Football falls to Louisville in opener

Photo courtesy of Tyler Parker Student Publications

Tech commissioned the start of the Brent Key era under the lights of Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Friday, Sept. 1 against the Louisville Cardinals. While Louisville had a better season than Tech last year, finishing 8-5 versus Tech’s 5-7, both teams had completely different roster makeups and brand new alumnus head coaches. Tech’s transfer portal haul was highlighted with new starting redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King from Texas A&M, redshirt junior wide receiver Chase Lane also from Texas A&M and junior running back Trey Cooley from Louisville. Ultimately, Key’s new coaching style along with his new additions were not enough to defeat a well-coached, resilient Louisville team. 

Tech received the opening kickoff, and King’s first series as a Jacket could not have started any worse as his pass on third down was tipped and picked by the Cardinals’ defensive line, giving Louisville a quick scoring opportunity. Louisville was held to a field goal by the Jackets, but Tech’s offense continued to stall on their following two possessions as well. Another short field goal on a subsequent possession made the Cardinals’ lead 6-0, but then the second quarter started. 

The second quarter was one of the most dominant offensive stretches against any football bowl subdivision (FBS) opponent in Tech history. The dominoes started to fall when King shoveled a screen pass to redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Haynes and he ran it 46 yards down the field. A couple plays later, King found Georgia transfer and redshirt junior tight end Brett Seither in the endzone for Tech’s first touchdown of the season. After a Louisville three and out on the next possession, the Jackets continued to pile on the points with a one yard touchdown run by Cooley, pushing the lead to 14-6. Following a touchdown from the Cardinal offense to make it 14-13, Tech received the ball again with about five minutes to go in the half. A long reception from Duquesne transfer and redshirt junior Abdul Janneh set up Cooley for a 23-yard touchdown run, his second touchdown against his former school, and made the score 21-13, but the Jackets were not finished. The Tech defense forced another three and out, and King was given one last chance to tack on points before half. It took a mere three plays for Lane to break one and take a screen pass 48 yards to the house, and after a successful PAT from junior placekicker Gavin Stewart, the lead was 28-13 heading into half. The Cardinals needed to make some serious defensive adjustments if they were going to get back into the game. 

Louisville received the second half kickoff and immediately began driving down the field, chewing over seven minutes off the clock. The Jackets forced the Cardinals to settle for a field goal. Tech’s next drive, however, was anything but time consuming as they punted after a quick three and out. Louisville got the ball back quickly and scored within minutes on a five yard throw from quarterback Jack Plummer to wide receiver Jamari Thrash to shrink Tech’s lead to 28-23. 

At the beginning of the 4th quarter, Tech’s lead remained five as they had the ball driving down the field. The Jackets’ offense got to the red zone but stalled, so Key sent out the field goal unit to try to lengthen the lead to eight, but Stewart’s 33 yard attempt sailed wide right, missing the uprights. Feeling this as a crucial turning point in the game, Louisville got the ball back and Plummer took them the length of the field, finding Thrash in the end zone for another touchdown. After a missed two-point conversion, the Cardinals’ lead was 29-28, their first lead since being up 6-0, but King and the Jackets were not going down without a fight. After some costly penalties from the Cardinals’ defense, Tech made it into field goal range with four minutes on the clock. On first and ten from Louisville’s 16 yard line, King dropped back, was blindsided and the ball shot out to be picked up by a Louisville lineman. The very next play was a 74 yard touchdown run by Cardinals’ running back Jawhar Jordan and the PAT made the game 36-28 in favor of Louisville with just 3 minutes to play. Tech needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion in order to tie and send the game to overtime, but that is not what ensued. Instead, Seither dropped a ball on fourth down that virtually clinched the game for Louisville. After a field goal made the Cardinal lead 39-28, the Jackets got the ball back and drove down the field to score a touchdown for the first and only time of the second half, making the final score 39-34 after a failed two point conversion.

Tech will be back in action vying for their first victory of the season Saturday, Sept. 9 against winless FCS opponent South Carolina State.