Most of the main takeaways from Saturday night’s games have already been hit on by others here, so I’ll make this relatively quick.
—One of my personal goals this year is to try my best, in the middle of games (when it’s the hardest), to not take Lamar Jackson for granted.
Regardless of the age of the person reading these words, there is a very real chance that you’re never going to see another Louisville quarterback in your lifetime who’s capable of doing the types of things that U of L’s current QB1 does on a weekly basis. Everybody thinks the 4/5 star quarterback their program just signed is going to be the next big thing and that everything’s going to be fine in the future, but there are no guarantees in this sport. You see that every damn year.
We never thought we’d see another Teddy Bridgewater, and then this kid shows up, and I’ll be damned if he’s not one of the most electric talents this sport has seen in a decade.
Don’t be the person who’s never satisfied, who’s nitpicking every little thing Jackson could do better, and then raving a decade from now about how much greater he was than any of the quarterbacks who have taken snaps for the Cards since. Don’t do that. Soak up every great thing Lamar does this year and let that be enough. That’s my plan of attack.
—In the first game of his junior season, Jackson gave us a little bit of what the scouts want to see ...
And the improvisational greatness that made him a phenomenon in the first place.
Lamar Jackson 4 Heisman (again) pic.twitter.com/Fbul08YiuC— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) September 3, 2017
—Despite all the flack he caught throughout his career at Louisville, James Quick’s graduation did leave me worried about the Cardinal offense having a down the middle deep threat outside of Jaylen Smith (who did the bulk of his damage along the sidelines last season anyway). Enter Dez Fitzpatrick, who proved he’s more than capable of handling that role this season with 95 yards and a score, and perhaps the two biggest catches of the game in the 4th quarter.
The spring hype (and the recruiting hype) appears to have been justified.
—There appears to be a pretty clear line drawn between the fans who are furious about the false starts and the fumbles, and those who want to chalk it up as a first game thing and move on.
Here’s why you can’t do that, at least not yet; “these are correctible mistakes” was the battle cry all last season, and nothing changed. If anything, the errors intensified and were at the center of the three-game slide that wound up largely defining Louisville’s season. When you’ve had nine months of hearing about fixing two things and those two things are still glaring issues in week one, it’s hard to just write that off as something that’s going to be fixed and rest easily.
It was comforting to hear Bobby Petrino diagnose the root of the false start issue on Monday and describe it in terms that led you to believe it can be fixed, but we’re very much at a “see it when I believe it” point with this now. If there are no cadence issues and every one holds onto the ball in smooth offensive performances against Clemson and North Carolina, then all right, we’re ready to roll for the rest of the year. If these things keep happening, then it’s hard not to be worried about them being a persistent issue that again plagues the whole season.
I get the people who are both frustrated and concerned. It’s hard not to be.
—Even with those criticisms, we have to acknowledge that the offensive line did not let Lamar Jackson hit the ground behind the line of scrimmage on a passing play. In fact, it was the most pass completions without a sack in the history of Louisville football. That’s something.
Here’s hoping they’re up to the challenge again on Saturday because they’ll see better defensive talent from North Carolina than they saw from Purdue.
—My favorite part of re-watching the game was catching this moment after the second fumble near the goalline.
When you just heard a post-turnover coaching reaction and you're no longer sure if sideline life is for you pic.twitter.com/vW9LVMfuif— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) September 3, 2017
“He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master.”
—Three cheers for Blanton Creque both for his field goal prowess and angled kickoffs.
—There was a lot of heat thrown Trumaine Washington’s way, which is easy to understand when you see the touchdown passes thrown to players a step or four behind him. It’s a shame because outside of those few big plays, Washington played a really sound game.
The issue for Trumaine, and all of Louisville’s corners really, is not getting burned on double-moves the way they did last season and Saturday night. It’s easier said than done when you’re playing press coverage, but I guarantee Jeff Brohm saw the film from Clemson and knew exactly which corner he wanted to attack and how he wanted to do it.
