If you blinked, you may have missed it. That’s how fast they were. More specifically, that’s how fast HE was.
Syracuse (1-1; 0-1 in ACC) and No. 13 Louisville (2-0; 1-0 in ACC) may have been playing inside the Carrier Dome on Ernie Davis Legends Field, but to those in attendance it was as if Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson was back playing Pop Warner and schooling opposing kids with ease.
Jackson, who has quickly worked his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation, finished the game with 411 passing yards, 199 rushing yards and five total touchdowns – all five of which came in the first half. The dual-threat quarterback burned Syracuse defensive backs with his arm, and just about everyone with his legs, including a 72-yard touchdown run to give Louisville an early 21-0 lead in just under five minutes of the opening kickoff.
“Guys were there, guys were in position and it kind of didn’t matter,” Syracuse linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “He took plays that a lot of running quarterbacks maybe go 15 or 20 yards, and he took them 80.”
For a team that has promoted and lived by the motto #OrangeIsTheNewFast, Syracuse was repeatedly left in the dust by Jackson throughout the game. Syracuse coach Dino Babers admitted he doesn’t think there is a single person on his team who has the speed to catch the sophomore quarterback in the open field.
“Obviously you’d like to tackle him,” Babers said. “I’m not sure anybody could catch him...He’s the fastest guy on the football team, on both teams.”
Several Syracuse players learned just how difficult it is to tackle Jackson, but none more so than cornerback Cordell Hudson, who was the victim of Jackson’s jaw-dropping hurdle on his nine-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Seriously. This is just unfair. Lamar Jackson is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/Vin8hlzpax— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 10, 2016
Jackson didn’t just torture Syracuse with his legs, however, as the rising quarterback proved to critics he is a polished enough passer to do damage in the pocket as well, picking apart Syracuse’s secondary and connecting with seven different Cardinals receivers.
Despite Syracuse’s Tampa-2 defense, which theoretically is designed to limit big plays, Jackson still completed threw long bombs on the night: a 72-yard touchdown to James Quick, a 61-yard deep ball to Jaylen Smith and a 55-yard pass to Jamari Staples.
“Lamar is a great players, he’s a great athlete,” Hudson said. “For the most part, we did what we were suppossed to do...He did a great job of adjusting and making plays.”
Jackson’s five first-half touchdowns gave Louisville a 35-7 lead late into the second quarter, before Syracuse mounted a quick rally in the closing minutes of the first half behind two touchdown passes from quarterback Eric Dungey to his new favorite wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo.
While Jackson may have been “shut out” in the second half, so was Syracuse’s offense (for the most part), as the Orange were only able to score a single touchdown in the game’s final 30 minutes, an Eric Dungey 12-yard scramble midway in the third quarter to bring the Orange back to within two scores after Louisville scored on their opening possession of the half.
The Cardinals were then able to pile on in the 4th quarter with two field goals from kicker Evan O’Hara and two garbage-time touchdowns from running back Brandon Radcliff and Jeremy Smith.
Although the 62 points allowed is something Babers isn’t pleased with, he refused to put the result squarely on his defense’s shoulders, citing Jackson’s superior talent and athletic ability as the primary reason for the loss.
“Could they have played better? Heck ya,” Babers said. “Am I mad at them? Heck no.”