HUNTINGTON, W. Va. — The Thundering Herd defense did its best to bottle up Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
But a genie-like Jackson, keeping plays alive with both his arm and his feet, figured his way out of all of Marshall’s containment methods— and took another giant step towards winning this year’s Heisman Trophy.
In amassing more staggering and record-setting statistics on Saturday night, Jackson led Louisville —the third-ranked team in the Associated Press College Football Poll — to a 59-28 dispatching of host Marshall, in front of 40,592 at an electric Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.
In front of the second-largest crowd in the history of Edwards Stadium, and with a national-television audience watching in prime time on CBS Sports Network, the Louisville quarterback accounted for seven of his team’s touchdowns — five passing and two rushing.
In addition, Jackson completed 24-of-44 passes for 417 yards, while rushing for 62 yards on a dozen attempts.
In fact, his 479 total yards of offense is the second-most by a single opponent in Marshall football history.
As a team, the Red and White went off on the Herd for 690 total yards, as Marshall managed just 207 — including 148 on the ground.
Louisville also doubled up the Thundering Herd in first downs (33-16).
The Cardinals remained undefeated at 4-0 —their second such start since 2013, and for the fourth time under head coach Bobby Petrino.
Marshall fell to 1-2, having also been blown out against Akron a week ago at home (65-38).
The Thundering Herd also lost its 15th consecutive contest against nationally-ranked teams, as the program fell to 3-20 against nationally-ranked opponents.
Marshall also lost two straight games for the first time in three years — and had its four-game win streak against Louisville snapped.
Louisville —a four-touchdown favorite over the Thundering Herd — led just 7-0 18 minutes and 50 seconds in, but Jackson jump-started the Cardinals for 28 second-quarter points, completing 16-of-29 passes for 284 first-half yards.
He also rushed nine times in the opening half for 37 yards, as Louisville outgained the Herd by 303 yards (377-74) — including 93-59 on the ground.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday had nothing but praise for Jackson’s play.
After all, Jackson just came off his torching of then No.-2 ranked Florida State, as Louisville stomped the Seminoles 63-20 a week ago.
He entered Saturday night’s event with 18 total TDs, including the nation’s leading in rushing with 10.
“No, it did not surprise me. I mean just watch the film, he (Jackson) did the same thing to Florida State and Syracuse,” said Holliday. “He can throw it, and he can run it, and we just felt like we tried to keep him from getting going and I thought we accomplished that at times. He is a tremendous player; anyone will have a hard time trying to limit him or trying to shut him down. He makes enough plays against everybody, if they can keep him healthy they are going to be tough to beat.”
The Cardinals’ onslaught continued in the second half.
Louisville scored 17 more third-quarter points to make it 52-7, as Jackson rushed nine more yards for another score — and threw for a 51-yarder, sandwiched around a 39-yard field goal with five minutes remaining.
The Thundering Herd did score twice within a span of 15 seconds at the outset of the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 52-21, but Jackson led the Cardinals on a game-clinching 15-play, 78-yard scoring drive — consuming 11 seconds shy of exactly seven minutes.
Brandon Radcliff, who rushed for a game-high 131 yards on 19 carries, capped the march with a 10-yard run with six-and-a-half minutes remaining.
However, Jackson was the story before, during and after Saturday night.
His 479 total yards increased his season total to 1,866 — an average of 466-and-a-half yards per game.
The Cardinals had scored on all three of their opening possessions in their first three games, but the Herd forced three incomplete passes — before sacking Jackson for an 8-yard loss.
But Louisville, after forcing the Thundering Herd into its first three-and-out series, needed only three plays and 55 seconds to strike “Quick” — and stake a 7-0 advantage.
With 11 minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Jackson found a wide open James Quick deep down the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown strike.
Blanton Creque kicked the extra point, the first of his perfect 8-of-8 on the night, to make it 7-0 only four minutes and three seconds in.
