LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson piled up big, fancy numbers in his first two weeks this season, but those predisposed to debates had a comeback ready: Oh yeah? Let’s see what he does against a good team.
A good team arrived Saturday in the form of No. 2 Florida State. And Jackson made the Seminoles look as inept as Charlotte and Syracuse, yet another emphatic statement that the sophomore is indeed ready for his Heisman moment(s).
Jackson scored five touchdowns in the 63-20 victory, another dazzling performance in a season filled with them. If you were a nonbeliever before Saturday, you became one after about a half. Jackson should be atop the Heisman Trophy conversation. What’s more? He has put the underdog Cardinals squarely into the College Football Playoff discussion.
That spot belonged to the Seminoles entering the season, but those playoff hopes will have little to no shot at being revived after they suffered the worst ACC loss in school history and the worst loss under coach Jimbo Fisher.
Jackson ran with ease and made plays under duress with ease. He scrambled like a bigger, better version of Michael Vick, tying his own school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with four. He picked apart a Florida State secondary that was missing All-America candidate Derwin James.
But even if James had been standing back there, it would have been hard to slow down Jackson and his band of determined teammates.
Louisville throttled Florida State in every way imaginable -- dominating on the offensive and defensive lines and setting the tone from the start – bullying the Seminoles every step of the way. Florida State was flat-out embarrassed, and that might be the nicest way to describe their performance.
Jackson, of course, had much to do with that. He increased his NCAA-leading touchdown total to 18 and firmly showed his team is one of the new bosses in the ACC. The other Heisman candidates in this game, Deondre Francois and Dalvin Cook? They were relegated to mere afterthoughts by an aggressive Louisville defense that played with a relentlessness the Seminoles had not seen at any point this season.
From here, the Heisman hype train is only going to keep gaining steam. To be sure, Jackson is no Kenny "Trill" Hill, whose Heisman buzz at Texas A&M faded once the season truly got underway in 2014 and is now at TCU. Jackson started to show that star potential last year against Kentucky, then in the bowl game against Texas A&M.
He was not perfect against the Seminoles and still has work to do on his touch and accuracy. Jackson missed several wide-open receivers, passes that could have made the score even worse. But the plays he did make were more than enough for the Cards.
That included a fluky pass to James Quick toward the end of the second quarter that just about summarized the day for the Cards. Jackson threw to the sideline for Quick, and the ball seemed to zip through the defender. A surprised Quick put his arms out and caught the ball between his knees. Jackson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to end the drive and put Louisville up 35-10 at halftime.
So what now? In two weeks, Louisville plays at Clemson, the preseason favorite to win the ACC. That game looms large not only for ACC championship game hopes, but College Football Playoff hopes also. Louisville also has to play at Houston in November, another game that could have major playoff implications.
There is still a long season left to be played. But with a healthy Jackson running the show, Louisville can no longer be overlooked.