"I think the first half was like my first year," Burke said. "I was the first-year, first-snap, first-drive guy. I got that out of my system. And once I started to calm down and getting my feet underneath me and had the coach in my ear a little bit, that really helped. The biggest thing was I had all my players, all my teammates, come up to me like, ‘We got you. We know what you can do, just go out there and show it.' And I think we showed it in the second quarter (and) second half."
In his first game as a starting signal caller since his senior year at Lexington Catholic High School the transfer from North Carolina State was 1-for-7 passing with one interception and his team trailed 7-3 after the first quarter. Included among those were a pair of deep throws intended for wide receiver Scott Long.
"He overthrew those balls. The one in the corner we had wide open and the one where we had Scott on the post wide open," UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "He overthrew them, which typically, he doesn't do in practice because he'll usually under throw those in practice a little bit. I do think he was a little amped up."
"Honestly I wanted it too much," he said. "You just have to catch yourself with those types of things, and I didn't play great."
Burke bounced back in the second quarter, completing 9 of 13 throws for 118 yards and did appear adept at leading a 2-minute offense, even though his drive just before halftime ultimately ended in his second interception of the game. He engineered a pair of touchdown drives in the second period that culminated in TD runs by Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson.
Burke completed a pair of passes on the first scoring drive, which was just four plays, but was more effective on the second scoring march which covered 72 yards in eight plays. He was 3-for-3 on that drive, completing a 20-yard sideline pass to Doug Beaumont, a 16-yard slant to Long and a 19-yard pass to Beaumont, all on first down.
Then just before intermission UofL took over on its own 8 with 1:17 to play. It took Burke just six plays to get the Cards into the red zone, but facing a first down at the Indiana State 13 with six seconds left he forced a pass to Beaumont that was intercepted by Santino Davis.
"The picks were bad. I have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. But other than that, I think we had some really good play-action stuff," Burke said. "We really ran the ball well. The line really held up. The protection was great today. We didn't have a sack, I don't believe, and I think we settled in and got some rhythm going."
Burke picked up where he left off on UofL's first possession of the second half. He led Louisville on an eight-play, 87-yard scoring drive that was capped by Anderson's 14-yard TD run that gave the Cards a 24-7 lead. Burke went 3-for-3 on that march, completing passes of 16 and five yards to Beaumont and 25 yards to Long.
"We have a ton of toys out here, all you have to do is give them the ball, so it makes it easy on me," Burke said.
From there Burke guided the Cards on a pair of drives that resulted in Ryan Payne field goals. His favorite targets on the night were Beaumont (five catches for 69 yards) and Long (four receptions for 68).
"I thought in terms of seeing things on the field, he was seeing things really well," Kragthorpe said. "His communication with me was great. There was never any question where he was like, ‘I don't know about this.' Every answer he gave me was exactly what we thought. The guy hasn't played a lot of college football and it's been a long time since he played at Lexington Catholic, so I thought in the second half he settled down pretty well. The touchdown drive to start the second half was really good in terms of putting the ball on the money to Scott."
Now Burke will ready himself for his second start, which will be a trip back home for the Cards' Sept. 19 game at archrival Kentucky in Lexington.
"It will be exciting," Burke said. "I have a lot of family in Lexington and a lot of friends go to school there. They tell me, ‘We'll root for you, but not for UofL.' It'll be a great environment to play in. We're excited for the opportunity...I have to play better, and this offense has the ability to play better and we'll be a lot better at UK, that's all I know."