LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson shrugged off chants of “Heisman! Heisman!” from Cardinals’ fans and seemed satisfied knowing he had played a role in one of the program’s biggest wins.
A very big role worthy of all the adulation.
Jackson ran for four touchdowns and threw for another as No. 10 Louisville poured it on for a 63-20 victory on Saturday, the most points ever allowed by Florida State.
His performance helped Cardinals establish themselves as a title contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference - and the national crown - by dismantling the second-ranked Seminoles in one of the worst defeats in FSU history.
What was billed as an ACC showdown quickly turned into a rout. And after blowing second-half leads against Florida State the past two years, Louisville kept the pressure on.
Jackson ran for 146 yards and four TDs and passed for 216 yards and a score to lead the Cardinals (3-0, 2-0 ACC).
The quarterback’s performance raised his season TD total to 18 and drew high praise from none other than NFL free agent Michael Vick, a dual-threat QB himself not long ago at Virginia Tech.
Vick tweeted, Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech….Enough said!! #future
Jackson was flattered but took it in stride, “I guess it’s just helping us win, you know? I don’t really look at that.”
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino talked about his quarterback’s poise.
“I’m just proud of how he prepared for the game, how he was able to stay calm,” he said. “He was able to focus and concentrate.”
Jackson wasn’t the only star in Louisville’s domination.
Louisville’s defense chipped in with five sacks. The Cardinals also held FSU (2-1, 0-1) to 284 yards and forced two turnovers. The Seminoles’ only bright spot was 10 straight points to get within 14-10 before Jackson took over.
Florida State scored another 10 points late and avoided its worst loss ever.
“Give credit to Louisville, they did a great job,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You don’t play with fire and let teams get ahead of you.”
Jaire Alexander contributed two 60-yard punt returns - including a 69-yarder for a TD - and a fumble recovery leading to another Louisville score. Brandon Radcliff rushed for 118 yards and a score and Jeremy Smith ran for two TDs.
Jackson added to his collection of highlights as he faked one defender and spun off another en route to his final TD run of 47 yards. It followed his interception on the previous series, one sign that he is human.
“I told my team I owed them four touchdowns,” he said. “I was like, I’m determined to score right here.”
The Seminoles seemed out of synch on both sides of the ball but especially defensively, possibly due to the absence of injured defensive back Derwin James.
Without him available as a spy, FSU appeared helpless in its efforts to contain Jackson. Dalvin Cook wasn’t a factor in rushing for 54 yards on 16 carries.
The Cardinals seized their moment on the national stage by stepping on the gas instead of wilting in the second half. With so many players stepping up to help Jackson is an encouraging sign as Louisville looks to keep opponents from keying on him.
A pause followed Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden’s apparent breakup of a right sideline pass for James Quick. But the Cardinals senior stayed with the ball, controlling it between his knees and running 44 yards to FSU’s 2 to set up a Jackson 1-yard TD run. “When I looked down I saw the ball and said I gotta run,” Quick said.
Louisville paid tribute to late heavyweight champion and hometown hero Muhammad Ali. The Cardinals’ red chrome helmets featured a white butterfly sticker with “Ali” in the middle; The Greatest’s daughter, Laila, was ESPN’s celebrity picker; and the school presented Ali’s family with a framed No. 75 jersey honoring his community service initiative.
The Seminoles were never in the game after their first TD and will fall in the Top 25, the question is how far. They had hoped to establish themselves as division favorites and national contenders in the game.
This was a signature win for the program and now it’s just a matter of how far the Cardinals will jump in the Top 25 after positioning themselves to contend for a playoff spot.