Louisville’s matchup against traditional power Florida State came at an opportune time – a chance to dispel one path of momentum and travel in the opposite direction.
The Cardinals, behind the foot of Blanton Creque, knocked off the Seminoles 31-28 last week for Louisville’s first win in Tallahassee since 1952. The victory, while significant in historical terms, provided a boost to the Cardinals’ confidence after suffering consecutive setbacks.
While quarterback Lamar Jackson said after the game it was a ‘needed’ victory, Louisville’s defense likely felt a bigger sense of relief.
After allowing an uncharacteristic number of yards to Boston College, Louisville’s defense limited Florida State to 155 yards on the ground and forced three turnovers. Chucky Williams forced a Seminoles’ fumble to start the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals’ defense recovered another loose ball that led to Creque’s game-winning kick.
“After the win, especially since the game was so close, everybody in the locker room had energy I’ve never seen before,” linebacker Isaac Stewart said. “It was really inspiring, and it made me want to do better and made the team want to perform well against Wake Forest to keep the momentum driving.”
Stewart nearly recorded double-digit tackles for the second-consecutive week, leading the Cardinals with nine stops. The redshirt junior has played his best football as of late, totaling 19 tackles and a forced fumble over the last two games.
Florida native Trumaine Washington also had a monumental game for the Cardinals, putting together a career performance in front of many hometown fans. He finished the game with three tackles, but more importantly, a career-best two interceptions.
“It brings a lot of momentum to the defense that we got those turnovers and for the team also,” Washington said. “We want to give our offense the ball as much as we can, so they can light up the scoreboard.”
Louisville’s defense, which ranks 34th nationally in turnovers gained, remains steadfast on intently watching video on ways to improve. Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said his unit analyzed the Boston College tape the same way it studied the Florida State tape – regardless of the outcome.
“I think Saturday was a culmination of what the team is capable of doing,” Sirmon said, “and now we have to find the balance of making sure that every time we step on the field, we’re prepared to put forth that effort.”
Though the Demon Deacons have dropped their last three decisions, it is doesn’t make Wake Forest any less dangerous. Quarterback John Wolford ranks 27th nationally in passing efficiency and 32nd in passing yards per completion. Receiver Greg Dortch is the first Demon Deacon to surpass 1,000 all-purpose yards since 2011 and ranks 11th nationally in all-purpose yards per game.
“It needs to become apparent and crystal clear to everybody that we will have an opportunity to win games when we play with great effort and execute and play as team,” Sirmon added.
by Rocco Gasparro