Louisville-Virginia grades: Jackson leads Louisville to late win
Louisville Cardinals 32, Virginia Cavaliers 25
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Louisville’s 32-25 win over Virginia:
Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 77.1
Jackson carries Cardinals, preventing upset
With an overwhelmed offensive line and receivers consistently dropping passes, Jackson had to be at his best to overcome a resilient Virginia on the road. Only a minute and a half remained when he took the field with Louisville down a point. Working against a conservative defense, Jackson tore off big chunks on the ground, before tossing a perfect strike into the right corner of the end zone. Discounting four drops, he threw accurately on 24-of-36 attempts for 361 yards, four touchdowns and just a single interception. Without a dominant supporting cast, Jackson is doing some special things.
Top offensive grades:
TE Cole Hikutini, 82.5
WR Jamari Staples, 79.3
QB Lamar Jackson, 77.1
WR Jaylen Smith, 63.6
LG Khalil Hunter, 62.9
Offense struggles to offer much in the way of help
Only three offensive contributors earned grades above 70 for the Cardinals. The offensive line was almost entirely incompetent, and the remaining pass-catchers were inconsistent. James Quick epitomized Louisville’s issues on offense, dropping three passes in the first quarter alone. At least Jackson had the option of going to Staples and Hikutini. The pair combined for 210 yards on 13 catches with a touchdown. Head coach Bobby Petrino should continue to feed his top two playmakers.
Top defensive grades:
CB Jaire Alexander, 93.7
LB Stacy Thomas, 88.7
S Josh Harvey-Clemons, 81.6
DT Johnny Richardson, 73.7
FS Dee Smith, 72.5
Alexander is great
Jaire Alexander has emerged as a top corner in the nation. The sophomore added a pair of interceptions against Virginia, taking his total to five on the season. Alexander also deflected a pass on his eight targets, giving up just three catches for 15 yards. Although he gave up a pair of touchdowns, Alexander’s positive contributions far outweighed the negatives. Not only is he physical and aggressive, but also highly intelligent, disguising his coverage assignment on both picks, baiting Kurt Benkert into mistakes.
Quarterback grade: Kurt Benkert, 69.5
Inconsistency plagues Benkert despite solid outing
Aside from two awful picks, Benkert was excellent. He challenged every level of the defense, and used his legs when required, keeping the Cardinals’ defense off balance. When the protection enabled him to set his feet, Benkert was superb. On his 29 dropbacks without pressure, he completed 23 of 28 attempts for 220 yards and three touchdowns. In contrast, he managed only two completions from 11 attempts under pressure. Establishing whether Benkert is the long-term future is the top priority for the Cavaliers.
Top offensive grades:
WR Keeon Johnson, 74.7
OG Jack McDonald, 74.3
WR Doni Dowling, 74.1
C Jackson Matteo, 73.4
OT Eric Smith, 72.8
Deep receiving corps key to competitive contest
Virginia has few superstars on its roster, but plenty of the team’s recruits made important contributions this afternoon. HB Taquan Mizzell is a nightmare to defend in space. He caught five passes for 44 yards against Louisville. Supporting him, WR Keeon Johnson caught five of his six targets for 62 yards. Rounding out the group, Doni Dowling found the endzone on a pair of occasions, accumulating 70 yards to go with his scores. They may not be household names, but the Cavaliers have plenty of talent.
Top defensive grades:
FS Quin Blanding, 82.1
ILB Micah Kiser, 81.9
DE Andrew Brown, 76.0
DE Eli Hanback, 75.1
DT Mark Hall, 72.3
Andrew Brown emerging as Virginia’s top defender
In a unit lacking individual quality, one man stands out. Andrew Brown can line up at five technique and rush from the interior, or kick outside and use his explosion off the edge. He recorded a sack and six hurries against Louisville, embarrassing tackles Geron Christian and Lukayus McNeil in particular. Although he has only two sacks and five total knockdowns this season, Brown has added a further 22 hurries. With some holes to conceal in the secondary, Brown has become the Cavaliers’ most important defender.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Louisville CB Jaire Alexander