Heisman motivates Jackson to be more valuable for Louisville


Rewarding as it was to win the Heisman Trophy last season, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson didn't end the year the way he had envisioned. 

Jackson's selection as the school's first Heisman winner was preceded by consecutive losses that erased the Cardinals' slim chances of being in the College Football Playoff. Louisville then dropped its bowl game, taking some of the luster off the milestone season. 

Shaky protection contributed to Jackson's late-season struggles as he was sacked 22 times over those final three contests. He took responsibility for decisions leading to those sacks along with costly turnovers. 

"It's a team game, so I have to put that on myself," said Jackson, who was notoriously critical of his play even when he thrived. "A lot of times, we shouldn't have had sacks when I was trying to do extra." 

Jackson has spent this spring trying to correct those flaws along with building on the talents that earned the Heisman, Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards among a slew of trophies. And Saturday's spring game demonstrated his willingness to be more patient and try to be more valuable as a junior. 

He stayed almost exclusively in the pocket to complete 19 of 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in leading the Red team to a 52-7 rout of the White before 14,000. Jackson did this in little more than a half of action, hitting Dez Fitzpatrick with an 80-yard touchdown on his only pass after halftime. 

Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 TDs with just nine interceptions last season, but has pegged his growth this spring on improving as a passer. That's important considering he lost his top three options from last season while a fourth, junior Jaylen Smith, missed spring ball while recovering from a stress fracture. 

Four weeks of practice gave Jackson time to hone his skills and find new targets, and he might have found an early favorite in Fitzpatrick, a four-star recruit who redshirted last season. 

Fitzpatrick finished with nine catches for 176 yards and two TDs, catching eight for 168 on Jackson passes. Besides the 80-yard score, Fitzpatrick hauled in a 19-yard TD in tight coverage and tiptoed to stay inbounds. 

"Obviously, he's a very accurate quarterback," he said. "All I have to know is, I have to focus on my routes. If I beat my man, I know the ball's going to be there." 

The mobility that catapulted Jackson to 1,571 yards rushing and 21 TDs remains sharp. On his team's first drive, he stepped up in the pocket before taking off for a 34-yard touchdown. 

It was Jackson's only true run in the game, though he was credited with four carries for 33 yards. He was sacked just once. 

Coach Bobby Petrino has sought better decision making from Jackson this spring, but has praised his sharpness throughout. Saturday earned the QB yet another award as the team's Most Valuable Player, and Petrino didn't hesitate to state the difference he has made. 

"I guess that was Lamar out there," Petrino said. "I was really excited to see some of the throws he made."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Pennsylvania recruiting rankings: DE Micah Parsons, QB, Phil Jurkovec, Penn State commits top list
Pennsylvania recruiting rankings: DE Micah Parsons, QB, Phil Jurkovec, Penn State commits top list

It’s the midseason point in college football and a bit later than that when it comes to high school football schedules. Members of the 2018 recruiting class are now faced with the final stretch of their prep careers, primed to make a major leap next year. Since releasing our preseason Pennsylvania prospect...
Miami Dolphins down to just one healthy starter on offensive line
Miami Dolphins down to just one healthy starter on offensive line

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is hit by New York Jets inside linebacker Darron Lee (58), drawing a personal foul. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) DAVIE — The Dolphins are coming off a game in which their starting quarterback was driven into the ground and is expected to miss games and their running attack...
Iowa State’s receivers pose biggest threat for TCU’s defense
Iowa State’s receivers pose biggest threat for TCU’s defense

For TCU, the toughest task on Saturday will be containing Iowa State’s tall, solid group of receivers. Yes, Oklahoma State undoubtedly has the best group of wide receivers in the conference, but Iowa State’s are playing well, and might not be all that far behind. In this week’s Big 12 conference call, Gary Patterson answered...
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher doubles down, doesn’t regret snapping back at fan
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher doubles down, doesn’t regret snapping back at fan

If you thought Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had any regret confronting a fan on his walk back to the locker room following a disappointing last second home loss to Louisville on Saturday, you would be wrong. “No, not one bit,” Fisher said during his Monday press conference that was reported by Noles247Sports...
Arizona Wildcats’ Khalil Tate earns 3rd straight Pac-12 Player of Week award for first time since 1988
Arizona Wildcats’ Khalil Tate earns 3rd straight Pac-12 Player of Week award for first time since 1988

We already knew Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate was on a historic tear. But this is something — Tate became the first player of the Pac-12 era to be named player of the week in after three consecutive games. In fact, he’s the first player from the conference to take the award three straight times since 1988, when USC&rsquo...
More Stories