Throughout the run-up to college football’s opening weekend it seemed like no one really wanted to talk about Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The defending Heisman Trophy winner was an afterthought while guys like USC’s Sam Darnold, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and even Wyoming’s Josh Allen were getting all the love.
Well, there’s plenty of reason to start talking about Jackson after the Cardinals’ 35-28 victory over Purdue on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Start with this: Jackson racked up 485 total yards by himself, not to mention two touchdowns on zero turnovers, while flashing the quick thinking and evasiveness that helped him become college football’s best player last season.
After a quiet end to his 2016 campaign, many were unsure of what Jackson would bring to the table this year. Especially with coach Bobby Petrino trying to work him under center a bit more.
In all, Jackson finished the day 30-for-46 passing for 378 yards with plenty of room for improvement. Which isn’t so much of a criticism as it is a warning to his rivals.
And while it may be easy to overlook the opponent here, Purdue provided more than enough trouble for the Cardinals in the debut of head coach Jeff Brohm. The Boilermakers took a 21-13 lead midway through the third quarter only to see their offense fall apart as Jackson was hitting his stride.
Back-to-back interceptions by Purdue’s David Blough — including one that was returned for a touchdown — put Jackson squarely in control of the game when it mattered most. The Heisman winner connected with freshman wideout Desmond Fitzpatrick on a 20-yard touchdown shortly after to go up 32-28 and put Louisville ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
But that’s a one-sided story considering Purdue’s night. The Boilermakers surely looked like an improved team behind Blough (18-for-26, 175 yards, 2 touchdowns) and freshman receiver Jackson Anthrop (7 receptions, 82 yards, 2 touchdowns). The two were more than enough to help give Brohm’s alma mater a scare in week one.
The difference on Saturday, however, came down to Jackson. He passed his first test easily, so expect to hear his name a bit more now.
More college football coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• UAB staffer gets up from wheelchair to deliver game ball
• Florida offense sputtering again after 33-17 loss to Michigan
• Maryland throttles Texas 51-41 in Tom Herman’s first game
• Michigan LB escapes targeting penalty after hit that fits definition of targeting
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