Introducing Lamar Jackson: Louisville's surprise starting quarterback
If there was anything more unexpected than Louisville's last-ditch comeback against Auburn, it was the quarterback who led it. Enter Lamar Jackson.
Sophomore Reggie Bonnafon appeared to be the obvious choice to start under center. Following suit were questions about Will Gardner's health and acknowledgements of Kyle Bolin's contributions last season. Jackson just seemed too young and too raw to be thrown in for consideration.
Then, Louisville played Auburn.
Jackson, to some surprise, was on the field for the first snap of the game for a trick play. He lined up with Bonnafon, now solidified as the starting quarterback. The ball was snapped to Jackson, and he threw for the first time in his college career. It was intercepted.
He returned to the sideline, leaving the position to Bonnafon.
Then, down 14-0 in the second quarter, Jackson re-entered the game, and his legend began. It was 24-0 before the offense settled in to finish out with a 31-24 loss. The quarterback whom no one could locate on the depth chart almost led a comeback against Auburn.
Who was this guy?
A Boynton Beach, Fla., native, Jackson is a dual-threat QB with keen instincts. He ran 16 times for 106 yards and a touchdown and neutralized Auburn's defensive pressure with his ability to escape the pocket. It was a sharp contrast to Bonnafon's first quarter, who looked indecisive.
Jackson wowed both sides of the crowd. In fact, there seemed to only be one person who was not impressed: Jackson, himself.
He did not buy into the praise. He noted that his passing game, in which he completed nine of 20 throws for 100 yards, needed improvement. After practice on Tuesday, he graded his performance as a "C."
Bobby Petrino, however, saw something above average.
He named Jackson as the starter against Houston on Saturday, which was received positively from fans. Persistent questions around the freshman populated message boards and campus hallways the days after the game.
"What if he played the whole game?"
"What if that first play wasn't intercepted?"
"How far can he throw a football, really?"
The latter, by the way, is a whopping 95 yards. Or so Jackson claims. Louisville fans wait patiently for Saturday, possibly to find answers to all their questions.
Haley O'Shaughnessy is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Louisville. Follow her on Twitter.