Behind 525 total yards from Lamar Jackson, the Cardinals outlasted North Carolina 47-35 to advance to 2-0. Jackson became the second quarterback in FBS history with back-to-back 300-yard passing & 100-yard rushing games, and the first in a Power Five school. He also set a ton of records and continues to climb up multiple career leaderboards, but it’s way too long to list them all.
Here are some pros and cons from the win in Chapel Hill:
Malik Williams Shines
Louisville has needed a running back to breakthrough and be a reliable option to spell for Jackson. While Jeremy Smith sat out of the game with an injury, Malik Williams made the most of his opportunity as the new running back. Williams ran for a team-high 149 yards on 13 carries, including a 74-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up the final touchdown.
It’s too early to say that the running back situation is completely settled, especially off of a one game sample. But he shined when Louisville absolutely needed him the most, showing good ability to bounce runs outside and run with a high motor. Odds are he’ll be the starting running back next week.
Louisville Secondary Struggles
The Tar Heels were likely going to score their fair share of points today. Every year under coach Larry Fedora, they’ve finished in the top 50 in total offense.
But the secondary had a rough showing, with star cornerback Jaire Alexander sitting out. Starting quarterback Chazz Surratt went out with a shoulder injury at halftime, but UNC still combined for 384 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Brandon Harris also subbing in. Some of it can be chalked up to lack of experience, but UNC receivers had catches in wide open windows. Austin Proehl was one of the receivers I expected to have a big role, and he had a productive outing (eight catches for 120 yards).
Alexander’s status for next week will obviously be a huge story, with Clemson looming around the corner.
Today’s Breadwinners™: Smith, Fitzpatrick
Another day, another monster game for wide receiver Jaylen Smith. The junior tallied nine receptions for 183 yards, and a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He very realistically could have had double-digit receptions, if a couple more throws were on target. Smith has been able to consistently get separation so far, emerging as an early candidate for all-conference at wide receiver.
Dez Fitzpatrick also had another solid game, with four catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Both have emerged as reliable targets for Jackson, as he has thrown for 771 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games.
Special Teams Miscues
Blanton Creque scored two field goals (now 5/5 on the year), but there were a couple of blunders on special teams. Anthony Ratliff-Williams’ 94-yard touchdown return squashed all of Louisville’s momentum after going up 27-14 in the third quarter, and an inadvertent fair catch interference parlayed into another touchdown for UNC. As a result, Louisville found themselves trailing again heading into the final quarter.
There was also an instance in the first quarter where a decent return from Ratliff-Williams set up a 55-yard jet sweep on their first play from scrimmage. Great special teams plays can spark momentum, and that was certainly the case for UNC.
Jackson Continues to Show Development
It’s hard to focus on just one thing that Jackson did well against UNC, but the most impressive takeaway was his continuing progress as a pocket passer. Jackson had plenty of time in the pocket (only one sack allowed), and made a lot of throws in big windows. One throw that stands out was his ability to freeze the linebacker in zone to hit Fitzpatrick for a touchdown.
There was a lot of talk surrounding Jackson’s ability as a pocket passer entering the season, but he has played well to start 2017.
Let’s go with a B. 705 yards with zero turnovers and 47 points is worthy of an A-grade, especially scoring on a 75-yard play and having a 99-yard touchdown drive. Jackson had another stellar showing through the air, and Malik Williams had a breakthrough performance that could earn him the starting job (for now).
Defensively, giving up 384 yards passing isn’t a good sign, especially with Clemson next week and their talented wide receiver pool. However, only allowing 17 rushing yards is one positive takeaway. Once again, Louisville overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and made big defensive stops to give their offense the drives necessary to put away UNC.
See you on College Gameday(?) next weekend, when Clemson comes to The Ville.