The Texas A&M coaches knew Jackson was coming, knew he was dangerous, had weeks to prepare for him, tailored its offense toward neutralizing the University of Louisville quarterback.
They’re still still shaking their heads today, trying to figure out what hit them after Jackson accounted for 453 yards in one of the most dazzling offensive performances by a college football player during the 2015 season.
“He picked up where he left off in the second half of the Kentucky game,” said Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M coach. “He’s explosive and he’s got wheels. He really gave us fits on the edge. We shored up the interior, but he got the ball on the perimeter on us and he’s an explosive player.”
The freshman quarterback ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and threw for 227 more yards and two additional touchdown through the air to lead Louisville to a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
He’s only the third major college quarterback ever to rack up more than 200-plus yards in each category in a bowl game, sharing the honor with Johnny Manziel, of Texas A&M, and Vince Young, of Texas.
According to one report, Michael Vick at Virginia Tech had three games of at least 100 yards passing and rushing in his collegiate career. Lamar Jackson has five this season.
The UofL victory snapped a four-game bowl winning streak for the Aggies who were playing with Jake Hubenak, a third-string quarterback putting up some incredible passing numbers himself, racking up a total of 307 yards on 22 completions and a couple of touchdowns. Eleven of the completions were to wide receiver Josh Reynolds for 177 yards.
Another Hubenak target was Christian Kirk who had 10 completions. Kirk nearly had another one at the Cardinals six-yard-line inside the final two minutes. A review showed the ball had touched the ground. Hubenak had two more chances, one swatted away by Devonte Fields, the other finding an empty spot in the end zone.
“It took everybody out there to get the win,” said Coach Bobby Petrino. “I’m proud of their effort and of the team that we became.”
UofL’s defense came to play, sustaining the intensity until the very end. Fields sacked Hubenak three times and intimidated Texas A&M lineman Avery Gennesy who was tagged with false starts two consecutive times during the first half. Unfortunately, James Burgess saw only one play during his final game at Louisville, charged with targeting an A&M player despite video replays that indicated otherwise.
The Music City Bowl was far from a coming out party for Lamar Jackson. More of a confirmation that he has arrived. Another premier quarterback for a football program that has produced more than its share over the years.