Posted on October 6, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Lamar Jackson was one of the most exciting players in college football last year. But the lackluster games down the stretch should have killed his Heisman chances. For some odd reason, his poor play when it mattered most was overshadowed by his incredible play against mediocre competition. So he won the Heisman anyway.
Entering this season, he was overlooked by many in Heisman conversations to start the season. But after blowing up against a few mediocre opponents, he was in the hunt again. That is until he had a lousy game against Clemson. But an early season bad game is easy to overcome.
But can he overcome two bad games and the Cardinals second loss of the season– which the No. 17 Cardinals suffered at the hands of NC State Thursday night, 39-25?
With 427 yards of offense (354 passing, 73 rushing) to his name Thursday night against the No. 24 North Carolina State Wolfpack, it may appear like he had a good game. But he only completed 55 percent of his passes (26-47). The interception he threw late in the game was returned for an NC State touchdown and sealed the win for the Wolfpack.
To be fair, Jackson is only one man and can’t do it all. It’s not his fault that the Cardinals defense couldn’t slow down NC State running back Nyheim Hines (18 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns). Jackson didn’t struggle to cover Kelvin Harmon (six receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown), Jaylen Samuels (seven receptions for 104 yards) or Stephen Louis (three receptions for 99 yards).
Jackson had nothing to do with North Carolina State’s offense generating 520 yards. So, why should the loss damage his Heisman chances?
Well—maybe it is unfair that winning is considered so important even though Heisman winners are only one of the 22 starters that take the field. Heisman candidates can do a lot to impact the game, but they can’t win them on their own.
However, when a candidate’s play is not excellent, and it directly contributes to the loss (like with a pick-6), it should be held against their odds of winning.
He has already fallen out of favor according to ESPN’s expert poll. The October 2 edition had Jackson in fifth behind Luke Falk, Bryce Love, Baker Mayfield, and Saquon Barkley.
Winning it once already puts Jackson on the outside looking in for many voters. But we’ve seen guys climb up the polls as the season goes on. But with the two lackluster performances in Louisville’s two losses, hopefully, we’ve heard the last of his shot at repeating.
Going forward, the Cardinals have more significant issues to deal with to get back on track. NC State does some things well on defense, but overall, they have the No. 75 unit in the nation. The fifth best offense in the nation should have been able to score at ease on the 75th best defense the country has to offer.
The Cardinals didn’t do a bad job of moving the ball (470 total yards). But they made some critical mistakes at the worst possible times (ten penalties, 69 yards; one turnover). Jackson struggled to connect with his receivers downfield as well. He’s been averaging 9.35 yards per pass attempt this season (15th in the nation), but against NC State averaged just 7.4 yards per attempt.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said (ESPN). “I’m not getting it done. I’ve got to do a better job with our coaches, do a better job with our players and get back on the right track.”
The loss pretty much knocks Louisville out of the running for the ACC Championship. But the win for NC State makes their game against Clemson in a couple of weeks must-see-tv.
Up next for NC State will be another tough game against Pitt next week. Louisville will try to get back on track against Boston College.