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    After playing 4 out of 5 games away from the friendly FieldTurf of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the University of Louisville football Cardinals returned to their home field and to the win column with victory over North Carolina State in front of a not quite sold out crowd of 50,227. It was both teams first meeting as ACC opponents. The Wolfpack made it a game but the Cards came out on top 30-18.

    Not being full was surprising considering it was homecoming. The next game is a guaranteed  sell out as Jameis Winston leads his Florida State Seminoles on a Thursday night prime time match up. That’s the game most fans already had circled on their calendars. Luckily for the Cardinal faithful, Louisville didn’t overlook NC State despite the challenge following them.

    Sophomore quarterback Will Gardner returned to his starting spot under center to lead the attack. Most of the 2014 Cardinals were not a part of the team when Louisville last took on the Wolfpack in the 2011 Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. That one ended in a loss for the Cards 31-24 despite a Teddy Bridgewater-led comeback that he very nearly pulled off.

    DeVante Parker took a pass on the second play from scrimmage and went 37 yards. As you might imagine the crowd exploded. It was Parker’s first game action of the year after recovering from the broken foot he suffered before the opening game of the season. Parker responded with a career-high-tying 9 catches.

    One of the secret weapons head coach Bobby Petrino used early on was Michael Dyer. Secret in that Dyer hasn’t been this impressive since coming to Louisville. On this outing, he ran hard and kept the Wolfpack defense off balance. In fact, he handled the bulk of the carries on the ground, finishing with 173 yards and a touchdown. Eli Rogers capped the opening drive with a 13 yard touchdown reception. On the drive, the Cards averaged over 9 yards per play.

    All the more impressive is that it’s only the third time this season Louisville has scored on their opening drive. The last time that happened was September 20th at Florida International four games ago

    Louisville’s top ranked defense looked porous but held during NC State opening drive. It was just a taste of things to come. The Wolfpack went for it on fourth and two on the Louisville 26. Some would call it a gutsy call, but the visitors came away with no points when they knew any points would be hard to come by against the nations number one defense.

    Louisville’s next series was a three and out followed by a poor Ryan Johnson punt. His 36 yard boot was in stark contrast to his booming kicks in last weeks Clemson game.

    The Cards stopped the next Wolfpack drive, but got called for roughing the kicker on the punt which gave North Carolina State a new set of downs. The bigger loss for the Cardinals was the fact that cornerback Charles Gaines was injured. He lay on the turf for an extended period but eventually walked off under his own power. He would return.

    By keeping that drive alive, NC State scored  when Jacoby Brissett hit David Grinnage in the end zone for a touchdown. However, they missed the extra point and then you saw why they skipped going for the earlier field goal.

    Early in the second quarter Gardner took two deep sacks and were forced to punt it away on a drive that had potential. The offensive line appeared to return to what they looked like against Clemson, providing no support to the skill players. It fired up the defense, though and they showed flashes of the talent that led them to be the NCAAs top unit.

    James Quick, the hometown guy that emerged as a star this season left the game with an ankle injury after a reverse, a play that looks exciting but rarely gets any yards. It also brings in holding calls as that one did.It proved to be a gadget play that took their number two receiver out of the game.

    So what does the number one receiver do? Steps up in a big way. DeVante Parker honored his warm welcome by playing lights out football with over 100 receiving yards by halftime. After adding a Kai De La Cruz touchdown pass Louisville led 17-6 at the half.

    The third quarter saw the Wolfpack and the Cardinals traded field goals. Louisville had a scare, though when NC State ran back an apparent Gardner fumble to the end zone thanks to an assist by a slow referee who couldn’t get out of the way. After replay, however, it was ruled that Gardner was down. Something every fan knew when the play was live.

    Going to the fourth, the defense bent and bent giving up chunks of big yardage to the Wolfpack offense. NC State drove to the one and the defense held. But not so fast. A face mask on Louisville gave the visitors 4 more shots to score. State could only manage another field goal which Louisville matched to keep it at a 2 score lead. They needed it as Grinnage caught his second TD pass from Brissett.

    As an answer, Louisville gave the ball to the workhorse Dyer who scampered into the end zone to end the scoring.

    The Cards are off next Saturday as they get ready for their aforementioned Thursday night showdown. The bye week will be necessary to get some  to regroup and get ready for the top team in the ACC.

    Photos by: Max Sharp/Louisville.com

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    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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