From: The Advocate
Number of sources: Two
Word Count: 535
Date of Publication: December 31, 2016
ORLANDO, Fla. — Sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson, just a few weeks removed from winning the Heisman Trophy, came into the Citrus Bowl looking to snap Louisville’s two-game losing streak and cap off the season with a win. Instead, he walked away with his worst game of the year.
No. 19-ranked LSU shut down Jackson from the start, containing him more effectively than any other team this season. After averaging 282.5 passing yards per game this year, Jackson was able to throw for only 153 yards against the Tigers and completed just 37 percent of his passes, his worst completion percentage of the season.
“There was a lot of mistakes each and every one of us made out there. (LSU) was a great team,” Jackson said. “The defense was just being good. They were working hard. We just had to step up, and we didn’t.”
While the Cardinals struggled on offense throughout the game, Jackson had an especially rough first half. LSU’s defense pestered him constantly, sacking him multiple times, forcing a safety and holding him to just 2-of-10 passing. Except for a wide open 52-yard pass to senior wide receiver James Quick, Jackson had only 10 passing yards and -24 rushing yards going into halftime.
“I think we hurt ourselves early in the game with negative plays, either assignment errors or good pass rushes and not being able to get the ball out and throw it away,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “When you’re going backward and you get behind the sticks, it’s really hard to make first downs against them.”
While Jackson performed slightly better in the second half, he still couldn’t shake LSU’s defense. He ended up being sacked eight times and finished the game without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
“I did think we came back in the second half and executed better and made some plays. Still couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, and that really hurt us,” Petrino said. “Any time you’re getting sacked, it’s all 11 guys on the field and all us coaches, they gotta make sure that we don’t get sacked.”
For much of 2016, Louisville looked unstoppable. With two games to go in the season, Jackson had led Louisville to a 9-1 record, giving the team a legitimate shot at making the College Football Playoff.
But the last three games of the season proved disastrous for Jackson and Louisville. The Cardinals lost their final two regular season games and the Citrus Bowl by an average of 16.3 points. In those final three games, Jackson’s average completion percentage was only 48 percent, and he threw just three touchdown passes against three interceptions.
“We started off and we played at a very, very high level for a long time, felt like there was 11 weeks where we were in the talk of whether we were going to get into the playoffs or not get into the playoffs. Then, we didn’t finish the season the way that we should have,” Petrino said. “One of the greatest obstacles to being great is being good. And it’s my fault. I saw us not working and practicing and having the same intensity that we needed in the last three games. And we got to do a better job.”