If Lamar Jackson was Superman for Louisville throughout the 2016 season, LSU was his kryptonite in the Citrus Bowl.
The team's excellent defense held the Heisman Trophy winner to just 153 passing yards, 33 rushing yards on 26 carries and no touchdowns as the Tigers dominated Louisville (9-4) in every aspect of the game, winning 29-9.
Derrius Guice (149 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns) and Malachi Dupre (seven receptions for 139 yards) led the way for LSU, while the team's defense held the Cardinals to just 220 yards from scrimmage.
LSU showcased its talent on Saturday, though Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press put the team's season into context:
Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP
LSU lost four games this season with probably one of the five most-talented rosters in the country.12/31/2016, 6:27:23 PM
Max Bretos of ESPN offered a sharp rebuke for Louisville:
Maximiliano Bretos @mbretosESPN
Louisville is not ready for primetime, and we gave Heisman to a player who did not deserve it after October 22nd.12/31/2016, 7:36:31 PM
LSU's passing game wasn't one of its strengths this season—the Tigers (8-4) ranked 101st in the nation in passing yards per game coming into the Citrus Bowl—but quarterback Danny Etling and his offensive counterparts had little trouble moving the ball through the air against Louisville's suspect secondary in the first half.
Etling finished with 187 yards passing and a pair of one-yard touchdown passes to running back Guice and tight end Colin Jeter as the Tigers went into halftime leading 16-6.
Dupre had himself a half, notching six catches for 136 yards. One of those included this brilliant one-handed nab, per ESPN CollegeFootball:
ESPN CollegeFootball @ESPNCFB
LSU's Malachi Dupre with an incredible one-handed catch! https://t.co/pPdW2MRJRy12/31/2016, 5:21:25 PM
That was reminiscent of a former LSU wide receiver, as Chris B. Brown of Smart Football noted:
Chris B. Brown @smartfootball
LSU receivers are out here making OBJ catches12/31/2016, 5:09:20 PM
The LSU defense stifled Heisman Trophy winner Jackson and the Cardinals offense. Jackson was held to 62 passing yards and negative-24 rushing yards on 12 attempts in the first half.
His poor showing early came down to a few factors, per NFL Philosophy:
NFL Philosophy @NFLosophy
I don't know if Lamar Jackson has the ability to change protection at the line, but he's gotta at least ID pressure and adjust presnap.12/31/2016, 5:35:27 PM
NFL Philosophy @NFLosophy
Speed on LSU's defense showing as Lamar Jackson can't run away from defenders like he normally does.12/31/2016, 5:38:21 PM
All was not kosher for Etling in the first half, however, as after the defense forced a safety in the waning moments, Etling attempted to throw the ball away on the ensuing first down and instead didn't reach the sideline, throwing an interception.
Louisville couldn't find the end zone but did close the half with a 47-yard field goal, and the Cardinals took a shred of positive momentum into the locker room.
They never capitalized on it, however.
LSU's passing game may have paced the offense in the first half, but halfway through the third quarter, Guice and the running game made their mark.
The running back—starting in place of Leonard Fournette, who sat out the bowl game—raced 70 yards on an explosive touchdown run at the 8:48 mark, evading several Louisville defenders in the process to give LSU a 23-6 lead.
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was enjoying Guice as LSU's feature back:
Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB
#LSU's Derrius Guice is so much fun to watch. Love his effort and his ability to make guys miss AND run thru them.12/31/2016, 4:46:33 PM
LSU's defense put down the clamps on Louisville's overmatched offense the rest of the way, and the Tigers cruised to a drama-free win.
For Ed Orgeron and LSU, the hope will be that Saturday's win serves as a catalyst heading into the 2017 season, when the Tigers will once again feature a talented roster and should be a major contender in the SEC.
For Jackson and Louisville, meanwhile, the future is bright, but more work is needed before the team can truly be considered a competitor in both the ACC and the College Football Playoff. Three straight losses to close the season will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of everyone involved in the program.
After the game Orgeron, wanted the LSU community to enjoy the win.
"I'm happy for the team and Tiger family," he said at his press conference, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com. "This was never about me."
Perhaps not, but Guice was happy to have him.
"I'm glad Coach O got the job," he told Kleinpeter. "He gives us a lot of energy and is involved more than most coaches are."
But Orgeron was happy to deflect credit.
"We didn't blitz much in the season. It was brilliant on [defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's] part to mix it up," he said about the defense's stifling performance. "We stayed one step ahead."
Jackson, meanwhile, insisted that LSU's stout defense didn't frustrate him throughout the game.
"I didn't get frustrated," he noted. "We just didn't play how we usually play. We knew it was 60 minute game."
Frankly, Louisville hasn't played up to its potential in quite a few games now.
"We had it rolling in middle of the season. We hit the wall toward the end," Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino acknowledged, per Kleinpeter. "Have to learn to handle success."
He added: "I hope it motivates us. We've got lot of guys coming back that are talented. These guys are great competitors."
With Jackson under center and a talented cast around him, Louisville's future can be bright. It will have to learn the lessons from the end of this season if it hopes to live up to expectations.
LSU's expectations are just as high, and given the talent it will return, rightfully so.
"Coach O told us in the locker room after the game we can win a national championship next year," Dupree told Brandon Saho of WBRZ.
Given the way LSU played on Saturday, those words hardly seem outlandish.
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