Jackson accounts for 525 yards of offense, six TD’s as Cardinals roll to ACC win over Tar Heels

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By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

Heading into Saturday’s game against Louisville, North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith vowed the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams wasn’t going to be the Lamar Jackson Show.

“We’ll stop anything (Jackson) tries to do. . .He’s not going to beat us,” Smith boasted. “He’s not going to be able to run on us; we have everything solidified on that and we’ll cover downfield.”

Uh, not quite Andre.

Smith’s prediction turned out to be fake news and he didn’t have much to say (maybe he was too busy eating crow) after Jackson did indeed turn Kenan Stadium into his own personal stage, leading No. 17 Louisville (2-0) to a come-from-behind 47-35 victory with his second stellar performance in as many games.

Jackson was responsible for 525 yards and six touchdowns with a dominating display that is sure to give his bid to become the first Heisman Trophy winner in 40 years to repeat a big boost (UofL Athletics Photo)

The victory set up next Saturday afternoon’s showdown with No. 3 Clemson in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in a battle that will go a long way toward determining the ACC’s Atlantic Division champion. It will be the ACC opener for Clemson (1-0), which hosted No. 13 Auburn Saturday night.

Jackson was responsible for 525 yards and six touchdowns with a dominating display that is sure to give his bid to become the first Heisman Trophy winner in 40 years to repeat a big boost, coming on the heels of his 479 total yards in last week’s 35-28 win over Purdue. He still hasn’t thrown an interception in 85 attempts.

Against North Carolina, Jackson completed 25-of-39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns while also gaining 132 yards rushing with three more TDs.

“Lamar had a great game,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “What a player, what a great competitor.”

Jackson threw touchdown passes of nine and 30 yards to Dez Fitzpatrick, and 75 yards to Jaylen Smith, who finished with nine receptions for 183 yards. Jackson’s rushing touchdowns came on runs of of 43, 3 and ll yards.

In all, the Cardinals racked up 706 yards of total offense, the second-most ever against the Tar Heels (Baylor holds the record). And they did it with a long field, putting together drives of 70 yards or more on all six of their touchdowns.

Naturally, Jackson was aware of Smith’s pre-game trash talk, which was prime bulletin board material.

“I thought about what they said, and I just like to play football,” Jackson said. “But if you talk, it’s going to be a dog fight.”

Said Fitzpatrick: “We tried to tune it out, but we definitely wanted to make them pay.”
Jackson is only the second player in FBS (formerly Division 1-A) history — and the first from a Power 5 team — to have back-to-back games of 300 yards passing and 100 rushing (Rice QB Chase Clement did it in 2007). It was his third career game surpassing those numbers, matching Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) and Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) for the second-most such games since 2000. Only Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) has more, with four.

“Lamar Jackson is every bit as good as everybody says he is and thinks he is,” Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said. “When you’re in a situation one-on-one with him in space, heís going to win. And there’s times when you’re in a two-on-one and he’s going to win. There aren’t a lot of guys that can do that. He’s special.”

The Cards trailed 28-27 going into the fourth quarter before scoring 20 unanswered points, including two touchdowns in just under four minutes that allowed them to take control of the game.

Perhaps most encouraging for Petrino during the afternoon was finding an effective running back before meeting Clemson. Senior Malik Williams rushed for 149 yards on 13 carries, including a 74-yard breakaway around left end that set up UofL’s final touchdown.

Louisville improved in some areas — there were no turnovers and only one false start. Still, there were several inexcusable penalties defensively. And the kicking game, after excelling at Purdue, fell apart. The Heels got a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and their 219 return yards were the most in school history.

There were also issues with the secondary and pass rush as North Carolina’s two quarterbacks threw for 384 yards while connecting on 29-of-38. And Louisville surrendered a lead on three separate occasions.

The defense may have missed preseason All-America cornerback Jaire Alexander, who didn’t play due to a knee injury suffered at Purdue. His status for Clemson is unknown.

“He’s getting better every day,” Petrino said. “It was very good news, the fact that the ligaments were in good shape, so we’re looking forward to him coming back. We don’t know exactly the timetable yet; it’s still a day-to-day deal. But I think he has a great attitude and he’s a tremendous worker, so he’ll heal and get back as quick as possible.”

Senior Ronald Walker and freshman Russ Yeast filled in for Alexander.

Louisville was also without senior running back Jeremy Smith due to a “lower extremity” injury. Smith was listed as the No. 2 tailback behind Reggie Bonnafon.

The game was still in doubt going into the last 10 minutes and UNC was threatening to retake the lead. Louisville led 33-28 after Jackson’s 3-yard TD run capped a 75-yard drive. Then, facing a fourth-and-1 from the visitors’ 30-yard line, Fedora decided to go for it. But quarterback Brandon Harris threw an incomplete pass, the Cards took over and Jackson moved them 70 yards, hitting Fitzpatrick for a 30-yard TD to make it 40-28. Jackson’s 11-yard run at 3:06 doused any UNC comeback hopes.

“I like our team,” Petrino said. “I like the way we compete. I like the leadership we have. We had great poise. They made a run at us, made it close and our offense responded, came right back down the field and scored. So I’m really happy. It was great to see Malik Williams make a big play, and it was well-blocked too, so that’s a good thing.”

Russ Brown covers University of Louisville sports for Kentucky Today. He can be reached at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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