In more ways than one, fans were wise to bring towels, rain slickers and other stay-dry paraphernalia to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. That’s because No. 10 Louisville made a big splash that surely sent a tsunami across the college football scene.
Louisville washed away No. 2 Florida State 63-20.
A morning drizzle and gloomy gray skies did not damper the enthusiasm of Louisville fans for what they hoped would be a coming-out party. Three hours before kickoff, game traffic backed up from the stadium to the Watterson Expressway. So, no surprise U of L announced a record crowd of 55,632.
To mark the occasion, the football version of ESPN’s “College GameDay” originated from Louisville for the first time. This was nothing special for Florida State, a perennial power playing its 33rd game from the “College GameDay” site. Only Alabama (36), Florida (36) and Ohio State (34) have been in more.
Then the rain stopped, the clouds parted (at least for a while) and Louisville looked like the big brother putting a presumptuous younger sibling in his place.
“When you look at a team win, this was really a team win,” U of L Coach Bobby Petrino said of his team’s seamless superiority.
Louisville set a record for points scored against a Florida State team. The previous high was 59 by Oregon in the 2014 college football playoffs.
As if going against just another punching bag, like Charlotte or Syracuse in the season’s first two games, Louisville built a 63-10 lead before pulling its starters with more than 12 minutes remaining. The Cards had 22 plays that gained 10 or more yards, counting two punt returns covering 69 and 61 yards, plus a 36-yard return of an interception.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued to make a compelling case for the Heisman Trophy. For the third straight game this season (and fifth straight dating to last season), he ran (146) and passed (216) for more than 100 yards.
“He’s got my vote,” safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said.
His four touchdown runs and a scoring pass failed to impress Jackson, who graded his performance a “D.”
“I threw an interception,” he said. “Seven incomplete passes, I think.”
What did impress Jackson was a tweet from former Virginia Tech star Michael Vick, who said Jackson was five times better than he was as a college player.
“It means a lot,” Jackson said of Vick’s tweet. “That was my favorite player. Coming from him, I was amazed.”
To get an “A” grade, Jackson said that Louisville would have to score on every possession.
In building a 35-10 halftime lead, Louisville, 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, was the picture of efficiency. Five of U of L’s seven first-half possessions resulted in touchdowns. A sixth saw a 48-yard field-goal attempt bounce off the left upright.
The times of Louisville’s five touchdown drives were 2:06, 2:34, 3:16, 2:32 and 1:05.
Playing a top-five team did not affect Louisville’s offense, which came into the game leading the nation with an average of 754 yards. The Cards were right on schedule with 375 yards in the first half.
Before halftime, Jackson had run for 94 yards and passed for 180 more.
Louisville’s 35 points were the most scored in a first half against Florida State since San Diego State had 38 in 1977.
In the last two meetings, Florida State rallied to win. U of L led 21-0 here two years ago before Florida State won 42-31. Then in Tallahassee last season, U of L led 14-13 in the third quarter before the Seminoles won 41-21.
A dramatic play barely a minute into the second half Saturday seemed to rule out another comeback.
After a three-and-out possession to begin the half, Florida State punted. U of L’s Jaire Alexander returned the kick 69 yards for a touchdown. The program’s first punt return touchdown since 2010 increased Louisville’s lead to 42-10.
Brandon Radcliff, who rushed for 146 yards, spoke of a “hump” that the Cardinals had gotten over in Atlantic Coast Conference football.
Petrino, who shied from the suggestion of a statement being made, acknowledged that Florida State was not just another opponent.
“We pick out a few games each year you’re going to focus on during the winter, over the spring and summer,” the U of L coach said. “And make sure you’re well-prepared. And this was one of those games we picked out.”
Louisville at Marshall
8 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports)