NC State

NC State suffers worst loss of the season, 54-13 at Louisville

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) avoids the sack attempt of N.C. State's Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) avoids the sack attempt of N.C. State's Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half. AP

N.C. State coach Dave Doeren didn’t have his team watch the film from last week’s loss to Clemson. It was too painful to relive the close loss.

Doeren might want to skip the one from Saturday’s 54-13 loss to Louisville, too, but for a different reason.

The seventh-ranked Cardinals (6-1) jumped on the Wolfpack early and then bloodied them in N.C. State’s most lopsided loss of the season.

“It just wasn’t a good performance,” Doeren said. “Obviously, it’s on me as the coach to have them ready, and we weren’t ready to play today.”

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (355 passing yards), the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, was as good as advertised and bounced back from an average-for-him game against Duke last week.

Duke held Jackson to a season-low 181 passing yards in a 24-14 Louisville win last Friday. The sophomore quarterback soared from the jump against N.C. State, running for a 36-yard touchdown on the opening drive and throwing for 333 yards — in the first half as the Cardinals built a 44-0 halftime lead.

Still emotionally groggy from last week’s 24-17 overtime loss at Clemson, the Wolfpack couldn’t get its offense in gear.

“I can’t tell you we weren’t emotionally hurt last week, we were,” Doeren said. “But I don’t know if that’s the reason it looked like it did today.”

The Wolfpack ran 11 plays in the first quarter and finished with minus-1 yard of total offense. N.C. State didn’t get its first first down until the 10:02 mark in the second quarter.

Running back Matt Dayes picked up 21 yards on a pass play but was knocked out of the game after a hard hit by Louisville safety Chucky Williams.

Dayes didn’t play the rest of the game and that was the best move N.C. State made on the day. Louisville’s defense flustered quarterback Ryan Finley (16-of-31 for 236 yards), and N.C. State couldn’t get its ground game going. N.C. State ran the ball 25 times for 14 yards.

Wolfpack center Joe Scelfo wasn’t sure if the problem was the players were still stuck on the Clemson loss or if Louisville was just that good.

“That was our whole goal this week was to forget about the Clemson game and move past it,” Scelfo said. “We had a great week of practice, that’s what’s frustrating. We just didn’t execute the plan.”

Finley did throw for a pair of touchdowns in the second half, a 14-yarder to receiver Kelvin Harmon and a 70-yarder to receiver Maurice Trowell.

On defense, all the big plays from the Clemson game — the big hits, the fumbles, the interception, the goal-line stand — dried up.

Louisville’s offensive line gave Jackson all the time he needed. Jackson completed 20 of 34 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 17 times for 76 yards and a score.

On the season, Jackson has accounted for 34 touchdowns, which is a school record. The Cardinals still have five regular-season games left.

Jackson ran for a touchdown on Louisville’s opening drive for a 7-0 lead and then cornerback Trumaine Washington intercepted Finley on N.C. State’s first play.

The Cardinals were held to a field goal, one of three in the half by kicker Blanton Creque, but N.C. State’s offense couldn’t get out of the 10-0 hole.

Jackson hit receiver Jaylen Smith in stride for a 74-yard score and 17-0 lead on Louisville’s next possession. A 67-yard pass to tight end Cole Hikutini set up a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Jeremy Smith. An interception by linebacker Stacy Thomas led to a 16-yard touchdown connection between Jackson and Jamari Staples.

The good news is it has been worse for the Wolfpack. Georgia Tech smothered N.C. State 128-0 in 1918. It just felt that bad in the first half on Saturday. And there’s always the option to skip the film review and move on to the next game.

“We don’t have a choice,” cornerback Jack Tocho said. “We just have to keep pressing on to Boston College.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio