Louisville football | Grading the Cards’ performance at UNC


Louisville coach Bobby Petrino breaks down his team’s win over North Carolina.
Pat McDonogh/CJ

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A position-by-position look at Louisville football’s performance in a 47-35 win at North Carolina.

Quarterbacks: A.

The easiest grade to give after Saturday’s game is this one. Lamar Jackson was spectacular, ringing up 525 total yards of offense and accounting for six touchdowns. It was the biggest offensive output against UNC by a single player in the Tar Heels’ program history. Jackson moved into a tie for the U of L record for games with 100 or more rushing yards, with 15. He is also now third in Louisville program history with 82 touchdowns accounted for, with Chris Redman’s 87 in his sights. Aside from his one misguided throw into traffic and a few errant passes to the sidelines, Jackson did everything Louisville needed.

In two wins this season, Jackson is 55 of 85 (64.7 percent) for 771 passing yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. He also has 239 rushing yards and three scores. 

Running backs: A.

With Jeremy Smith sidelined and Reggie Bonnafon ineffective, Malik Williams had a breakout performance, running for 149 yards on 13 carries. The senior’s 74-yard run made up for half of his production, but Williams got 75 yards from 12 other runs, which is good for a 6.3 yards-per-carry average.

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Having that weapon made Jackson’s read-option calls much more effective; UNC read them all the way when Jackson had Bonnafon in the backfield, fully expecting Jackson to keep the ball and run himself. It wasn’t that easy with Williams out there.

MORE: Lamar Jackson is brilliant – again

MORE: Instant analysis | Louisville’s offense thrives but has some defensive questions

Wide receivers: A.

Dez Fitzpatrick once again scored, nabbing two Jackson touchdown passes. The redshirt freshman has three scores for the season to go with eight catches for 173 yards. He waited in the wings as a redshirt freshman, but he has emerged this season as a major downfield passing threat.

But the second-biggest star of the day, after Jackson, was Jaylen Smith, who was unstoppable in the middle of the field. The 6-4, 220-pound receiver caught nine passes for a career-high 183 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown strike. The junior is off to the best two-game start in program history for a U of L receiver, with 300 receiving yards.

Tight ends: B.

It’s hard to grade Louisville’s tight ends because they just aren’t very active in the passing game so far this season. Micky Crum, Jordan Davis and Charles Standberry were targeted four times by Jackson. They caught three of those passes for 42 yards.

Offensive line: B.

If we were grading on a scale created just for U of L’s line, Saturday’s performance would be an A. Louisville gave up two sacks and seven tackles for loss, and center Robbie Bell had some early struggles snapping the ball, but Jackson had plenty of time to throw the ball and the running game averaged 7.1 yards per carry. But there is still room for improvement on the Cards’ much-maligned line.

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Defensive line: A.

UNC averaged 0.7 yards per carry on 17 rushing attempts. Granted, a big reason for that was freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt’s odd run backward that ended up losing 21 yards. But even subtracting that UNC only got 38 yards on 22 carries. 

Linebackers: C.

Bobby Petrino was impressed with freshman Dorian Etheridge, who led the team with eight tackles. And Jonathan Greenard provided three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. But Surratt made things look easy in the first half with play-action fakes that got his tight ends far more open than they should’ve been.

Cornerbacks: C.

It was a rough day for Louisville’s cornerbacks, who played without the injured Jaire Alexander. UNC rang up 384 passing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 13.2 yards per completion. Trumaine Washington got tagged with a pass interference call, and UNC’s Austin Proehl got loose too often, grabbing eight catches for 120 yards. But U of L did hold up on UNC’s two most important fourth-quarter drives, which boosted the defense’s grades across the board.

Safeties: B.

Chucky Williams made a silly mistake on punt coverage, but he played well once again at safety, with three tackles, one pass break-up and one forced fumble. Khane Pass and Zykiesis Cannon were solid, too. Petrino praised Cannon’s versatility in his post-game comments. But, as a group, they’ll be disappointed that UNC got so much yardage through the air.

Special teams: F.

Blanton Creque is 5 for 5 so far this season, including 2 of 2 at UNC, so he gets a pass. And Louisville’s kick and punt returners did fine. But the kickoff coverage was dismal. UNC set a program record with 219 kick return yards, and Anthony Ratliff-Williams took a 94-yard return back for a touchdown.

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Email Jeff Greer at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JeffGreer_CJ.