(by Jason Sheehan)
No. 7 Louisville last played 13 days ago in a heartbreaking 42 – 36 loss to No. 5 Clemson. In the 13 days since that loss we have had to listen about everything the Cardinals need to do in order to have a chance at making the four team playoff at the end of the season. One of those things is to beat teams and beat them soundly and look good doing it.
The Cardinals came in as 35 point favorites against an outmatched Duke team. Duke coach David Cutcliffe had his team play at an extremely slow pace to slow the fast paced Louisville offense. The game was not decided until Lamar Jackson’s two yard touchdown run with 1:32 remaining. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino praised Duke on their game plan, “That was a day of work right there and the first thing you need to do is take your hat off to Duke and their game plan. They did a great job of keeping the football and shortening the game, working the clock.”
Jackson once again led the Cardinals with 144 yards rushing and 181 yards passing. He threw for once score and ran for another, but his play was sporadic on the night. He underthrew and overthrew a number of receivers while completing only 13 of his 26 passes, but at the end of the day he made enough plays to show why he is the premier player in college football.
Big plays, missed opportunities, and controversial calls played an important role in the game. The biggest play came after the other biggest play was called back due to a penalty. The Cardinals, leading 10 – 7 at the half, opened the third quarter by forcing a three-and-out. Duke punted to Jaire Alexander and he broke free for a long punt return for a score. However, it was called back on a block in the back. Then on second and nine at their own seven yard line, Jackson tossed a pass to Cole Hikutini who was hit immediately and then was stripped of the ball. However, the officials ruled that his forward progress had been stopped. What a break that play was for U of L as Jeremy Smith, normally used mainly as a short yardage back, took a handoff and outraced the Duke defenders 80 yards to the end zone to put the Cardinals up 17 – 7.
With the pace of play favoring the Blue Devils, U of L never got comfortable even with a 10 point lead. After a missed Louisville field goal the Blue Devils went on an impressive 15 play, 75 yard drive that lasted 8:53 minutes. The drive ended in a 20 yard touchdown reception by Johnathon Lloyd to pull Duke to within a field goal.
Louisville then drove down and had their kicking woes haunt them again. Facing fourth and twenty-two from Duke’s 29 yard line with 2:00 remaining Evan O’hara sent his kick wide left. However, the officials called Duke for roughing the kicker and the Cardinals then scored to make it 24 – 14.
Louisville’s next game is at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium next Saturday at 12:00 North Carolina State.
The Cardinals improved to 5 – 1 on the season while Duke fell to 3 – 4.