New starting quarterback sparks Louisville offense ahead of Houston match-up
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cougar asked The Louisville Cardinals’s sports editor Sam Draut to write about the matchup against Houston. Here’s what he had to say.
Louisville’s offseason revolved around a four man battle for the starting quarterback position. Three players (Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin) had all started and led the Cardinals to victories last season. Four-star Lamar Jackson was added to the mix in the summer, giving head coach Bobby Petrino four viable candidates to start the season opener against Auburn University.
Petrino said before fall camp that he wanted to announce a starting quarterback two weeks before the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. But, no announcement was made, so sixth-ranked Auburn went into the game not knowing Louisville’s quarterback situation.
Dual threat quarterback Reggie Bonnafon ended up starting the season opener, but was replaced by Lamar Jackson midway through the second quarter.
“We knew we were going to play him (Jackson), and he did compete extremely hard out there,” Petrino said. “I thought he gave us the best opportunity to get back in the game and find a way to win.”
Trailing Auburn 24-0 in the third quarter, Jackson sparked a comeback that pulled Louisville within one possession of the lead. The freshman from Boynton Beach, Fla. directed the Cardinal offense on four scoring drives to cut the Tigers’ lead to 31-24.
Jackson’s speed and athleticism opened up the read option with running back Brandon Radcliff and the Cardinals were able to fight back into the game.
“He is a great player,” linebacker Keith Kelsey said. “He is very athletic, and we knew he was going to perform well.”
Jackson finished the game with 106 rushing yards along with 100 passing yards, but remained on the sideline as Auburn slowly burned out the clock on their final possession.
Despite falling the Auburn 31-24, Louisville left Atlanta with a few positive takeaways from the season opener.
The emergence of Jackson could be a boost for an offense that has been sporadic during Petrino’s second stint at Louisville.
Earlier in the week, Petrino announced Jackson would be the starting quarterback against Houston, but if last season was a sign of anything, it is more than likely that Louisville plays a few different quarterbacks throughout the year.
Playing his first game in a Louisville uniform, Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons hauled in two first half interceptions to set a Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game record. The junior safety finished with a game high 14 tackles.
Harvey-Clemons was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week on Tuesday. He liked the Cardinals effort in the near comeback against Auburn.
“We started slow but we fought hard to come back in the end. That is the positive from tonight (Saturday) that we kept fight,” Harvey-Clemons said. “They didn’t beat us because we were tired. We just made too many mistakes, and now it’s time to go back to work.”
Louisville’s front seven was held quiet against Auburn because of the strong Tiger offensive line. Against Houston this Saturday, preseason All-ACC selections James Burgess and Sheldon Rankins will look to have a bigger impact on the game.
With question marks still surrounding the offensive line, Louisville faces Houston on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.