Jackson, tough defense help Cardinals beat Wolfpack 20-13
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lamar Jackson had plenty of running lanes for Louisville, while his defensive teammates closed up just about every hole North Carolina State could find.
The freshman quarterback ran and threw for touchdowns to help the Cardinals beat the Wolfpack 20-13 on Saturday, avoiding an 0-2 start in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Jackson ran for 121 yards, including a 68-yard scoring sprint in the opening quarter, to lead a strong ground attack for the Cardinals (2-3, 1-1 ACC). He also threw for a 20-yard touchdown to Devante Peete in the second, giving the Cards a 14-0 lead on a day when they remained in firm control from the start.
Put simply, Louisville could run the ball and N.C. State — which came in with the nation’s No. 16 rushing offense at 259 yards per game— couldn’t against a trenches-controlling front. The Wolfpack ran for 45 of the team’s 228 total yards in a game played in sporadically heavy rain.
“We always want to stop a team’s first option, then stop their second option when it comes to that,” Louisville linebacker James Burgess said. “We focused on it heavy during this week of practice and preparation, and we went out there and executed.”
The final stop illustrated that. N.C. State (4-1, 0-1) got the ball back at its own 5 with 1:45 left, but Burgess stuffed leading rusher Matt Dayes three plays later on a fourth-and-1 run to seal it.
How well-prepared were the Cardinals? Both Burgess and defensive lineman DeAngelo Brown said Louisville knew exactly what was coming on that play.
“We knew a lot where the runs were coming from based on where they were lining up,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Jackson completed just 10 of 27 passes but the Cardinals finished with 203 yards rushing against the nation’s No. 3-ranked total defense (205.8 yards). The highlight came when Jackson cut past a defender and broke away for the long TD on Louisville’s third possession, which helped him set the program’s single-season rushing mark for a quarterback after just five games.
“I had to do whatever to get my team to win,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been doing.”
Louisville started 0-3 before last week’s romp against Samford, with Jackson setting a school record for rushing yards (184) by a quarterback. Now the Cardinals have won two straight to build some momentum.
Conversely, N.C. State’s momentum built on lopsided wins against a soft nonconference schedule ended with a thud.
N.C. State posted plenty of impressive stats against four overmatched opponents — two picked sixth or lower in the Sun Belt, another picked next to last in its Conference USA division and a Championship Subdivision opponent — in a schedule that didn’t reveal much about whether the team can meet its goal of contending in the league’s Atlantic Division.
The Wolfpack had a bumpy week, too, when coach Dave Doeren had to dismiss last year’s leading rusher Shadrach Thornton from the team following another round of legal trouble with a midweek arrest.
The team spent most of Saturday fighting uphill, then committed two big turnovers after losing just one in its 4-0 start.
The first in the opening quarter was a sign of how the day would go for the Wolfpack. Jumichael Ramos took a pass from Jacoby Brissett for a 48-yard catch and dragged a defender inside the 10 only to fumble as he fell to the ground.
Dayes also fumbled near midfield to set up a Louisville field goal in the third, while his run of four straight 100-yard rushing performances ended with his 68-yard day.
“We just tried to do what we do,” N.C. State’s Jaylen Samuels said, “and it wasn’t working today.”