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DeVante Parker's Return Sparks Louisville's Offense at Critical Point of Season

Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino

Despite the return of coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville’s offense wasn’t incredibly prolific in the first half of the season. While the Cardinals weren’t meeting lofty preseason expectations for the offense, it’s easy to understand why this unit was averaging only 5.0 yards per play and ranked eighth in the ACC in scoring offense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is taking snaps for the Minnesota Vikings, and the offensive line struggled mightily through the first half of the year.

But in Saturday’s win over NC State, Louisville’s offense got a spark from the return of receiver DeVante Parker.

The senior was regarded as one of the top receivers in the ACC this preseason but was sidelined by a foot injury through the first seven weeks.

Parker made his debut against the Wolfpack and caught nine passes for 132 yards (14.7 ypc), which places the senior fifth on the team after eight games in receptions (nine).

With Parker back in the lineup, Louisville averaged 5.4 yards per play, which was its highest total in an ACC contest this year.

The Cardinals also scored 30 points – one off their top mark of 2014 in ACC games (31).

Quarterback Will Gardner also responded with one of his better performances of 2014, completing 21 of 36 passes for 203 yards and two scores. Gardner’s 203 passing yards ranked just three yards behind his season best mark of 206 (Miami).

A struggling NC State defense certainly has something to do with Louisville’s offensive improvement, but it’s a notable improvement for a team that is still a work in progress in Petrino’s first year.

Now, the Cardinals have a bye before taking on Florida State on Thursday, Oct. 30.

After taking on the Seminoles, Louisville plays at Boston College and Notre Dame and ends the season against Kentucky.

The offense is still developing for Petrino but getting Parker for the final four games is a huge positive and should help Gardner’s performance.

With a defense holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per play, Louisville needs more from its offense to have a shot at beating Florida State and Notre Dame.

With Parker back in the lineup, the Cardinals have one of the nation’s top 10-15 receivers in the mix, giving the offense another weapon to a unit that already features running backs Michael Dyer (238 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Radcliff (5.2 ypc).

Louisville is set to embark on arguably its toughest stretch of the season. But the Cardinals now have a No. 1 receiver to pair with improving quarterback Will Gardner. Assuming the defense continues to perform at a high level, the offensive improvement – at a critical time – will be enough for Louisville to potentially play spoiler against Florida State or Notre Dame.

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