It turns out last week was the anomaly. Eight days after looking sluggish and sloppy against an overmatched Duke team, Louisville returned to 2016 form by blasting NC State 54-13. As has been its pattern this season, Louisville used a shock and awe offensive attack in the first half to make the game uncompetitive by midway through the second quarter. After the first quarter, Louisville had a 17-0 lead and had outgained NC State 244 yards to -1. Things went from bad to worse for NC State as Louisville used the second quarter to extend the lead to 44-0 and a total yardage advantage of 390 to 54.
Lamar Jackson used the blowout to remind the nation why he's the consensus leader for the Heisman Trophy. On the opening drive of the game, Jackson was 3 for 3 through the air and capped the scoring drive with a 36 yard touchdown run. On the team's fourth possession, Jackson completed a 74 yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Smith. He added a 67yard completion to Cole Hikutini setting up another score. Just before halftime Jackson threaded a 16 yard touchdown to Jaylen Smith.
Jackson completed yet another game where he could've easily sat for the the fourth quarter 20 of 34 for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air while also adding 76 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jackson's last touchdown pass broke Louisville's season record for most touchdowns responsible for by a single player with 34. The record was previously shared by Dave Ragone and Brian Brohm. He broke the record in 6.5 games, many of which he didn't even play in the third or fourth quarters.
It wasn't just the offense that helped Louisville get out to the big lead. The Louisville defense, after giving up 42 points to Clemson and letting Duke convert 50% of its third down conversion attempts, rebounded in a big way. Despite Devonte Fields being sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Louisville defense forced three NC State interceptions in the first half alone. One by redshirt freshman linebacker Jonathan Greenard, one early by Trumaine Washington, and one by Stacy Thomas.
Perhaps most importantly, Louisville used the NC State game to make a statement.First, to the College Football Playoff committee. The next few weeks, Louisville likely won't get much attention for games against Virginia, Wake Forest, or Boston College. An impressive win over the team America watched take Clemson to overtime a week ago will undoubtedly make a positive impression. Additionally, Louisville hosted an impressive group of recruits for the game. Four-star defensive back Russ Yeast, defensive tackle Ben Hutch, five-star class of 2018 defensive end KJ Henry, four-star running back Damon Williams, and many more were on hand for Louisville's performance today. It should pay dividends come national signing day.