LOUISVILLE — After he’d dashed past defenders, dazzled with his arm and delivered No. 10 Louisville its 63-20 victory against No. 2 Florida State, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson finally allowed himself a moment to be impressed.
Not at his own five-touchdown performance, but rather at a tweet from his favorite player growing up. Teammates showed him; Michael Vick had tweeted that Jackson was five times better than he was as a college star at Virginia Tech.
“I was amazed,” Jackson said. “It means a lot.”
It’s a wonderful compliment and a bit of a knee-jerk reaction by Vick, but it’s also almost certainly the best comparison. There have been plenty of dual-threat college quarterbacks in the years since Vick donned a Hokies uniform, but none with the lethal combination of Jackson’s zip on the ball when he throws and his speed and elusiveness when he takes off running.
“It’s nothing new,” Cardinals’ running back Brandon Radcliff said. “He’s an explosive, electric guy. You give him one little seam, and he’s gone.”
Said Louisville wide receiver James Quick: “He’ll make you miss in a heartbeat.”
Through three games, Jackson has accounted for 18 touchdowns and leads the nation. On Saturday, he tied his school record with four rushing touchdowns. He again put up big numbers — he was 13-for-20 for 216 yards and a touchdown (plus a poorly thrown interception that proved irrelevant) to go along with his 146 rushing yards and four scores on the ground — which only add to the Heisman hype that’s begun to build around this 6-3, 205-pound sophomore.
Yet for all that, Jackson doesn’t seem too pleased with himself. A tough self-evaluator, he graded his effort against Florida State a “D” because of the interception and the seven incompletions. He graded his teammates more kindly; his offensive line and receivers all got A-pluses.
In reality, it’s hard to criticize any part of this Louisville performance. Jackson easily picked apart a Seminoles defense that was missing its best player, Derwin James, because of injury — though it’s unclear if his presence would have affected the game enough to change the outcome. From the opening drive, Jackson found wide-open receivers as well as plenty of open space for himself to run through.
Defensively, Louisville dominated, applying constant pressure to Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois and an overmatched offensive line. Francois completed fewer than half of his attempted passes and was sacked five times. Throw in a strong special teams performance that included a Jaire Alexander punt return touchdown, and Louisville provided a textbook example of winning a football game in all three phases.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino was asked if, even in his wildest dreams about all the ways this Florida State game could have gone, he could have imagined such a performance.
He said he always tries to only visualize things going right.
“That’s one of the things as an athlete or coach, you’re trying to do with visualization — you do everything right,” Petrino said. “You make the right read. You make the right cut. You make the right through. We try to keep all the negative thoughts out of our minds.
“So I’m going to say, yeah, (I did envision this).”
He also pictured himself having this type of quarterback. He visualized having Vick himself, actually.
Back when Petrino left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, his quarterback was supposed to be Vick. But before the season started, Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges associated with his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Petrino’s Falcons, without Vick, went 3-10; Petrino jumped back to college football at Arkansas.
Now, Petrino has his Vick — or Vick 2.0, if you believe a certain someone's tweet. And together, they’re creating the offensive fireworks that Atlanta thought it’d have nearly a decade ago.
Pretty amazing, really.
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