The University of Louisville football team, coming off a significant road win, is looking to continue its momentum, when it plays at Wake Forest on Saturday.
The Cardinals halted a two-game losing streak with a 31-28 win at Florida State on the leg of Blanton Creque, who booted a 34-yard field goal in the closing seconds for the first win in Tallahassee since 1952.
“It was a good win for us,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “I’m really proud of our players and how they’ve stuck together, the energy that they had all week at practice, the focus. I thought we played tough. I thought we played with a lot of toughness and a lot of effort.”
For the second-straight week, the Cardinals were able to run the ball at will, totaling 293 yards in key Atlantic Coast Conference games versus Boston College and Florida State.
In typical fashion, junior quarterback Lamar Jackson was the leading rusher. He went for 178 yards and one score, but the native of Pompano Beach, Fla., wasn’t the only contributor. Senior Reggie Bonnafon added 74 yards and a touchdown, while redshirt freshman Dae Williams – playing his first game after recovering from an ACL injury – added 41 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown run.
“The game plan was to run the football and run it two, three times in a row,” the eighth-year head coach reiterated. “We felt like going in, if we didn’t have negative plays, we could get the 3rd-and-medium, 3rd-and-short, be able to run the ball and be successful.”
“Lamar (Jackson) did an unbelievable job,” Petrino said. “He just did a great job of reading and taking what they gave him, and then distributing the ball when we did pass it. Reggie (Bonnafon) keeps getting better, and playing hard and fast. He had a couple cuts in that game and accelerated, thought he might go the distance. That run in the last drive to go down and get the field goal was huge for us, and something he just accelerated through the line and made a great run.”
While the running game is starting to take hold, Petrino wouldn’t tip his hand at what to expect this weekend against a good Wake Forest defense.
“Each week you go in with a game plan, and with the temperature the way it was there and the way that we executed throughout the week, we felt that that was our best opportunity to win the game,” Petrino added. “I do think it helped us with controlling the ball and having time of possession simply because it was just such a hot day, you’d rather have their defense on the field than ours.”
Known for his willingness to throw the football all over the field, Petrino adjusted his style in the win over the Seminoles. Louisville averaged 6.7 yards per carry, solidifying his decision to stick with the ground attack.
“I like throwing the rock around a little bit,” Petrino said. “But, not that hard, because we’re making great yards with it. I think that’s the thing. If you’re not making yards, and you’re not having success, you still have to stick to the game plan to win the game. I just didn’t want to get negative plays, and their pass rush is pretty good. They got guys that can really rush the passer. And I felt like we could run at those guys and wear them down, and then, they wouldn’t rush the passer as well late in the game.”
While the offense put on its normal highlight-reel performance, the defense was clutch, especially in the final minutes, when the Cardinals stopped a potential game-winning drive.
“I thought it was a great effort,” Petrino said of the defense. “They played really hard. (Redshirt junior linebacker) Isaac Stewart played as hard as he ever has here. He got to the football, he tackled well, he was tough taking on blocks, so I thought he did a great job. I thought our defensive front used their hands better and set edges better, that’s something that we felt we really had to do. We held both running backs under 100 yards, and were able to pressure the quarterback.”
The Cardinals hit the road for the final time in ACC play when they visit the Demon Deacons, who have lost three in a row after a 4-0 start.
“We’re looking forward to the game Saturday,” Petrino said. “They’re a good defense, and they’ve been able to move the ball. They’ve got a receiver that can really run after the catch, so that’s going to challenge us to play tight coverage on him and tackle him when he does catch the ball.”
by Rocco Gasparro