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No matter how much you hate Louisville, try to enjoy Lamar Jackson while you can

Rich Barnes | USA Today

Rich Barnes | USA Today

As the resident “outsider” here at KSR, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t “understand” the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry the way most people reading this do (although in my defense, that’s why I was hired in the first place). I didn’t grow up in the rivalry and don’t eat, sleep and breathe it 365 days a year like so many of you do. My life isn’t fundamentally altered when the Cats beat the Cards or vice versa, even if my Twitter feed is a slightly more pleasant place depending on the outcome.

But while I don’t “know” the rivalry like so many of you, one thing I do know is college football, which is why I come here today with a hope. That hope is pretty simple: While I know that no Kentucky fan (or Clemson fan or Florida State fan reading this) will ever “root” for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, I do hope at the very least we all as college football fans appreciate him. Because in watching what he did last season, and then seeing him somehow start even better this year, I can say one thing definitively: We may never see another college football player ever do what he’s doing right now. Not just in the UK-UL rivalry. Or even in the ACC. But anywhere, at any time.

Like most everyone else reading this, I first learned about Jackson as a true freshman, but it wasn’t until his last year where Jackson put all the pieces together. Early on he was like a wild horse — all arms and legs, with all the tools, but not quite sure how to use them — but last year was the season where it all came together. Like the rest of the college football world I was captivated by him early (those eight touchdowns against Charlotte, the game where he singlehandedly shredded the Florida State defense), with every Louisville game turning into must-see TV thanks to No. 8.

Understand that it wasn’t just that the stats that Jackson put up, but how he did it, with every snap feeling like it could end up on a highlight reel that they’d show on TV the rest of the season. Every play left fans wondering, what would Jackson do next, and then when he did it, how could he possibly top it the next time he touched the ball. Only it seemed like every time he touched the ball he did. Sometimes it’d be by sprinting past defenders for 40 and 50 and 60 yard scores and others, it was flicking the ball 40 yards downfield off his back-foot like a young Brett Favre. Some others he literally leapt defenders in a single bound. And while some of the media soured on Jackson as his team struggled late, I wasn’t one of them. He was the story in college football and deserved the Heisman Trophy, even as Deshaun Watson led Clemson to a head-to-head win over Jackson and a national title. I still believe Jackson was the deserving winner to this day.

Also unlike so many others, I’ll gladly admit that Jackson flew a bit under my radar coming into the season. It’s not to say that I didn’t know how good he was, just that I doubted his ability to repeat as a Heisman winner. Understand that when you win the Heisman you come into the following season with expectation levels that are so high, they’re basically impossible to meet. I’ve seen it happen with Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston before, as well as perceived favorites like Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley as well. Let’s also remember that he lost virtually every key play-maker off last year’s team, played behind an abysmal offensive line and the defense appeared on paper to be worse as well. It was completely and totally justified to think he would take a step back this fall.

So really, that’s what’s been so crazy about Jackson’s start to 2017: Not only has Jackson been better this season than last, but he’s doing so with less talent around him. Overall his numbers (minus his total touchdowns) are up or at least even across the board; he’s completing a higher percentage of passes and throwing for more yards per game on average than last year, this despite losing his two top receivers. He’s also averaging the same number of yards per rush even though everyone knows what he can do with his feet. Not only that but he’s literally setting records which have never been accomplished before, like last Saturday when he became the first quarterback from a Power 5 school to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Really, it’s insane when you think about it in this capacity: Last season it seemed like teams forced Jackson to beat him with his arm or his legs. This year — with an extra year of film and preparation from opposing coaching staffs — he’s doing it with both.

Therefore, while it feels like hyperbole to say “we’ve never seen anyone like Jackson” that is actually, 100 percent factually correct. Looking back, there really is no one in college football who has ever been quite like him, both statistically and the style in which he plays.

