LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) James Quick made the most of being an injured bystander, a learning experience that has helped the Louisville receiver thrive since his return to the lineup.
Sidelined for two-plus games after hurting his ankle in the opener against Auburn, the Cardinals junior viewed more game film and made mental notes of his younger replacements' movements. Both tasks were helpful but also difficult for Quick, who watched Louisville begin 0-3 for the first time since 1984.
Quick said the extra study during his absence made him smarter and hungrier, which ultimately he hopes will make the Cardinals (2-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) better.
He's coming off a career-best three touchdowns and 130 yards on five catches last week at No. 9 Florida State and enters Saturday's game against Boston College (3-4, 0-4 ACC) second on the team with 16 catches for team highs of 271 yards and four TDs. Quick has 12 receptions for 243 yards and all of his scores in the past three games.
''Just playing in a whole series before I actually scored my first touchdown, I felt good,'' said Quick, who had a 36-yard TD against Samford. ''I'm running and cutting a lot faster and a lot better. I've just had to get better day by day.''
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is hopeful Quick's presence can help the Cardinals' offense take flight as they seek a sixth straight bowl bid.
One bright spot during Quick's absence was the development of youngsters such as freshmen Jaylen Smith (252 yards), Traveon Samuel (136) and tight end Micky Crum (161, 2 TDs), as well as sophomore transfer Ja'Quay Savage (135, TD).
Quick has returned to gain yards and make big plays, catching TD passes of 18, 19 and 39 yards against the Seminoles. That game was the third career 100-yard effort, none of which surprised a coach who saw Quick fill a huge void last season while star receiver DeVante Parker missed the first seven games with a foot injury.
Quick ''got off to a really good start this year, came back from injury and actually came back quicker than I thought he would,'' Petrino said. ''He is a guy that is really explosive and really into the game. He plays extremely hard, was competing extremely hard out there and came up with some really good plays for us.''
Now healthy, Quick's mission is continuing to be the deep threat as expected while providing leadership for a young receiving corps.
If nothing else, arriving before sunrise to watch game film has allowed Quick to recognize defenses better and separate from defenders. There wasn't a Seminole within five yards on his first TD pass, which came one play after he was all alone downfield for 48-yarder cut short when the Louisville native tripped on the turf.
''I've become a student of the game,'' Quick said of his approach. ''Not being able to practice, it was a humbling experience and I had to study the game instead of just being a player. That really helped.''
Just in time to help the Cardinals try and turn things around.