A new (not exactly) head coach in Bobby Petrino and a new conference, the ACC, didn’t stop Louisville from having the right kind of start to their season, beating Miami 31-13 in a dominant performance from their new quarterback, Will Gardner, who got plenty of help from Dominique Brown when it came to running the ball.
While the more dominant stretch for the Cardinals came in the second half of the game, they couldn’t have asked for a better start, getting the only touchdown of the first quarter as Gardner, a sophomore filling in the big shoes of Teddy Bridgewater who is now in the NFL, found Charles Standberry for a 2-yard touchdown. Miami did take a 10-7 lead in the second quarter but overall, it was a bad performance for Brad Kaaya and not a good enough one from Duke Johnson.
Louisville got the lead back just before the end of the second quarter through a fantastic play from Corvin Lamb, returning a kick 97 yards for a touchdown. It is the longest kick return for Louisville since Adrian Bushell returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown almost three years ago against UConn. Miami scored just one more field goal after that, finishing with a very poor 1-of-13 on third downs, very much like their bowl game performance against Louisville at the beginning of 2014.
I thought it would be a real battle and we would have to work extremely hard. Obviously, we made some mistakes on offense and on special teams. I thought the defense really did a great job all night long, especially on third down. We found a way to win the game. We just wanted to wear them out in the fourth quarter. You know, just run and win, that’s what we always preach.
Some were worried about the Cardinals’ offense because of the injury to senior wide receiver DeVante Parker. Maybe against better teams it’s going to hurt, but against Miami, a team with great history but a very grey present no matter how hard Al Golden is trying to find the right combination in pulling this team up towards the heights its used to, throwing the ball to lesser known receivers was more than enough.
The first half of the season should prove to be smooth for Louisville as they settle in the new conference. Things get tough around mid October, as they play at Clemson followed by hosting Florida State and later playing against Notre Dame as well. Dominique Brown is going to see a lot more touches this season to help Gardner settle in, but maybe it’ll be most interesting to see how Bobby Petrino handles the spotlight again after one year of exile at Western Kentucky.