starting with a 12-yard run before going into the end zone on a two-yard scamper to put the Cardinals up 24-14 with 92 seconds remaining.
This wasn’t a pretty game, nor is it one in which a lot of plays will end up on Jackson’s Heisman reel come December, but he stepped up in key moments to get the Cardinals a victory they needed after a heartbreaking defeat at Clemson two weeks ago.
Even though this game wasn’t vintage Jackson or Louisville, it was enough to get a victory. The sequence involving Duke’s roughing-the-kicker penalty was a talking point after the game.
“There was no doubt we were going to score,” Jackson said, via Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal. “It wasn’t about who was running. It was just, ‘We’re going to get in the end zone.'”
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino didn’t sound like he was too concerned about the style points coming out of the game.
“We didn’t blow them out, but we did win the game,” said Petrino, via ESPN.com.
There’s a chance Louisville could take a hit in the polls because of its lackluster win against Duke, though the Cardinals still have ample opportunity to keep building their resume before the season ends.
Jackson showed his tenacity and determination in this game, finding ways to win without playing his best and in less-than-ideal weather conditions.
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News