One of Louisville’s top returning wide receivers will be out for the spring. Jaylen Smith was one of two wide receivers ruled out for the spring by head coach Bobby Petrino on Monday.
Smith underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot. The timetable for his return to the team is unknown at this time, but it does not appear to be something Petrino is concerned about at this time with so much time before the start of the new season. It is not as though Smith had much to prove this spring anyway.
Smith caught 27 passes last season for 599 yards and six touchdowns. With seniors James Quick and Jamari Staples moving on, it is expected Smith will see a more significant role in the offense in 2017. The absence of Smith for the spring will leave room for other receivers to have some more passes thrown their way this spring, which is always a benefit to having a key player injured.
As for the man throwing those footballs to receivers, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is not without some things to work on this spring either according to Petrino. One area Petrino wants Jackson to focus on is taking negative yardage. Jackson did run for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, so it is not as though things will not balance out in Louisville’s favor in 2017, but Jackson was limited to 33 rushing yards in two of his final three games against Houston and LSU. Houston sacked Jackson 11 times and LSU brought him down eight times in the Citrus Bowl.
Just think how dangerous Jackson will be if he does improve on what he did last season.
Deshaun Watson spent most of the second half in an unfamiliar place: on the sidelines.
Lamar Jackson was also in a strange position: on the field in the fourth quarter.
No matter how strange things were for the two Heisman Trophy caliber quarterbacks however, few could have predicted the wild swings of a classic heavyweight battle that No. 5 Clemson survived with a 42-36 victory.
Jackson did his best in the hostile environment to keep Louisville’s perfect season alive by throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 162 more and two scores.
While Jackson was a big part in a rally that turned a 10 point deficit into a 12 point lead, Todd Grantham’s defense played a role too. Clemson came out of the locker room and turned the ball over three times — once in the red zone — and went three-and-out on another possession in the second half to stunt most of their momentum. Louisville responded with a 19-0 run on four consecutive scoring drives to storm back and take the lead.
Desperately needing something, Artavis Scott busted out a 77 yard return for the Tigers to get the crowd back into it at Memorial Stadium. Clemson scored just two plays later to cut it to a two point game.
That’s when Watson finally looked like the quarterback everybody was expecting coming into 2016. He helped mount an eight play, 85 yard drive with just over three minutes left before finding Jordan Leggett over the middle for the game-winning score.
Jackson responded by marching the Cards right down the field in the final minutes but receiver James Quick couldn’t quite make it to the first down marker or the end zone on fourth down to complete the second half comeback.
The win by the Tigers all but gives them the ACC Atlantic title and punches their ticket to the league title game. Clemson owns the head-to-head win over Louisville and is already two games up on Florida State ahead of their meeting in Tallahassee at the end of the month. Despite a lackluster first month of the season, the victory also helped show the nation that a return trip to the final four at the end of the year is just as realistic as it was in August.
The close loss doesn’t knock Louisville completely out of the ACC race nor does it eliminate them from a potential College Football Playoff bid but certainly takes a little wind out of their sails the rest of the season. They’ll need help to win the division but a dream season is certainly not over after Saturday’s thriller in which they came up just a little short.
On a day that saw No. 10 Louisville host one of the biggest games in program history and honor the late Muhammad Ali, Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals floated like a butterfly and stung No. 3 Florida State (1-1) like a bee. Or perhaps a giant swarm of bees. It could have been called after one-half. Louisville blasted Florida State, 63-20, to lay claim to being the best team in the ACC this season after three weeks of play.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 216 yards and another score in the win, continuing one of the most dominant starts college football has to offer. If the question was about what Jackson could do against a team that actually provides a defensive stat after piling up the stats in the first two weeks, then it is fair to say Jackson aced the exam. He should be expected to pile up some more big numbers next week against Marshall, as the Thundering Herd were seen giving up 55 points at home to Akron Saturday afternoon. Jackson’s top receiver, James Quick, led all players with 122 receiving yards, eight more than Florida State’s team combined for.
Louisville did a good job of keeping Dalvin Cook from being much of a factor. Florida State’s own Heisman-hopeful this season was limited to just 54 rushing yards on 16 attempts and one eight-yard reception. He did not score in this game. Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois showed he still has room to grow as well, completing seven of his 18 pass attempts with one touchdown, one interception and a fumble.
This was no fluke, like Apollo Creed being taken the distance by a scrappy Rocky Balboa. This was a rout from the start by a Louisville program that continues to grow and develop. The move to the ACC has been a great one for the entire athletics program, and Saturday’s decisive victory put the rest of the ACC on notice. Louisville is not messing around. After taking on Marshall next week, Louisville will prepare for their biggest road test of the season at Clemson. That game will provide a chance for the Cardinals to grab a firm hold of the ACC Atlantic Division or allow Florida State to stay alive before seeing the division slip away quickly.
And that’s the key for Florida State. There is still a really talented team in Tallahassee, and writing them off now would be unwise. Yes, this was the ugliest loss in Jimbo Fisher’s career, but next week offers a chance to bounce back. Florida State takes on USF in Tampa next week and then returns to ACC play against ACC Coastal competition with North Carolina and then Miami. This will be a key three-game set to see how the Seminoles respond after getting knocked around.
On the first play of the game, Lamar Jackson lofted a beautifully timed pass right into the hands of James Quick. The play went for a 72 yard touchdown and would be indicative of what kind of night it was going to be for Louisville and for their quarterback.
Jackson accounted for five scores in a 62-28 win over Syracuse on Friday night as he fell just one yard short of becoming the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for over 400 yards and run for another 200 (he ended up with 411 through the air and 199 on the ground). The signal-caller looked effortless in moving the ball during the ACC opener for both teams, racking up a conference record 610 yards of offense while directing a balanced attack that saw tailback Brandon Radcliffe average an eye-popping 17.2 yards per carry on his way to an 155 yard, one score game.
If those sound like video game numbers on offense, that’s because it felt like one was being played as they were being racked up in real time at the Carrier Dome. Louisville set a school record with 844 yards of total offense and amazingly topped the previous mark after just three quarters.
Syracuse also had numerous school records fall… defensively. As bad as things were on that side of the ball for the home team, they could have been much, much worse had the Cardinals not turned the ball over three times and dropped numerous passes throughout the night.
Despite all that offensive production, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino will likely be agitated by some of those minor mistakes given that his squad will host a top 10 team in Florida State next Saturday. The contest is already shaping up to be one of the biggest ACC games of the year and could go a long way in determining who might challenge Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as the conference’s top Heisman Trophy candidate.
For Syracuse, which looked completely overmatched defensively, there were a few positives to take away from the night and almost all had to do with big plays from Dino Babers’ high-flying offense. Quarterback Eric Dungey finished 25-of-51 for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Amba Etta-Tawo once again made his presence known for the Orange, with 103 yards and a pair of scores to lead the team.
If it was any consolation to any of the players on the Orange offense given the score, at least they were able to watch Jackson put up historic numbers in an all around incredible effort between the lines.