The most obvious comparison — one that gets made regularly — is that Jackson is a lot like a young Michael Vick. The funny thing is that while the comparison feels right, it’s actually not even close when you look at the stats. Last season Jackson accounted for 51 total touchdowns (more on that coming), which is more than Vick totaled in his entire career playing quarterback at Virginia Tech. Just last season alone, Jackson threw for more touchdowns than Vick did in his whole career (31 to 21) and rushed for more as well (21 compared to 17). To use another contemporary example, in Vince Young’s best season he accounted for 24 total touchdowns, a number Jackson doubled in 2016. Even if you factor in change in style of play over the last decade or so, it really is incredible to see how Jackson’s raw numbers stack up historically.

Speaking of history, the best way to appreciate just how good Jackson was last season is to look at those 51 total touchdowns. It ranked as the 13th most total touchdowns in a season, a number which seems impressive on paper and is even more so the deeper you dig. That’s because looking at the list of players who have topped that number shows you that most were quarterbacks who were put in systems designed to put up points and tally touchdowns (think Sam Bradford or Colt Brennan). The only three “dual-threat” quarterbacks on this list are Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, and Jackson joined Tebow and Newton as the only players (as I can tell) to ever tally 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing scores in a season.

No one has come close to tallying those numbers twice in a career, and while only time will tell if he comes close this year, one thing is certain: We have never seen a quarterback quite like him in college football and we may never again.

No matter what side of the UK-UL rivalry you root for (or if you’re a fan of another school) please try to enjoy Lamar Jackson while you can.

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_TorresFacebook or e-mail at [email protected]. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

32 Comments for No matter how much you hate Louisville, try to enjoy Lamar Jackson while you can

  1. runningunnin.454
    8:16 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed Lamar last season….I love when Christmas comes early.

    • KYcats11
      8:18 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Hahaha 41-38!!!

    • Eazy
      8:36 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      I enjoyed his 0-3 finish to the season. Choke. Choke. Choke. Honestly though he is really good. Louisville just isn’t very good overall. They got exposed down the stretch. UL doesn’t have the talent to make a serious title run like Bama, OU, USC, PSU, etc.

    • Luether
      1:32 pm September 12, 2017 Permalink

      Lamar Jackson is Superman…

  2. KYcats11
    8:22 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    I’m sorry Aaron, your past few articles have been a delight to read about. But, one thing you must learn as a writer on this site, is to never give credit to Loserville. I, and many others can’t stand Loserville, their fans, or anything related to them. I will never watch Lamar or Loserville, unless they’re playing UK. 41-38 Go Cats.

    • Optional Facts
      8:24 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Homer he didn’t give credit to Loserville he said appreciate good football. Appreciate a great player despite the color jersey they wear. Step out of your blue bubble and enjoy the scenery.

    • KYcats11
      9:49 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Hey, optional facts, have fun losing to Clemson this saturday!

    • Eazy
      8:33 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      He’s good but I don’t think he deserved the Heisman. Louisville went 9-4 and were barely a top 25 team. Watson won the national title and beat Jackson head to head. This year it’ll be Mayfield. Louisville just doesn’t have a good enough team overall. UK has more talent across the board outside of Jackson. Booger was right about their lack of talent. And Petrino is the worst. He’s perfect for Louisville, though.

    • ukjaybrat
      8:56 am September 13, 2017 Permalink

      and the majority of his stats and eyepopping plays came whiloe running up the score against bad teams. any hint of talent on the opposing side of the field and louisville crumbled.

  3. luke_emberton
    8:25 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    I enjoyed him fumbling against Kentucky
    Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen are far better than him

    • Eazy
      8:30 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Agreed. Jackson is great but he won’t be a first round pick for a reason. Just look what happened at the end of last season when he went 0-3 down the stretch against non ACC competition. LSU embarrassed UL. We will see how he looks against a real team this weekend.

  4. Booby Petrino
    8:31 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    I’m with the others here, the only thing I enjoy is him fumbling against us. He’s not fun to watch. He’s cocky, and its fun to see when that bites him,but other than that, not fun. Plus he’s butt ugly, it’s hard to watch when they show his face.

    • KYcats11
      9:51 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Agreed^^^, plus font bother listening to his post game interviews, can’t understand a single word he says.

