ORLANDO – LSU completely dismantled the Heisman-trophy-led Louisville Cardinals in the 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, leaving Central Florida with a 29-9 victory firmly in hand.
“We got beat by a good football team. We knew coming in that they were very good on defense and in the front seven, guys that are big and strong and physical, and they’ve got really good cover guys,” said a dejected Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino.
“I think we hurt ourselves early in the game with negative plays, either assignment errors or good pass rushes and not being able to get the ball out and throw it away. When you’re going backward, and you get behind the sticks, it’s really hard to make first downs against them. I did think we came back in the second half and executed better and made some plays, still couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, and that really hurt us.”
Cardinals’ quarterback Lamar Jackson was largely ineffective in the face of a brutal defensive front, completing just 10-of-27 passes for 153 yards without a touchdown or a turnover. His dual-threat capabilities – so highly touted and powerful during the regular season – were rendered futile, futile to the tune of 33 net yards on 26 carries, though he was sacked eight times.
“I didn’t get frustrated,” insisted Jackson when asked about not being able to perform up to his own lofty standards. “I just tried to keep going the game, it’s a long game, whether you’re playing a 30-minute game or whatever and you got to go out there and attack and I just feel we didn’t really attack how we should. We’re a great team and people can say what they want to say, but I feel we just didn’t play how we used to play. That’s all.”
LSU was able to run the table on both defense and offense. The Tigers outgained Louisville 394-220 in total offensive yards, had half the penalties of the Cardinals, converted three times as many third downs, and controlled the ball for over 35 minutes.
It was total domination.
“I’m happy for the team,” said LSU interim-turned-head-coach Ed Orgeron “I’m happy for the Tiger family. This is never going to be about me. Interim coach, full-time coach, it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to be in the role to be able to serve. It’s an honor to be a head coach at LSU. We look forward to building a championship program here. We’ve got work to do. We look forward to going to the recruiting trail, sending the seniors out, get them ready for the combine, and do the things that championship programs do.”
Even without household name Leonard Fournette, who elected to sit out the game in preparation for the NFL draft, the Tigers found success all day with their running game. Running back Derrius Guice was named the BWW Citrus Bowl MVP with a monster day, finishing with 138 rushing yards and a touchdown – a 70-yard gallop that put LSU ahead 23-6 in the third quarter.
“Well, LSU is RBU, so when one man goes down, you’ve got to step up, and I feel like I’ve done a great job of stepping up this year,” the MVP said, referring to not only his performance this game in the wake of Fournette’s absence, but to his team leading 1249 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this season as well.
“The linemen did a great job of helping me step up. And Coach [Jabbar] Juluke does a great job. He’s developed with me all year with the position drills we do, him always telling me, be patient, slow, too fast through the hole, and just me being able to set things up. I’m glad what we got next year. Next year is going to be great, and I’m glad we ended this year like this.”
Louisville was outclassed, outcoached and underwhelming in the first ever meeting between the two conference powerhouses. They struggled as a team to get anything going on offense, could not protect their playmaking quarterback by any means, struggled to set up a proper running game from the traditional sense, and gave up just enough big plays to allow LSU to waltz away with showcased ease.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl marks the end of college football in Orlando until spring practices, icing the cake on what has easily been the most eventful NCAA football postseason play in Central Florida History.