In 2014, the University of Louisville Cardinals joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and their football program experienced some legitimate success. But, their level of achievement is not the degree enjoyed under Bobby Petrino’s first run or in Charlie Strong’s capable hands.
They’ve finished 9-4 twice, 8-5 twice, hosted their first ESPN College Football Gameday and fielded a Heisman trophy winner in Lamar Jackson. Louisville has been exciting to watch, but the time has come for UofL to take the next step and truly contend for a conference title.
There wasn’t a lot of love given to the Cardinals in the ACC preseason picks, as the Cards were picked to finish seventh by ESPN in the conference. This comes after being picked third in their division since entering the league. If Jackson couldn’t bring Louisville a conference crown, can a puma?
The Cardinals have had great quarterbacks over the years besides Jackson, namely Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Brohm, Chris Redman, David Ragone, and Stefan LeFors. Jawon Pass, who goes by the nickname “Puma,” now steps into Louisville’s prolific offense with a cool, focused approach that’s both surprised and impressed coaches and teammates.
No quarterback currently playing college football has bigger shoes to fill than Jawon Pass. A former 4-star quarterback out of Georgia, Pass sat and studied behind Jackson, a 1st round NFL Draft pick. Even so, things have taken a turn for the worse for Louisville in their effort to win big this season.
Jaylen Smith, the wide receiver on Louisville’s roster, underwent an emergency appendectomy recently. As Pass takes over, Louisville needs things to move as smoothly as possible.
“We were fortunate to catch this early and anticipate a full recovery,” Head coach Bobby Petrino said. “Jaylen is doing well and we look forward to him returning to the practice field as soon as possible.”
Smith is expected to play a huge role in the offense. He was the team’s leading receiver last year, hauling in 60 catches for 980 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named an All ACC Player coming into the season.
Although Smith has returned to action, his temporary absence couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time considering the 51-14 pummeling Louisville took at the hands of Alabama on Labor Day weekend. The senior is a top-notch route runner with size and speed. He has steadily improved and has added 200-plus yards to his total with each passing season. The 6’4″, 223-pound wideout has shown big play ability while averaging 22.2 yards per reception as a sophomore in 2016.
Even so, the Cardinals do have depth in their receiving corps. Redshirt sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick (who posted a team-leading nine touchdowns in 2017) and junior Seth Dawkins return, after posting more than 600 yards each last year.
With the Cards regaining composure, their young quarterback’s best friend is the running game and tight end. Consequently, Kemari Averett will have his chance. At 6 ft. 6” and 265 pounds, he’ll be a big target for Pass as Louisville opens the new Cardinal Stadium in style against Indiana State Saturday night.