Louisville’s football season has not gone exactly as many had foreseen. Many thought they would finish with eight or nine wins. Many expected the offense would play much better than they have. Nobody expected that it would take nine games to show off some resemblance to an old-school Bobby Petrino type offense.
Kyle Bolin started in place of the injured freshman Lamar Jackson and played phenomenal. Bolin is best known for leading the comeback in last year’s season finale against Kentucky. He threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns.
Petrino was pleased with Bolin’s play especially after an early interception that led to a Syracuse Touchdown. Petrino said, “He came back after it. And it didn’t affect him at all. That’s what was really good to see. He distributed the ball well. I think we must have had a lot of different guys catch balls.
And he did a good job in the run game. I think that really helped us.”
The Cardinals gained a season-high 579 yards of total offense and did it with more balance than we have seen the entire season. Louisville gained an impressive 217 yards on the ground. It was even more impressive considering they came into the game ranked 108 in rushing offense.
Most of the Cardinals’ rushing yards have come via quarterback Lamar Jackson. They have been unable through eight games to get anything going from any of their running backs. Brandon Radcliff led the way for U of L with 117 yards. Jeremy Smith finished with 71 yards and L. J. Scott finished with 36 yards.
The offensive line played perhaps their best game of the season. Not only did they pave the way for the solid rushing performance, but they allowed only one sack.
A Petrino-style offense has always utilized the tight ends. Early on this season it looked as if Micky Crum might be the answer at tight end. Since his solid performances early in the season he has been nonexistent. The duo of Keith Towbridge and Cole Hikutini showed up for the Cardinals. Hikutini caught two of Bolin’s touchdown passes and Towbridge caught the other.
Petrino likes to use his tight ends saying, “Throwing them the ball and just kind of getting back and executing and moving the ball around. We like our tight ends. I like all four of them. This is a good group. To get back and execute and get them involved more. We had them on the field more. They got more opportunities.”
The defense has been led by Sheldon Rankins and Tremon Young. However, it was Trumaine Washington who led the defense against Syracuse. Washington finished with 12 tackles and perhaps the play of the game in the second quarter. Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey stepped back to pass and through a pass that Washington read perfectly. He jumped the route for the interception and then returned it 39 yards for the touchdown to put the Cardinals ahead 14 – 10.
Petrino spoke of Washington’s confidence, “I thought it was huge. It was great to see him have the confidence because I think he knew it was coming and he had the confidence to jump it and go make
the play. Sometimes when you are young, you know what is coming and you still hesitate a little bit. He didn’t hesitate at all. He knew what they were running. He does a great job of studying film. He knew he had a hard day’s work today. They do a lot of stuff in to the short side of the field. In the passing game and the run game. So he knew it was going to be a big game for him and he came out and produced and played great. So, I couldn’t be more happy for him.”
With the win, Louisville improved to 5 – 4. More importantly, it put them one win shy of becoming bowl eligible. The Cardinals stay home next Saturday to take on Virginia.