Duke fans of a certain age are used to seeing the four corners offense when ACC play rolls around. They were probably a bit surprised to see the Blue Devils use it themselves in a football game against Louisville on Friday night though.
David Cutcliffe’s squad held the ball a remarkable 37 minutes and tried their best to play keep away from the potent Cardinals offense but it wasn’t enough as Lamar Jackson was able to squeak out a 24-14 win that was much closer than the final score indicated.
The Heisman Trophy favorite did not have the sharpest of nights in the passing game after spending nearly two weeks off since the team’s last outing in a close loss at Clemson. Jackson finished with just 181 yards and a touchdown pass through the air but came up big on the ground with 144 yards rushing and another score. In a rare fourth quarter appearance on the year, the young signal-caller made several big plays in leading the Cardinals to a scoring drive just after the Blue Devils cut the lead to three points late in the game.
Jeremy Smith also chipped in with 97 yards rushing, including an 80-yarder in the third quarter that was Louisville’s longest offensive play of the year.
The story of the game was the impressive defensive effort by the visitors however. Facing the top scoring offense in the country, Duke slowed Louisville down considerably by limiting them to “only” 469 yards and a measly 24 points thanks to some big stops in the red zone. Joe Giles-Harris was all over the field on his way to a nine tackle, one sack effort and he got plenty of help from an offense that allowed for plenty of rest on the sidelines.
The Blue Devils thought they had a chance late when they held the Cardinals to a field goal attempt on 4th and 22 to keep it within a touchdown during the final few minutes. They suffered a heart-breaking penalty on the play when they were called for roughing the kicker though, which extended the drive and allowed Jackson to later punch it in for the final points of the night to salt away a win.
Either way it was an impressive effort from Duke in perhaps their most complete game of the season –against a top 10 team no less. Louisville still held on for the win to keep their slim College Football Playoff hopes alive however and will hope Friday night’s close game was simply the result of rust from a bye week instead of any lingering effects from their first loss of the season.
All eyes were on Death Valley for a top five showdown between No. 3 Louisville and No. 5 Clemson and the drama was not lacking in a wild first half that saw the Tigers storm back for a 28-10 lead heading into the locker room.
The Cardinals struck first to take the crowd out of the game early thanks to a methodical 11 play, 82 yard drive before tailback Jeremy Smith punched it in at the goal line.
Louisville appeared to be moving the ball toward the end zone again on their ensuing drive but quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t ready for a snap. After slipping through the hands of Smith, linebacker Ben Boulware was able to recover the fumble and put Clemson back in business.
Just two plays later, Deshuan Watson made up for an earlier red zone interception by lofting an NFL-caliber throw to Deon Cain along the sidelines to tie the game up.
While momentum seemed to be on the Tigers’ side for the first time since the opening minutes, both teams then decided to play hot potato with the football.
Jackson was intercepted. Clemson fumbled two plays later. Then Louisville gave it right back on a fumble.
Eventually the Tigers had enough and tailback Wayne Gallman busted a big run up the middle for a 24 yard score and the home team’s first lead of the game.
And that was in just over 90 seconds of game action.
The Cardinals eventually mounted a scoring drive in the final few minutes but ended up settling for a field goal with just seconds left on the clock. That was no problem for Watson, who peppered the field with precision passes before finding Artavis Scott 26 seconds later for a touchdown to extend their lead to 18 heading into the locker room.
It should make for a fun second half between two top five teams as an ACC division title, league championship and possible College Football Playoff berth are all on the line.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has run for two touchdowns in the first half to help fuel a 35-10 halftime lead over visiting Florida State. Yeah, you read that score correctly.
Things could not have gotten off to a much better start for Louisville. The Cardinals, sporting a shiny fire-engine red chrome helmet with a memorial decal for Muhammad Ali, took the opening drive of the game 75 yards for a touchdown, with Jackson adding to his early rising touchdown total. Florida State was left to punt after five plays on the ensuing possession. Two possessions later for the Cardinals and they had a 14-0 lead. Jackson managed to run in from 14 yards on the second touchdown drive.
Florida State would get on the board with a Ricky Aguayo field goal later in the first quarter, and the Seminoles cut the lead to four when Deondre Francois executed Florida State’s best drive of the half and capped it with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate in the end zone. Louisville answers with a 79-yard touchdown drive of their own with Jeremy Smith powering into the end zone this time.
Needing an answer, Florida State fumbled away the football to the feisty Cardinals on the first play of the ensuing possession. Jaire Alexander came up with the loose ball out of the hands of Francois, who was under pressure and already looking to take a big loss on the play. Starting at the Florid aState 23-yard line, the Cardinals worked their way to the three-yard line and took a commanding 28-10 lead when Jackson connected with Jaylen Smith on a third-down play.
We have already seen Florida State roar back from a big deficit this season. Will we see that happen once again? Florida State did this once before the last time they were in Louisville, but finding a way to slow down Lamar Jackson does not appear to be coming easily at all for the Seminoles.