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Louisville Survives N.C. State: 13-10

Probably should call your cardiologist Monday

NCAA Football: Louisville at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

EXHALE!

Louisville football is 5-0 for the first time since 2013, and 3-0 in ACC play for the first time ever.

Let’s sit in that for just a moment....

....moment over.

Okay, that was gross. Mike Rutherford said it multiple times this week and he couldn’t have been more correct: this game was going to be a dogfight. And it was going to be the most stressful game of the season thus far.

There are so many weird angles to approach this bizarre game from, so let’s try to make it simple with a good old fashioned “Good, Bad, Ugly” breakdown:

GOOD

The Defense. The offense just wasn’t there tonight (more on that later) and the defense came up huge all game. I was really impressed with their first three drives and how they held up their end when the offense was sputtering/self-sabotaging. I didn’t think the defense would be able to keep up that level of effort against N.C. State all night, but they did and it was tremendous.

The whole unit deserves the game ball, but Cam Kelly seemed to be in on every big play and had a huge pick in the endzone that completely shifted the momentum for the rest of the game. Quincy Riley gets a gold star for his game-sealing interception (what the hell was that, Armstrong?), T.J. Quinn led the team with 4 solo tackles and 7 assisted, Ashton Gillotte was once again a menace, and Jaylin Alderman did this:

Again, the whole unit deserves its flowers. Tremendous way to carry the team to victory when the offense was at its worst tonight.

Brock Travelstead. After a rough game against Indiana that included shanked punts and missed field goals, and especially after a rough start tonight that also included a shanked punt and missed field goal, he stepped up with an ice-in-his-veins, school-record-breaking go-ahead field goal to put the Cards up 13-10.

I’m not sure how many of us thought that one was going through, but he drilled it. Extremely impressive kick and he also did a fine job selling the running-into-the-kicker penalty a few drives later.

Chris Bell and Kevin Coleman. Chris Bell was one of the few bright spots on offense tonight, highlighted by his insane touchdown catch that pulled the Cards back within three and would be the only touchdown of the night. He finished the game with three receptions for 85 yards. Kevin Coleman was huge on special teams with two timely and big punt returns that helped the desperate offense get great field position. He finished the night with 3 punt returns for 43 yards. Would love to see more of that this season.

THE BAD

Louisville’s O-line. This may not be entirely fair, particularly when it comes to the lack of blitz recognition from Plummer and the coaching staff, but they got blow up from outside every time N.C. State brought pressure and they had no answer. The rushing attack was even worse as one of the nation’s top rushing offenses finished the game with just 20 rushing yards.

It needs to be said about N.C. State, for how bad they looked tonight and how historically mediocre of a program they are, they deserve credit for seemingly always having a tremendous front-seven. Special hat tip to Payton Willis who is just a menace and thank god he’s a grad student.

THE UGLY

Jack Plummer. What the actual hell man. I told my barber before the Boston College game that it felt like he was a ticking time bomb and would lose Louisville a game at some point. Plummer responded by making me look very dumb by scorching BC and putting up video game numbers. But then tonight happened, and boy did it look like he was going to lose us this game.

The first interception was bad. But the second one.... holy smokes. You just cannot do that. Ever. Especially a 6th year senior, inside the 10, about to take the lead. You just have to tuck the ball and eat it. Worse case you have to settle for a go-ahead field goal. I genuinely cannot remember a play making me nauseous. Just an absolute gut punch that I’m glad didn’t come back to haunt us.

We saw a lot of what we saw in the games against Indiana and Georgia Tech tonight with him throwing behind receivers, reacting too late, and missing on would-be wide open touchdowns. He needs to refocus and get back to the sharp gunslinger we saw last week. I also worry that the book may be out on him now when it comes to pressuring him. N.C. State brought the heat all night and Plummer looked extremely uncomfortable. Will be interesting seeing how the staff helps him here.

Andre Ware. Just wow. Probably some of the worst announcing I can remember. Not sure I’ve heard a more unenthusiastic touchdown call than the one they gave on the Chris Bell catch. Two thumbs down.

The Refs. The ACC isn’t exactly known for it’s premier officiating crews and it was on full display tonight both ways. The illegal hands to the face penalty on Ashton Gillotte was atrocious, the running-into-the kicker call on the Wolfpack was iffy, as was the targetting one, but you could make a case for the latter two calls being correct. But one call you cannot argue was absolutely incorrect was this one:

That’s a touchdown in the NFL. Twice. Just an obscene call to call it incomplete live. And then completely gutless to say it “stands” after taking look at it. If we had lost because of that..

But we didn’t! We once again saw this team respond majorly in the second half and I think whatever happened in that locker room in Atlanta on Week 1 against Georgia Tech will pay dividends for the buy-in and belief in this team for a long time.

So, here we are with Jeff Brohm in his first year at 5-0, with the biggest brand in college football coming to town for a Saturday night, primetime game on ABC. It doesn’t get much more fun than this.

Let’s enjoy the hell out of this win and get ourselves ready for what should be a spectacular event next Saturday.

Go Cards.