Jackson’s 4 TDs help Louisville roll past Virginia 38-21
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville players hadn’t laughed this much, or this loudly, for a while. Coach Bobby Petrino even grinned a couple of times.
That joy spoke volumes about the Cardinals’ 38-21 victory over Virginia achieved with big efforts on both sides of the ball.
Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson accounted for four touchdowns and 342 yards while becoming the first NCAA FBS player to have two seasons with 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing. Dae Williams rushed for 88 yards and a TD, and Louisville’s defense posted one of its best efforts this season on Saturday.
“It seemed like everything was going well,” defensive end James Hearns said. “It was one of the most fun games we played this year.”
Improvement was certainly needed after three Atlantic Coast Conference losses in four games — a stretch in which Louisville yielded an average of nearly 526 yards — made its bowl prospects shaky.
Credit last week’s bye for recharging the Cardinals and providing the basis for a rebound.
Louisville (6-4, 3-3) outgained the Cavaliers 493-277 and become bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season. Virginia (6-4, 3-3) managed just 115 yards and a late touchdown after the break.
“I thought it helped us a lot,” Petrino said of the break. “We had nine straight games and to be able to take a little breath, relax a little bit, still work hard. ... They came back with a tremendous attitude and a lot of energy and we practiced like that all week.”
Jackson again provided the spark with yet another energetic game featuring highlight-worthy plays.
The junior quarterback threw for 195 yards and three TDs, including remarkable TD passes of 24 and 21 yards to Jaylen Smith. Jackson also rushed 15 times for 147 yards, including a 68-yarder for Louisville’s first score.
Told of the NCAA milestone, Jackson said, “It’s just a blessing. The O-line put me in the situation and my receivers to make plays.”
The Cardinals’ defense meanwhile allowed its third-fewest yards this season, a big improvement after yielding 625 two weeks ago at Wake Forest.
Virginia: The Cavaliers scored first and only trailed 17-14 at halftime. But the offense stalled until Jordan Ellis’ 3-yard TD run late in the game. They also allowed four sacks and committed two turnovers leading to 10 points. Quarterback Kurt Benkert completed 19 of 36 passes for 214 yards and a TD.
“Louisville out-executed us on every phase of the game,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Lamar Jackson is an explosive type of player. We didn’t make enough stops, especially in the second half. Our offense was inconsistent. Kurt was on the run.”
Louisville: The Cardinals’ bye did wonders in many areas, especially on a defense that had allowed at least 403 yards the past four games. They rushed Benkert often and held the Cavs to just 63 yards rushing. Dae Williams and Malik Williams (no relation) combined for 143 yards rushing, support that Jackson has needed.
Jackson’s TD run, in which he paused after faking a handoff and blowing through a huge hole, was the first on a long list of remarkable plays by Louisville.
The QB slipped from a defender’s grip on his right foot to dash 18 yards before that right shoe flew off as he was tackled. A 14-yard TD pass to Seth Dawkins followed.
Smith’s running, one-handed grab of his second TD might have topped them all.
“I mean the catch was cool,” Smith said, “but I don’t know if anyone realized what Lamar did in the pocket. It’s like he did a karaoke step back, then forward. It was ridiculous.”
Virginia visits unbeaten and No. 7 Miami on Nov. 18 in arguably its toughest test this season.
Louisville hosts Syracuse Nov. 18 in its home finale. The Cardinals beat the Orange 62-28 last season in a game highlighted by Jackson’s high hurdle over a defender for a touchdown en route to 610 yards of offense and five combined TDs.