Some significant steps forward during a football game in which the University of Louisville appeared to make a 30-18 win over North Carolina State more challenging than the crowd of 50,227 expected.
Just getting DeVante Parker back on the field would have been a plus, but he was back to his old form, confident, smooth and more than capable, pulling in a Will Gardner pass in full stride on the second play from scrimmage, accumuating 37 yards. He would catch eight more passes and account for 132 yards, Just getting a feel for the game again, the touchdowns will come later.
“I thought he played really well,” said Coach Bobby Petrino. “I was really impressed with the way he ran after the catch. I thought he’d get open, I thought he’d catch the ball, but I didn’t expect to see that many yards after the catch.”
Michael Dyer made an impression during practices leading up to the game, playing like he practiced, playing his best game since arriving at UofL a year ago, churning for 173 yards. He also caught a couple of passes for eight yards.The 46-yard touchdown dash with 44 seconds to go a fitting reward for the past week and all those months healing from injuries.
“I always tell our players they earn their playing time on the practice field, and we’ve tried to really live by that. And it’s shown up this year, so we’re just going to keep working on that,” said Petrino.
Will Gardner would finally get some time in the pocket, time to look for receivers, completing 21 of 36 attempts for 203 yards. Not Teddy Bridgewater numbers but Gardner’s still learning. Two touchdown passes, too, including a 13-yarder to Eli Rogers and a three-yarder to Kai DeLa Cruz.
No Louisville fumbles or interceptions, believe it or not. Thankfully an official review erased what appeared to be a Gardner fumble and an ugly North Carolina State return for a touchdown. Didn’t really happen. No turnovers.
No false starts. In fact, the UofL offensive line was responsible for only one violation, a holding penalty and was penalized for only 10 yards out of four penalties for 33 yards. A good day for Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, Tobijah Hughley, and Aaron Epps. Not so great for senior tackle Ryan Mack watching from the sideline.
Signs of improvement against a team that has lost eight straight conference games, but progress nevertheless.
Or as Petrino puts it, “We’re a work in progress.”