The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is a staple on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Each hour of the day the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower rings to remind their students and faculty of the generosity of two families associated with the university since its earliest days. On Saturday, it was the Cardinals Football team who were ringing a bell of their own.
This summer in the Louisville weight room is where this Cardinal’s Football team put in the heavy lifting for this season. When they reached a new level, they got to ring the bell. Saturday when Lamar Jackson muscled thru the UNC defensive line to score a touchdown, when Seth Dawkins manhandled a UNC defensive back with that stiff arm to get a first down, when Malik Williams rumbled for those extra yards and the offensive line held those blocks late in the 4th quarter it was all a result of the hard work these guys put into that weight room. Strength and Conditioning Director Joe Miday and assistant Director Scott Wilks have said that the weight room bell is a privilege and that these guys must earn the right to ring that bell with their performance in the weight room and on the field. I think that there are some players who earned the right to ring that bell yesterday.
It all starts with Lamar Jackson. Folks what else is left to say about this young man? Late in the third quarter Jackson had accounted for 375 of the team’s 454 yards. By the end of the third quarter he had accounted for 82.6% of the total yardage. And this year that involves him using his arm and getting his teammates involved. He has completed passes to 9 different receivers (WR, TE, & RB) in each of the first two games. When he did run he ran with a purpose. Today he fought thru two of UNC’s best defensive linemen on the goal line for a score. You probably won’t hear much from some of the national sports folks. They’ll be too busy eating crow to comment on the performance of number 8. He had 525 total yards and six touchdowns. Lamar Jackson is a better football player this season and against a veteran UNC defense he proved that he is still the best football player in the country.
The Louisville wide receivers have given themselves the nickname “Breadwinner’s”. Very fitting because these guys are going to be cashing some big checks someday.
All 6 feet 3 of Seth Dawkins was on display Saturday. He worked his tail off trying to get open and that effort was good enough for 45 yards with his biggest play coming on a 21-yard reception late in the fourth quarter when Dawkins stiff armed his way to a first down when the Cards needed it the most.
I don’t think that Devante Parker could have picked a better person himself to wear that #9 jersey. Jaylen Smith has stepped up and taken over where the guys before him left off. He has emerged as Jackson’s main target. And yes, I see some of that same chemistry that Teddy and Devante had. Smith is one of the premiere revivers not only in ACC but in college football. Today he had nine catches for a career-high 183 yards and a score. When this team needs answers, Smith comes thru with the big catch. He has done that for two games now.
And what about Dez Fitzpatrick… last week he breaks out with a big score and this week follows that up with 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. This young man is another guy who is stepping up in clutch situations and making big plays for this football team. It’s not an easy thing to make the transition to big time college football and only a select few can do that in their first season. Dez Fitzpatrick is doing that.
Remember when I said last week in my post-game summary that this Louisville team needed a running game. Well they might have found it yesterday. Malik Williams became the first running back in several games to rush for more yards than Lamar Jackson. Williams had 149 yards with a 74-yard run late in the 4th quarter to help the Cardinals secure a victory. And several times Williams fought for the extra yards to get those late first downs. Saturday afternoon he established himself as the number 1 guy heading into the game with Clemson. For this Louisville team to take it to that next level it needed to find a running game. Williams could be the guy to help them do that.
No unit in the Louisville Program has received more criticism than the guys on the offensive line. Even after they showed some improvement last week they still had their naysayers. I couldn’t be happier with this group after Saturday. They minimized the penalties, gave Lamar a clean pocket for most of the game and held their blocks late in the 4th quarter that allowed for that Williams 74-yard run to help seal the victory. The Louisville offensive line has taken a beating but yesterday they gave one out.
There are still some growing pains with the Louisville defense and they had some of those head scratching moments Saturday. There were some guys who stood out in this group. Dorian Etheridge led this unit with 8 tackles, Ronald Walker stepped up again in the absence of Alexander with 7 tackles, Zykiesis Cannon took off where he left last week with 5 tackles and Trevon Young in his second game back with 5 tackles. I said last week that these guys would keep improving as the season went on and I still believe that. There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball folks.
Our Cardinals are 2-0 and Saturday they answered a lot of those questions that were surrounding the team after game one and there were no turnovers and only one false start. Yesterday was a big step forward for this group and a true team effort. They did ring the bell. Things are going in the right direction and they’ll need it with a big game against Clemson looming. I was cautiously optimistic after game one. After week two I’m just very optimistic. Can’t wait until the next one… Go Cards!