  5. Angelo
    8:31 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Great work Aaron!! Now I will record U of L games. The Uk UL animosity is human nature. Everyone hates their neighbor sadly. Every state hates the adjoining state. Also, every state hates the largest city in the state. It is tough for a Louisville native to become governor.

    • Eazy
      8:40 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Bevin is from Louisville actually. Louisville and Lexington are similar politically. Bevin is a republican, though. Both cities are mostly progressive. They are the only two counties who voted against Trump. Both have democrat mayors.

    • Eazy
      8:41 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      As for Jackson he is really good. Louisville just doesn’t have a great team. Their lack of an o line/run game and soft defense will catch up to them similar to last season.

    • Eazy
      8:46 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      And the animosity mostly comes from Louisville. I have lived in both cities and it’s not even close. It’s because we are the flagship school with the tradition. Similar to what you were saying. And a 34-16 record vs UL in basketball. Not to mention 15-14 in football. UL fans act like they are great in football but leave that fact out. UK is a much better school, too. It’s the big brother vs little brother thing. Everyone either loves or hates the top dog. For UK that extends nationally. For UL not so much. They are a laughable program for many reasons but nowhere near the hate for them due to success.

  6. Dy9astyIn2018
    8:36 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Aaron Torres must go!!! I’m kidding, but there’s no room for this kinda on this site

  7. dgtuk
    8:37 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Look he is a great player but he plays for a scum coach and at highly questionable program who is a fierce rival. There is nothing for me to like or admire about that. I don’t wish him any harm but I don’t wish him well unitl he gets to the pros. I didn’t admire Tim Tebow either but he too was a great player. Nothing for me to enjoy about Lamar except his fumble last year…..

    • Eazy
      8:48 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      Yep, Petrino is the dirtiest coach working for the dirtiest AD. Perfect fit in Louisville. Pitino and Petrino would be unemployed at any other power 5 school. It’s an embarrassment to them and their fans yet they don’t care. I love it.

  8. TakenNotGiven
    8:39 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Did you see Lamar do the Heisman?

  9. BigBlueBass
    8:41 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink


  10. DC_CatFan
    8:52 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Matt, I am all for you making lots of money on this site and enjoying the riches of bringing quality UK coverage that us UK fanatics crave, but I swear these pop up videos and never ending advertisements are bordering on inhumane fan treatment. I thought I would get used to it as the days went by, but man, I’m starting to think this must be what Chinese torture feels like. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, including U of L fans, (joking, Kim Jong Un and hurricanes are my worst enemy at the moment). At the rip old age of 34, I don’t think Im being an old crusty curmudgeon or a hater- I’m well aware that I don’t have to come here to get UK news, but I do kinda. So with that being said, if you could scale all the super annoying ads back just a hair or teach me how to use pop up blocker, so I can keep my sanity and continue being a well informed UK fan, that would be great!

    • Saul T. Nuts
      10:26 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

      I couldn’t agree more

  11. Eazy
    8:55 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Jackson had a great year on a mediocre team. They lost their last 3 games in embarrassing fashion. I think he’s good but am not buying the hype. Look what happened when a real defense had time to prep for him (LSU). He’s not even projected to be a first round pick. I admit he’s good but a 9-4 team doesn’t deserve to have a player win the Heisman. I agree UL lacks talent and defense which will ultimately be their downfall again. If he beats Clemson this weekend I think he’s got a chance to win the Heisman but I can’t see him winning it this time unless UL makes the playoffs and that’s highly unlikely.

  12. Tango98
    11:16 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Aaron, your next article should be titled “No matter how much you hate North Korea, try to enjoy Kim Jong Un while you can…..Welcome to KSR!

  13. Hereforbeer
    11:31 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink


  14. Hereforbeer
    11:32 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Vomit – just stop trying – I couldn’t read far

  15. 8xchamp
    11:40 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    He’ll be a flop at the next level, and I actively cheer against him.

  16. ClutchCargo
    11:45 pm September 11, 2017 Permalink

    Heisman poses right before a pivotal fumble are awesome. Yes, I enjoyed the hell out of that!

  17. chardun20
    2:08 am September 12, 2017 Permalink