Marshall then again went three-and-out, but the Cardinals couldn’t convert a 12-play and five-minute drive, as Creque couldn’t connect on a 43-yard field goal at the 4:26 mark.
The Herd then forced a Jackson interception, as Terry Richardson picked him off at the Marshall 5-yard-line when a deep ball went short —with Richardson racing over to step in front.
Marshall, with a minute remaining in the first quarter, finally picked up its first first down on a 14-yard run by Hyleck Foster.
But the Herd had to punt for the fourth time, and this time, the Cardinals caught a break on the return attempt.
Marshall’s Kendall Gant was penalized for targeting on the return — much to the dismay of an incensed Holliday and the Thundering Herd faithful inside the stadium.
The call proved pivotal, though, as the Cardinals crafted a nine-play, 49-yard drive in only three minutes and 37 seconds.
Jackson finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown toss to tight end Cole Hikutini — making it 14-0 with the Creque extra point.
The Herd finally moved across midfield midway through the second quarter, but was forced to punt for the fifth time —this time from the Louisville 35.
Once again, Jackson drove the Cardinals for at least nine plays and three minutes and 34 seconds —and once again Hikutini had the receiving TD.
Louisville marched 88 yards in 10 plays, as Jackson completed a pair of passes to convert 3rd down, including 3rd-and-11 to Quick at the Cardinals’ 25.
Hikutini had the touchdown reception — a pretty 30-yarder from Jackson down the center of the field at the five-minute mark.
Creque kicked the extra point for a 21-0 advantage, but things were just going from bad to worse for the Thundering Herd.
Marshall true freshman quarterback Garet Morrell — playing for the injured Chase Litton — was strip-sacked and fumbled on the next series, as Stacy Thomas recovered for the Cardinals at the MU 8.
Two plays later, Jackson rushed for his first touchdown — a 4-yard sprint to the left-front corner of the end zone to cap a 34-second scoring drive.
Creque’s next extra point made it 28-0 —this one with 3:14 remaining in the second period.
But that — believe it or not — was just the first of his two 34-second scoring drives in the opening half.
Going five plays and 75 yards this time, Jackson completed a pair of passes to Jamari Staples for 52 yards — all the way down to the Marshall 8 again.
From there, Jackson fired his fourth touchdown pass — to Reggie Bonnafon with only two seconds remaining in the half.
Creque converted successfully his fifth extra point, pushing the Cardinals’ cushion to 35-7 at halftime.
“There is no question, that’s (Louisville) an excellent football team. That quarterback is a special guy. We made a few plays early, but in the end, we did not make enough plays. It’s like I told our football team, we have a lot left out there, all our goals and dreams are still there, we have not had any conference play yet, and we just have to keep fighting,” said Holliday.
The Herd did keep fighting, finally getting on the scoreboard with 36 seconds to play in the second quarter.
After Marshall recovered a fumbled Louisville punt return at the 14-yard line, Morrell increased his first-half passing yardage to 15 — with a 16-yard scoring strike to Ryan Yurachek.
Marshall made it 52-21 early in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Morrell to Keion Davis — and also on a Ty Tyler 26-yard fumble recovery return.
The Thundering Herd also had the final score of the night — a 13-yard run by Tony Pittman with 2:41 to play.
But the Herd had, obviously impacted by Litton’s late announcement of his undisclosed injury on Saturday, to limit the play package for Morrell.
He completed 9-of-21 passes for 59 yards with one interception, as the Herd rushed for 43 times with only a 3.4 yards per carry average.
They punted nine times including six in the first half, and the longest play from scrimmage was only 20 yards.
“He (Morrell) was pretty limited, but to Garet’s credit I thought he went in there and battled, that kid went in there and fought. I thought our whole team battled the entire game,” said Holliday. “That is a tough situation, to put him in against that particular football team for his first start. The call was made early on; Chase (Litton) did not practice all week. We knew by Tuesday that he was not going to be able to play.”
The Thundering Herd hits the road for the first time next Saturday night — at Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106