What Happened: In spite of the Louisville Cardinals‘ strong defensive attack, they were no match for NC State Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon in the 2011 Belk Bowl. The junior quarterback completed 21 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns. While the Wolfpack’s offense was predictably one-dimensional, it didn’t much matter as they jumped out to an early lead and never let go. While the Cardinals made it interesting come the fourth quarter, State would not allow them a chance to tie the game late — forcing a third turnover to seal the deal. Overlooked by your author prior to the game, the key was the NC State secondary, which increased its FBS-leading interception total to 27 on the year.
Who’s to Blame: In part, Louisville can point to freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his three interceptions as the main cause for the loss. Though all three picks were not necessarily his fault, Bridgewater only managed to complete 24 of 43 passes and appeared to force more throws as the game wore on. The Louisville gameplan was also an issue. Uncharacteristically, the Cardinals ran far too many pass plays — making their offense suddenly one-dimensional and predictable. While Bridgewater’s a very good player, who’s sure to get even better as his career progresses, expecting his arm to carry the offense by itself was a guaranteed failure.
It Was Over When: NC State’s David Amerson, who finished his year with an ACC-record 13 interceptions (and three touchdowns scored as a result) picked off Bridgewater’s late attempt for a touchdown pass — his second interception of the game — with just 41 seconds remaining. Louisville had shut out the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter, and had scored 14 unanswered points at that juncture.
Game Ball Goes To: The aforementioned Amerson. The sophomore has already established himself as one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, and will be on every national watch list going into the 2012 season. With five tackles, two interceptions and one touchdown against Louisville, he was a force to be reckoned with, and proved the hype late in a big game. Honorable mention goes to Glennon, whose three touchdowns made up for a poor showing by the running game.
Prediction Update: Under the false assumption that Louisville’s defense would be the deciding factor, I went with the Cardinals in this matchup. That leaves both my record and the ACC’s at one win and one loss through two games.