The corners have to get better at not getting burned on the double move, and the line has to get better at providing enough pressure to ensure that those lengthy routes don’t wind up mattering.
—Big night for CC favorite Zeke Cannon, and also for Ronald Walker, who was tremendous in spelling Jaire Alexander after Alexander got hurt. I thought those two guys were fantastic in the secondary, especially down the stretch. Also have to shout out Chucky Williams for the huge pick to essentially seal the deal. Guy makes big plays.
Also, Jaire: I like the “All-Americans make crazy plays” mentality, but there’s a limit, man. Get healthy this week. We need you.
—I’ve had a football crush on Stacy Thomas since he was popping anyone and everyone on special teams, and it was great to see him make the game-defining play in the first contest of his senior year. The guy earned that moment, and he’s earned every good thing that happens to him this season.
—The running back situation terrified me all offseason and it terrifies me even more today. If somebody doesn’t step up this weekend in Chapel Hill, then Clemson is going to have no reason to respect the running back on read option plays in two weeks. That’s going to result in a whole lot of hits on Lamar behind the line of scrimmage.
Shot in the dark prediction is that we get a healthy dose of Malik Williams on Saturday, and that he makes the most of his opportunity.
—Even when he was a freshman, Lamar was as good at play action as any quarterback I’ve ever seen at the college level.
I've watched this 20 times. Lamar Jackson's ability to sell a play-action at the mesh point is incredible. pic.twitter.com/2oJ6ZBW6y2— Garrett Moore (@SportsNightGM) September 5, 2017
Stuff like that deserves more attention.
—The first game of Glasses Bobby needs to be the last game of Glasses Bobby. It just didn’t feel right from the drop. It’s like when The Rock tries to play a serious role. You’re The Rock. Just be The Rock. We all love The Rock.
—I’m also pretty done with Lucas Oil Stadium if we’re being honest. Two of the most painful losses in Louisville basketball history happened in that place. The only good win also included the most horrific televised injury in sports history. And then there was Saturday. Done with it.
—Seth Dawkins was super solid. I don’t have a whole lot to add to that other than I’m very excited for his sophomore season.
—Unlike in years past where Todd Grantham brought pressure from any and all angles, Louisville was content to rush just four most of the game on Saturday. If that’s the M.O. for the rest of the season, then it’s a good thing we have Trevon Young back. Young looked like he hadn’t missed a beat from his monster 2015 season, and that’s an enormous blessing for this defense.
Outside of Lamar eliminating any doubt that he’s still Lamar, Young’s play might have been the single biggest positive to come out of this game.
—Jaylen Smith remains probably the best Twitter follow on the team.
Lots of personality. Lots of game. Lots of desire to not fumble again this season.
—We need more from Drew Bailey, but I would assume he knows that.
—Jeff Brohm is that dude, I agree with all of you. I will also be rooting for Purdue for the rest of the season. Brian’s still a loser.
—I’m good with mostly shelving the under center stuff for a couple of weeks. Let’s do whatever we need to do to beat UNC and Clemson, and then we can use Kent State and Murray State to iron out some kinks on things that might benefit us in the second half of the year. A play here and there is fine, but let’s stick with what works for now. These two weeks were already pretty enormous, and they’re even more so with Florida State suddenly wounded.
—It was really great to see G.G. Robinson make a big impact. He was a huge recruiting coup for the Cards a couple of years ago who, to date, hasn’t made as much of a splash as most were predicting. It looks like that could change this season.
—Three notable tidbits to wrap things up:
1. Eight true freshmen saw the field for Louisville on Saturday:
LS Mitch Hall
OT Mekhi Becton
CB Russ Yeast
S C.J. Avery
WR Corey Reed
TE Kemari Averett
LB Dorian Etheridge
S TreSean Smith
2. Louisville finished with 10 false start penalties, the most in school history.
3. Louisville’s 30 pass completions without a sack or an interception were the most in school history.
Both those last two via Kelly Dickey on Twitter.
Go Cards. Beat North Carolina. Please. I need a day of hope and glory on the 16th. We all do.