Louisville entered last weekend believing it had a shot of becoming a top-10 team and exited with more questions than answers following a disappointing home loss to Clemson. The 20th-ranked Cardinals attempt to pick up the pieces Saturday when they host Kent State.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was bottled up for most of the night by the Tigers’ defense, and even with the exodus of players such as Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams to the NFL, Clemson rolled up 613 total yards on Louisville in a 47-21 triumph Saturday. The Cardinals were only marginally better on offense, generating roughly half of their 413 yards and 14 of their points after falling behind 33-7 through three quarters. “I’m not sure that we had the confidence that we need to win a game like that. … We’re not where I thought we were as a football team. … We did not execute the way we are used to executing, particularly in the first half and to start out the game,” coach Bobby Petrino told reporters. The Golden Flashes may present an opportunity for the Cardinals to build up their confidence on both sides of the ball, however, as they struggled to beat Howard at home on Sept. 9 and have been outscored 77-3 in road losses to Clemson and last week against Marshall.
TV: Noon ET, ACC Network. LINE: Louisville -44.
ABOUT KENT STATE (1-2): Senior quarterback Nick Holley is unlikely to play Saturday after injuring his right knee, likely leaving an offense which ranks 126th in yards per game (259.3) and 122nd in points per game (13.7) in the hands of inexperienced backups George Bollas and Dustin Crum, who combined to go 7-of-17 for 117 yards against Marshall. Sophomore running back Justin Rankin is the team’s leading healthy rusher and paces the team with six receptions, but the Flashes are averaging less than four yards per carry despite ranking among the FBS leaders with 141 attempts. Senior cornerback Demetrius Monday has intercepted a pass in each of the last two contests, while sophomore cornerback Jamal Parker made a career-high 12 tackles and broke up four passes last week.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2-1): Jackson continued his assault on the record books against Clemson, passing Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt for the most career rushing yards by a quarterback in ACC history with 2,834 while also moving into third place on the school’s all-time rushing list, regardless of position. Petrino admitted to being “encouraged” by Monday’s workout from preseason All-American cornerback Jaire Alexander (knee), who is questionable for this game after suffering a knee injury in the first half of the season opener and has not played since. While the defense has performed well in some regards - 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks - Alexander’s return is crucial for a unit that ranks 122nd against the pass (331 yards per game), 104th in total defense (452.7) and 115th in scoring defense (36.7 points).
1. Jackson has been responsible for 85 touchdowns in his career and needs three more to overtake Chris Redman for the most in school history.
2. In its two losses, Kent State did not commit a turnover but went a combined 8-for-31 on third down.
3. Cardinals freshman WR Dez Fitzpatrick has caught a touchdown in three straight games and ranks second in the ACC with four receiving scores despite only 10 receptions.
PREDICTION: Louisville 56, Kent State 3