While the Boston College secondary chased down receivers three steps ahead of them, Lamar Jackson calmly sat back in the pocket. The Louisville quarterback admired each of the perfect passes he lofted into the hands of James Quick and Jaylen Smith.
As he watched each ball soar through the air, Jackson dreamt of a brisk evening in New York. It’d come some time between the annual rivalry game against Kentucky and—if he had his way—the College Football Playoff. He’ll be wearing his Sunday best, and his mother, Felicia James, will be in a comfortable seat close to the stage in Times Square’s PlayStation Theatre. Jackson will probably be sitting next to Deshaun Watson and Jabrill Peppers, eager in anticipation.
On that day, there won’t be any drama—at least there shouldn’t be. Jackson will finally hear his name next to those three magic words: “HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER.”
For the first time since Andre Williams made that trip, BC will make an appearance at the celebration. Jackson’s highlight tape could be made up exclusively of the beatdown he put on the Eagles.
Shut out on offense and overmatched on defense, BC was helpless against Louisville. Jackson split his time crushing the Eagles (4-5, 1-5 Atlantic Coast) through the air and on the ground. In total, the Heisman favorite finished with 416 total yards and seven touchdowns. And the good vibes from BC’s first ACC win in almost two years disappeared with a 52-7 defeat to the No. 7 Cardinals (8-1, 6-1) in Chestnut Hill.
“He’s electric,” head coach Steve Addazio said of Jackson. “I’ve been around some of the best quarterbacks in the country in my day, and this guy is really something now.”
It took just 76 seconds for Jackson to make fans spill out of the seats. After two short runs, he went untouched for 69 yards and a score. After a BC punt, Jackson marched down the field again. Three passes of 10 yards or more set up Quick to beat Kamrin Moore on a slant for 30 yards. On Louisville’s fourth drive, Jackson hit Smith for 44 yards at Isaac Yiadom’s expense. One quarter in, and the Eagles had already given up three touchdowns of over 20 yards.
With two more touchdowns—one following a Tommy Sweeney fumble, the other on another long drive from within BC territory—Jackson had little reason to stay in any longer. But anyone who knows Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino knows he loves running up the score. So Jackson stayed in, just long enough to prove his humanity with an interception to John Johnson.
The pick caused some concern on the Louisville sideline. Jackson had some cramping in his throwing forearm, and lost feeling in his fingers. Not wanting to lose put Jackson in harm’s way, Petrino opted for Kyle Bolin. Even the backup did well enough to set up a Blanton Creque field goal.
But that’s not how Jackson rolls. He slapped an IV on the arm and got back to work in the third quarter. And when Patrick Towles opened up the second half with a touchdown to Tyler Rouse, set up by a Jackson fumble, the Louisville quarterback got angry. After scares against Duke and Virginia, he needed an otherworldly performance that ended in a blowout to get the early engraving on his Heisman Trophy.
At BC’s expense, he did just that.
He led one drive methodically down the field—well, as methodical as Louisville gets—capping the 3:45 off with a 13-yard off-tackle option keeper. A few minutes later, he just wanted to score.
Jackson pulled out one of the dirtiest jab steps you’ll ever see for his seventh touchdown. After faking a handoff, Jackson ran to the right behind his tight end cutting across the field for a block. He then quickly stopped, pushing BC’s defensive line on the backs of their heels. By forcing the Eagles to sell out too far to the left, Jackson opened a hole down the middle of the field. Three seconds and 53 yards later, Louisville capped off its 52-point day. It’s the first time ever that the Eagles have allowed 50+ points twice in a single season (Oct. 7 vs. Clemson).
Most alarmingly, the Eagles have now given up 15 touchdowns of more than 20 yards this season. Last year, BC allowed only five touchdowns of that sort. Although the Eagles switched defensive coordinators to Jim Reid from Don Brown, who departed for Michigan, Addazio insisted that there has been no difference in BC’s defensive scheme. According to Addazio, the Eagles have run the same coverages and combinations—though there has been a little more zone coverage. Rather, he believes the difference has been the talent around the league.
“I told our defense in preseason camp, everybody likes to talk about stats, but the biggest challenge for you is going to be the young offenses and quarterbacks and skill players that are going to be coming into play this season,” Addazio said. “We’re not going to have those same stats now, and we’re going to face elite guys right now, and we are. And that’s really the difference in a nutshell.
If the talent is the case, then BC is doomed defensively. As Addazio also noted, BC got beat in man, zone, and double coverage in the end zone. And whatever strategy that worked last year clearly doesn’t work this time around. The Eagles may still be in the top 20 in the country in defense, but that’s only because of the weakness of their non-conference schedule. Against ACC opponents, BC has been outscored 216-72. Against its top three opponents—Virginia Tech, Clemson, and now, Louisville—that jumps to 157-17. If the Eagles can’t score, and they haven’t been able to all season long, then their defense must play better than it has thus far to make a bowl game. There’s not a lot of time to turn it around, too—the Eagles fly to Tallahassee this week for a Friday night game against No. 19 Florida State.
As for the Cardinals, well, they’ve got bigger plans in mind. Between a national title and a Heisman for Jackson, there are trophies to be won. No one—especially the mythical BC defense—is going to stand in their way.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff