Tim Sullivan: Quick-Strike Capabilities Make Unbeaten Louisville Lethal

Sep 25, 2023 at 11:15 am
Jawhar Jordan runs the ball during the game against Boston College at L&N Stadium on September 23, 2023.
Jawhar Jordan runs the ball during the game against Boston College at L&N Stadium on September 23, 2023. Photo by Taris Smith, Louisville Athletics

At their best, the Louisville Cardinals dare you to blink.

They bring the fast break to football. They move the ball in big, bold strokes, chewing up ground with quick-strike capabilities that conserve clock and traumatize tacklers. They scored five touchdowns of at least 33 yards Saturday against Boston College and completed six touchdown “drives” that spanned five plays or fewer.

And, says the lightning-legged Jawhar Jordan, “We definitely left a lot of meat on the bone.”

At a minimum, UofL’s 56-28 domination of BC gave fans and foes some digesting to do. It left the unbeaten Cards at 4-0, 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and with an emphatic win over an opponent that had narrowly lost to mighty Florida State only the week before. 

It served notice that Marc Weiszer of the Athens (GA) Banner-Herald may have been onto something when he gave Louisville its lone (25th place) vote in last week’s Associated Press poll. And though the Cards have yet to crack the Top 25, 13 of the 63 voters included them on their new ballots Sunday. 

Consequently, the Cards enter a stern stretch of their schedule with a justifiable swagger in their step. Friday’s visit to North Carolina State and an Oct. 7 appearance by Notre Dame at L&N Stadium should tell whether the BC blowout was an aberration or a preview of coming attractions.

“I think we saw glimpses of that in all the games we’ve played where we’ve put stretches of football together as an offensive side of the ball where it looked really good,” quarterback Jack Plummer said. “Just to be able to do that for almost the game felt really good, and I think we just have to build off of that. There’s obviously stuff to clean up, but it’ll be good for us coming into next week.” 

Plummer, a two-time transfer who has reunited with Jeff Brohm after their previous partnership at Purdue, was, in Brohm’s estimation, “as sharp as he’s ever been.” He completed 15 straight passes at one point, threw more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (3), and did so by connecting deep downfield rather than relying on short, higher-percentage passes. 

After seeing his secondary strafed for Plummer scoring passes of 45, 42, 75. and 55 yards, Boston College coach Jeff Hafley conceded it had not been a matter of blown coverages, but that “Our players got beat one-on-one by their players.” 

Ahmari Huggins-Bruce, who had played a supporting role to Jamari Thrash in UofL’s three previous victories, underscored the talent gap between the teams by outrunning the Eagles on two long touchdown receptions. Yet while he was repeatedly more than BC could handle, Huggins-Bruce remained mindful that the competition for touches is keen among the Cardinals.

“There’s lots of players,” he said. “When you get your chance, you’ve got to show.”

Jordan, who entered the game leading the nation’s running backs in yards per carry (10.8), continued to show he’s special. He contributed 209 yards rushing and receiving and scored three touchdowns while insisting the home team had yet to tap all of its talent.

“We could’ve done a little bit better in my opinion,” he said. “But that’s what we were prepared to do: explosive plays. And for the most part, we did that.”

The tendency to read too much into individual games can be a trap. The euphoria the UofL players felt Saturday should be tempered by their second-half struggles against Indiana and could feel like fool’s gold by Friday night. Still, Brohm’s long-awaited homecoming has plainly reinvigorated the program, raising expectations and restoring a sense of fun along Floyd Street. 

Saying his family had been pressing him for more trick plays, Brohm had his players line up in “victory” formation late in the first half, as if content to take a 35-14 lead into the halftime locker room. Jordan caught Boston College flat-footed, running for 42 yards to set up a 42-yard touchdown pass from Plummer to Thrash.

Earlier, tackle Willie Tyler had lined up as a receiver only to perform a mid-play cartwheel in an attempt to distract the visitors from the action on the other side of the formation.

“We wanted him to do the splits, but he couldn’t quite get that, so he went with the cartwheel,” Brohm said.

Listed at 320 pounds, Tyler is unusually nimble for a man of his size. To borrow Jawhar Jordan’s phrase, there’s a lot of meat on his bones. And it can move.