PLAYERS TO WATCH
–QB CJ Bennett, who transferred from South Alabama, is a senior getting his first crack at the starting job. Bennett had a prolific debut in the opener with five touchdown passes to lead the romp over Division III Union College, 73-26, last week.
–WR Janawski Davis caught three of Davis’ five TD tosses and returned a punt for a 67-yard TD last week. At 5-7, 150, Davis has blinding speed and change-of-direction skills and will keep the Cardinals’ safeties honest by running a steady diet of deep routes.
–RB Dominique Brown took advantage of Michael Dyer’s injury to show he’s capable of being a workhorse in the backfield. He finished with 33 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown in the 31-13 win, with 20 of those carries in the second half to help preserve the lead.
–DE Deiontrez Mount started the season on a high note, with one sack and two tackles for loss against Miami. He should have ample opportunity to do more damage against Murray State.
–KR Corvin Lamb played just two games a year ago before tearing his ACL. He showed everyone what they’d been missing by taking a first-half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, and his speed will worry opposing special teams coordinators every week.
–S James Sample may have answered some questions about the state of the Louisville secondary. In his first game as a Cardinal, the junior led the team with eight tackles and picked off a pass as well.
TO THE GAME
Count the Cardinals as one team not intimidated by its change in leagues.
Louisville impressed in its ACC debut, knocking off Miami 31-13. It was the second game in a row between the two teams, and the Cardinals followed its bowl win with another impressive effort against the Hurricanes.
“It’s great. You know new confidence by playing against Miami again, back to back and it’s our first ACC game,” running back Dominique Brown said. “To get that win up under our belt is a great feeling going into the new conference.”
The Cardinals controlled the game most of the night, closing out with a 67-yard touchdown drive that took 7:47 off the clock and left Miami with an 18-point deficit and just 1:43 of game time to make it up.
“We grinded it out in the fourth quarter and that’s a great way to win a game,” said coach Bobby Petrino.
“To be able to take the ball and drive it for 15 plays and about eight minutes and take time off the clock. I’m just proud of our players. They did a great job in their preparation. Like I said when I first got here, this team has a great attitude and has a great work ethic. I’m just proud to coach them.”
Of course, one of the curses of playing a Monday night game on national television is that it doesn’t offer much time for a recovery. The Cardinals are back in action Saturday against Murray State.
Will Gardner might be just as happy with the quick turnaround. The first-year starter was experiencing his first non-mop-up game action in three years, and at times it showed. Gardner threw two interceptions and fumbled twice as he got a quick lesson in the speed of college game action.
“I think he did a good job,” Petrino said.
“He had a couple of mistakes by not taking care of the football. You always wonder (whether) should you hit him in practice, but he has had three years since he’s been hit. We need to get him to get the ball against his body, keep his elbows in, and not carry it the way he did when they pressured him.”
Gardner was just as happy to experience the hits, however, especially considering the result.
“I had to sit out my senior year and my freshman year here. Then not much last year and then this first year actually taking some shots,” Gardner said. “It felt good to get back out there and take them.”