Louisville-Duke grades: Jackson struggles, but Cardinals still win

The highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Louisville's win over Duke.

| 6 days ago
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Louisville-Duke grades: Jackson struggles, but Cardinals still win

Louisville Cardinals 24, Duke Blue Devils 14

Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from Louisville’s 24-14 win over Duke:

Louisville Cardinals

Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 72.3

Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign took a serious hit Friday night, as his passing was average at best, and his tendency to keep the ball (especially in the first half) instead of handing off when the free man on the edge stayed home really bogged down the offense. He completed just two of nine attempts at least 10 yards through the air from the line of scrimmage, as he repeatedly threw passes into the dirt well-short of his targets.

Top offensive grades:

OT Lukayus McNeil, 77.4
RB Jeremy Smith, 72.4
QB Lamar Jackson, 72.3
WR Jamari Staples, 72.1
OT Geron Christian, 72.0

Jeremy Smith saves the day with spectacular second half TD run

After Jackson’s first half, which featured a clear unwillingness to hand the ball off on read-option plays, it was ironic to see the key play of the game for the Louisville offense to be a simple trap run (with no option). Smith burst into the second level behind excellent point-of-attack blocking, then eventually made three defenders miss and outran a fourth on his way to an 80-yard touchdown jaunt. The offensive line had struggles blocking on run plays, but while the offense as a whole gave up 13 total pressures, the offensive line accounted for just eight of them, as Jackson and Smith were charged with a sack, a hit and three hurries.

Top defensive grades:

LB Stacy Thomas, 87.5
ED Devonte Fields, 82.9
DI DeAngelo Brown, 82.3
S Chucky Williams, 81.1
ED James Hearns, 79.1

Defense makes Duke offense earn their yards

While the defense was seemingly on the field the entire game, with the exception of a 51-yard reception given up by Trumaine Washington the unit made Duke take the long way down the field. Pass-rush specialist Devonte Fields was his usual self, as he chalked up three run stops and six total pressures. LB Stacy Thomas was the star of the show, as he has three total stops, six solo tackles and gave up just on reception for two yards on three targets and a pass breakup.

Duke Blue Devils

Quarterback grade: Daniel Jones, 63.7

Daniel Jones executed the offensive game plan well, although it was a highly conservative one. He only attempted three passes longer than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, but did well dumping the ball off against the blitz, as he completed six of eight throws versus the blitz for 70 yards and a score.


Top offensive grades:

WR T.J. Rahming, 77.8
RB Jela Duncan, 71.8
OG Tanner Stone, 68.5
WR Anthony Nash, 65.9
WR Johnathan Lloyd, 65.2

Offense does enough to keep Duke in game

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Blue Devils offense found ways to move the chains and keep the clock moving, which kept the high-powered Louisville offense off the field and limited their possessions. 82 of the 111 rushing yards for Duke were earned after contact, led by Jela Duncan getting 35 of his 44 yards after the first hit.

Top defensive grades:

S Deondre Singleton, 84.8
CB Mark Gilbert, 78.9
DI A.J. Wolf, 77.3
DI Brandon Boyce, 72.7
CB Corbin McCarthy, 71.5

Duke pass-rushers put the heat on Jackson

Four Blue Devil defenders had multiple pressures on the day, led by DT A.J. Wolf’s four total pressures. S Deondre Singleton was the clear top performer of the unit, as he racked up six solo tackles and pressured Jackson twice. He was also targeted twice in coverage, and yielded just one reception for six yards.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Louisville LB Stacy Thomas

| Analyst

Josh joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. During the season, his primary focus is college football (mainly the Big Ten). He is also heavily involved in PFF's NFL draft coverage. Prior to joining the team, he worked for six years with GM Jr. Scouting, an independent draft scouting service.