Monday Morning QB: Louisville's opener

Jody Demling from Cardinal Authority gives his take on Louisville's loss to Auburn in the opener with some positives and negatives for the Cardinals from the game.

The University of Louisville football team started the season with a 31-24 loss to Auburn on Saturday.

Cardinal Authority publisher Jody Demling was in the Georgia Dome and has this look back at the opener with some positives and negatives - and players of the game - in our new feature - the Monday Morning Quarterback.


The Jackson-era here?

The plan going into the game was to give true freshman Lamar Jackson some reps in the game, perhaps even a few series. He had been that impressive in fall camp and the week leading up to the game.

Jackson passed Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin on the depth chart but was still just a bit behind starter Reggie Bonnafon in the minds of the Louisville coaching staff heading into the Auburn game.

But not that has likely changed.

it's hard to imagine with what he did in the two-plus quarters of action on Saturday that Jackson won't start against Houston. Yes, he's still a work in progress but he's talented and he made things happen.

Jackson, who passed for 100 yards and ran for 106 yards, became the only freshmen in U of L history to ever run for 100-plus and pass for 100-plus and just the second player ever in school history to do it.

So, yes he's special and even being so young he's ready to take over. Jackson is going to make mistakes and he's going to miss a few receivers because of being so green but he gives Louisville the best chance to win.

Jackson is the starter in our opinion with Bonnafon the backup.

The line and run game

One of the reasons Jackson is the better option is because of the line. With there being some young guys on that line there's going to be a period of adjustment until they get fully ready to compete at this level.

The job they did on Saturday wasn't very good early on. It did get better as the game went on but one reason was because Jackson was on the move and they didn't have to block for as long later in the game.

The line had several key penalties - two false starts in the red zone - but they didn't rotate any guys like we expected. The coaches went with five guys and they stuck to it. I would imagine we'll see a few more guys this coming week.

The thing that really makes us worried about the line is the center spot. We had heard it was Pedro Sibiea until the week of the game when Tobijah Hughley jumped back into the mix and started. He snapped the first ball too soon on the trick play and had a couple of other mis-snaps (or early) during the game.

Look Louisville did outrush Auburn, but it was mainly because Jackson and Radcliff were so much better running that read-option play and getting outside and to the corner. The line will have to make drastic improvements this season.

Injuries will hurt the Cards

There were not many injuries but with two games in the next 10 days they were big ones.

Wide receiver James Quick (right lower leg) and tight end Cole Hikutini (shoulder) were injured and looked like they will miss some time. Hikutini didn't play the entire second half.

Keith Towbridge is back and played some at tight end, so it will be Towbridge and Micky Crum, while there are other wide receivers but with Quick, Jamari Staples (knee) and Alphonso Carter (hamstring) out it will put pressure on the young wide receivers.

So, while there were not major injuries they were key ones.

A lot of positives?

Louisville had more total yards, more first downs, fewer turnovers, fewer penalties and more time of possession than Auburn but still managed to lose the game. You don't see that too often.

The Cardinals lost because of some of those self-inflicted troubles.

Because of that and also because of what Jackson showed there are many more positives to take from the game than negatives. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most 'positives' losses in a long time. Bobby Petrino said it's no moral victory but there's a lot to like.

Biggest disappointment?

I'd say John Wallace. He had surgery in the offseason but has been back and had looked good in fall camp.

But he was off on Saturday. Wallace missed a 36-yard field goal on the second drive of the day and just missed a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

There was also an extra point that barely got through the uprights. Wallace is tied for second in school history with most career extra points but will have to get better for the Cardinals.

Players of the game

Let's go with Jackson on offense and Josh Harvey-Clemons on defense after his two interceptions and 14 tackles for the U of L defense. Those were the best players on the field for the day for U of L.

But there were others it could have been.

Brandon Radcliff had a solid day with 76 yards and two touchdowns for the offense, while Trumaine Washington had an interception but was beat on one play on defense and Sheldon Rankins had seven tackles despite being double-teamed.

Again, a lot of positives.

What's next

The Cardinals will host Houston on Saturday at noon in the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium opener.

U of L is a 12.5-point favorite against the Cougars, who had 627 yards and 52 points in a win over Tennessee Tech last weekend in the first game under coach Tom Hermann.

Cardinal Authority Top Stories