LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Lamar Jackson broke a school single-season record with four first-half touchdowns, Louisville had three interceptions and the seventh-ranked Cardinals burst past North Carolina State 54-13 on Saturday.
Jackson passed for three touchdowns and ran for a 36-yard score on the opening drive, giving him 34 TDs with five games to play. He passed Dave Ragone and Brian Brohm, who each had 33.
Jackson, the sophomore quarterback and a Heisman frontrunner, had 359 of his 431 yards on offense by halftime.
Jeremy Smith ran for a pair of 1-yard TDs for Louisville (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which reclaimed its high-scoring ways a week after managing a season-low 24 points against Duke.
Jaylen Smith had a 74-yard TD reception, tight end Cole Hikutini added a 3-yard score and Jamari Staples a 16-yard catch for the Cardinals. Blanton Creque had four field goals and six conversions to set a single-game school scoring record for a kicker with 18 points.
Whatever hope North Carolina State (4-3, 1-2 ACC) had of slowing the Cardinals and Jackson was quashed after kickoff.
Jackson completed his first three passes for 36 yards before running another 36 on the left side for his first TD just as 55,218 were settling into their seats on homecoming. After Blanton Creque’s 37-yard field goal made it 10-0, Jackson hit Jaylen Smith in stride down the middle and the receiver took off for the longest TD for him and the QB, who wasn’t done making big plays.
Jackson’s 67-yard pass to Hikutini – who finished with a career-best 118 yards receiving on six catches – set up Jeremy Smith’s first touchdown run. Hikutini’s TD catch capped the next drive and Staples grabbed his first scoring pass of the season. Louisville outgained the Wolfpack 553-250.
All this against an N.C. State defense that last week forced four turnovers and returned an interception for a TD at then-No. 3 Clemson before falling in overtime. The Wolfpack managed two third-quarter touchdowns to avoid a shutout, but not the rout.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack’s upset quest after last week’s game slipped away at Clemson never got started. They were outgained 244 to minus-1 after one quarter before finishing with their second-lowest yardage this season.
Louisville: Other than a scoreless third quarter, Jackson and the Cardinals clicked on all phases in their most emphatic win since destroying Florida State. Jackson’s TD passes to Jaylen Smith and Staples might have been his best, along with his run that got his day started. The Cardinals became bowl eligible for the seventh straight season.
Louisville’s latest rout could boost its position and grab the attention of the playoff committee with the initial rankings just a couple of weeks away.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack host Boston College next Saturday.
Louisville: The Cardinals visit Virginia next Saturday.