|No. 16 Louisville to unleash a 'better' Lamar Jackson|
INDIANAPOLIS -- Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to begin to answer the question of what he can do for an encore.
Jackson passed for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns last year while also running wild in a 9-4 season in which he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. He is better than ever, according to Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino, heading into No. 16 Louisville's season opener against Purdue.
"He is better at everything," Petrino said.
"He trusts what he sees. He really understands what we want to do. He has done a good job with his sets, his transfers and his footwork. His feel for the game is better. He trusts his knowledge. He has had good scrimmages, and his decisions are quicker and better."
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, a Petrino protege, will try to find a way to contain Jackson when the teams meet Saturday night in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
Brohm, whose team is a 26-point underdog, admires everything about the 2016 Heisman winner, who ran for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
"Whether we can contain him at the line of scrimmage is really going to decide whether we have a chance to win or not," said Brohm, who was a Louisville quarterback and then an assistant coach with the Cardinals from 2003-2008.
"Lamar is an unbelievable talent, a guy that can change the outcome of a game in one play. He has gotten better as a quarterback, but where he really is a danger is with his feet."
Brohm, who took the Purdue job in December after compiling a 30-10 record in three seasons at Western Kentucky, may have to wait until kickoff to determine if his quarterback, David Blough, can lead the Boilermaker offense.
Blough, the reigning Big Ten passing leader, suffered a strained right shoulder during an August 12 scrimmage. He returned to practice Sunday. Brohm and his coaching staff will evaluate Blough's ability to pass without pain before making a decision.
If Blough is not ready, sophomore Elijah Sindelar, who completed 14 of 32 passes for 165 yards and three interceptions in limited 2016 action, will be the Purdue starter. Blough last season completed 295 of 517 passes for 3,352 yards, with 25 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
"David was having a great camp," Brohm said. "Unfortunately, David missed two weeks after the injury, but he looked good Sunday. In the meantime, Elijah has practiced well. We feel very good about both guys."
While Blough hated missing two weeks of fall camp, he understood the reasons to hold him out of practices.
"That's why you have to be cautious with it," Blough said. "It sucks. It's very unfortunate, especially at this time of year, but better now than Week 3 or 4. ... We do have a little bit of time, and that's the encouraging thing.
"At first, we thought it was a serious thing and that it could threaten something. But I started rehabbing and getting back and trying to get some range of motion back. You get a little bit more encouraged. You get good MRI results, and your spirits are lifted. It changes the whole mindset of a potentially season-ending injury to just a couple of weeks."
Petrino said he is thrilled that Brohm landed a Power 5 conference coaching position and is confident his former assistant will turn around a Purdue program that went 9-39 the past four seasons with only three victories in Big Ten conference play.
"I am excited for Jeff," Petrino said. "But he is the enemy now. When I went to Western Kentucky, Jeff and I talked and he said that he was ready to be a head coach. I knew then he had the desire to work nights, recruit and do all the things it takes to win."
While Brohm's debut is an intriguing storyline, the real spotlight will be on Jackson.
"We need to give him different looks," Brohm said. "You have to make sure you don't rush past the quarterback in a passing situation. ... Your eyes always have to be on him. And while you want to take away the dive some, you've got to make sure that that quarterback cannot run wild."
This will be only the second meeting between Louisville and Purdue. The Cardinals and Boilermakers played to a 22-22 tie on Sept. 19, 1987, in the Boilermakers' Ross-Ade Stadium.