Following nearly two weeks away from the spotlight of a scheduled game, No. 7 Louisville returned to the field at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to host ACC Coastal Division foe Duke on Friday night.
The Cardinals received a late rushing touchdown from Lamar Jackson to defeat Duke 24-14 and end a frustrating evening that saw the high-powered offense remain in check for much of the night.
Entering the game with the nation's most productive offense and facing a Blue Devils squad that came in hobbling with injuries on defense, the expectation for this game was the host Cardinals racing to blowout soon after kickoff. The betting line growing to 35 points further cemented the anticipation of another night of offensive explosion from Bobby Petrino's offense.
However, despite the resounding pregame coverage that had all convinced of the eventual rout, the Blue Devils remained committed to head coach David Cutcliffe's strategy of keeping the Louisville offense off the field with slow, methodic play-calling and it worked for much of the night. Both teams posted lengthy touchdown drives on their opening series, but the struggle began for both shortly there after.
Duke, which used nearly every tick on the play clock before snapping the ball, controlled the clock throughout the first half. The Blue Devils held possession for more eight minutes more than Louisville throughout the opening two quarters. The Cardinals, who had just five first half possessions, added a 22 yard field goal from Evan O'Hara late in the second quarter to grab a slim 10-7 halftime advantage.
Jeremy Smith added an 80-yard touchdown, making multiple Duke defenders miss in the process, early in the third quarter but the less than two-minute drive did little to speed-up the Blue Devil offense. Screen passes and short runs kept the Duke offense on the field and in complete control of the game clock. A Duke 15-play 75-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter replaced hope of an early Louisville victory, with concerns of hanging on to the win.
Holding a slim three-point margin with 6:34 to play, Louisville drove into the red zone before stalling due to a pair of negative plays. Fortunately for the Cardinals, a missed 46-yard field goal resulted into a roughing the kicker penalty on Duke's Breon Borders which gave the Cardinals a first down and new life at the Blue Devils 12-yard line. Two plays later, Lamar Jackson put the game out of reach with a two-yard touchdown run.
Jackson finished with 13 of 26 for 181 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 144 yards and a touchdown. It marked the ninth consecutive game that the sophomore has thrown and rushed for a touchdown and is his tenth career 100-yard rushing game.
Despite having possession of the ball for 15 minutes less than Duke, the Cardinals finished with 469 yards of total offense, including 288 on the ground. Duke finished with just 239 yards of total offense.
Jeremy Smith rushed for a career-best 97 yards. James Quick led the Cardinals with five catches, with Jamari Staples topping the team with 62 receiving yards.
Defensively, U of L was paced by Drew Bailey's 11 tackles, including a game-high three tackles for a loss.
The Cardinals improve to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in ACC play.
Up next for Louisville is NC State at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22
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