The five starters on the University of Louisville football team could have easily been selected as the MVP as a group of the 32-14 win over Kentucky on Sunday.
The Cardinals had two running backs rush for more than 100 yards in the contest, only giving up three sacks on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was 19 of 21 passing for 232 yards against the Wildcats.
"Our line was great," running back Senorise Perry said. "Those holes were huge."
The bulk of the playing time on the line went to the starters – center Mario Benavides, tackles Alex Kupper and Jamon Brown and guards Jake Smith and John Miller. Twenty of the carries for 151 yards went behind Smith and Brown on the right side of the line in the victory over UK.
But one reserve also played a key role – Ryan Mack.
The redshirt freshman from Memphis, Tenn., spelled Brown when he dinged an ankle a little and also made a key block on Jeremy Wright's five-yard run on fourth-down and two from the 6-yard-line. Wright scored the first TD on the next play.
"We feel very comfortable with Mack in there," U of L head coach Charlie Strong said. "He's been in the program for two years now and he did a really good job when he got in there. We have a big set and we call it Ryan-O.
"He's going to be in there when we call that set."
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Mack is listed on the depth chart as the back-up right tackle to Brown. He was redshirted last year but had a solid spring and several times the coaches pointed out his progress during fall camp.
"He did really well and is somebody that coach Borbely has a lot of confidence in and I have a lot of confidence in," Benavides said. "He's with our twos, so he goes against our first-team defensive line every and I like to think they're pretty good. So, he has some experience dealing with guys that are tough to block.
"All in all, I think he did a really good job with what he was asked to do."
Mack has is one of several reserves that offensive line coach Dave Borbely said prior to fall camp that he wanted to see improve, and he's done just that.
"I said Mack in the game and I didn't even flinch like I thought I would have," Borbely said with a chuckle. "He's coming a long and done a good job. He's gone against our No. 1's for three weeks.
"He's had some good days and had some bad days, but overall that has really helped his development and he's coming along."
**Borbely said he was pleased with the effort in the opener but told his group they still have to get better. He said there was one play UK lineman Mister Cobble made at the line of scrimmage that "should have come out of there," and gone for a long TD run in the second quarter.
"We have done a lot of positive things in camp, and I told them before the game I felt as good and as relaxed as I have before any opener in a long, long time," Borbely said. "What we did out there was exactly what I honestly expected us to do.
"It really could have been a hell of a lot better."