LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville coach Jeff Brohm did not follow his typical gameplan on Saturday.
Known for his up-tempo, high-scoring attack, the first-year coach of the No. 18 Cardinals put the brakes on that, and the result was perhaps Louisville’s best performance of the season, a 23-0 victory over No. 20 Duke.
Louisville gained just 351 yards, and 117 of those came from the passing game. But the Cardinals’ pound-and-ground offensive attack was necessary, Brohm said.
“We were low-risk today, and yes, it is hard to do that for me,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Louisville turned it over three times in a 38-21 loss at Pittsburgh, and that weighed heavily on Brohm.
“You get about 10-11 possessions a game, and you turn it over three or four of them, you’re not going to win,” he said. “So, you got to just massage and balance that and make sure that you’re efficient. Would I love to throw deep and get a bunch of long touchdown passes? Yes, but we got to pick our moments to do that.”
That wasn’t needed because of Jawhar Jordan, who ran for a career-high 163 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
That was a welcomed effort after Jordan played sparingly in the Pitt loss due to a hamstring injury that still limited in practice during the off week. The redshirt junior posted his fifth 100-yard performance of the season.
“We didn’t miss a beat in the running game,” Jordan said. “The O-line made my job easy. They were doing their part. I just ran the ball.”
That offensive attack also keyed the first-ever shutout of a ranked team by the Cardinals (7-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Brohm credited the ability to get out to a 14-0 first quarter lead as key for the defense to keep the Blue Devils in check. Louisville’s pressure led to six tackles for loss, including four sacks and an interception.
The Louisville defense posted its first shutout against a ranked team and the first against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since a 30-0 victory over Syracuse on Nov. 20, 2020. The Blue Devils (5-3, 2-2) managed only 202 yards on offense and never got past the Louisville 43 until their last drive.
“After halftime, the shutout was in the back of our mind,” defensive lineman Jermayne Lole said. “All we heard was about their defense. We wanted to exert our will on them. That’s a physical brand of football.”
Duke quarterback Riley Leonard also returned to action Saturday after reaggravating an ankle injury in the second half of last Saturday’s loss at Florida State. The junior completed 9 of 23 passes for 121 and ran for 13 yards while facing pressure throughout the game. He left the game late in the fourth quarter.
Blue Devils coach Mike Elko said they tried several ways to stop Louisville from getting in the backfield, from keeping a running back with Leonard to throwing quicker passes.
“Everything we tried, we didn’t try the right things, because none of it seemed to work,” Elko said. “So, I don’t put it on Riley. I put on us as a staff, and we’ve got to figure out how to be better.”
Duke: The Blue Devils never got going on offense, and one of the conference’s stingiest defenses allowed the Cardinals’ ground attack to control the game from beginning to end.
Louisville: The Cardinals remained in the running for a spot in the ACC championship game with a dominating performance on both sides of the ball.
BANGED UP BLUE DEVILS
Leonard wasn’t the only Duke player battling an injury. The Blue Devils were without starting tight end Nicky Dalmolin and left offensive tackle Graham Barton. To make matters worse, another starting offensive lineman, right guard Jacob Monk, sat out the second half due to an apparent leg injury.
The decisive victory over another ranked team should help the Cardinals earn a higher spot next week, while the Blue Devils’ third loss in four games may leave them out for the first time since this season’s preseason rankings.
Duke: Has a short week, hosting Wake Forest on Thursday night.
Louisville: Hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday.