LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Isaac Guerendo had already shown flashes of his speed – flash being the operative word – stoking curiosity about what he could do with added responsibility.
The answer was a career rushing performance that earned No. 15 Louisville another impressive victory.
Guerendo rushed for career highs of 146 yards and three touchdowns, Jawhar Jordan and Jadon Thompson also scored and No. 15 Louisville shut down Virginia Tech in a 34-3 rout Saturday.
The showdown for second place steadily became a rout as the Cardinals (8-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 13 CFP) moved closer toward a berth in the conference championship in their first season under Jeff Brohm. Their relentless defense didn't allow a touchdown for the second consecutive week and held the Hokies (4-5, 3-2) to just 140 yards overall, creating chances that Guerendo quickly turned into scores.
The Wisconsin graduate transfer rushed for TDs of 39, 12 and 36 yards among 11 carries that included explosive runs of 27 and 20 yards. Guerendo shot through big hole s each time, twice leapt over diving defenders on the way to the end zone and went airborne on one TD to key Louisville's run-based attack that totaled 231 of its 382 yards. A holding penalty nullified his 60-yard touchdown run that could have put it out of reach early, though he took care of that after halftime.
Considering Jordan was a game-time decision because of a nagging hamstring injury while receiver Jamari Thrash and cornerback Jarvis Brownlee sat out with injuries, the Cardinals needed everybody to fill voids.
“We had two key players out, and we were able to still get the job done," said Guerendo, who topped his previous career best of 114 yards on 12 carries against Maryland nearly a year ago. "So, I think that just goes to show we have a deep team. We have other players that can make plays.”
Brohm added, “You don’t want to tell the other team too much what’s going on because there was some pivotal positions. So we tried to get them ready as fast as we could which really just meant rehabbing them and they didn’t really practice."
Jordan rushed for the Cardinals' first TD from 1 yard on the way to finishing with 57 on 14 attempts. Thompson scored on a 37-yard reception to make it 21-3 midway through the third quarter as he hauled in a pinpoint throw from Jack Plummer across the middle, shook two defender who collided and was gone. It was the first Louisville TD for the junior Cincinnati transfer, who was among several Cardinals players that helped right a flipped vehicle after a Sept. 21 accident just outside their L&N Stadium home field.
John Love's 44-yard field goal as the first half ended got Tech on the scoreboard but there was little else against a Cardinals defense that entered the contest as the ACC's second best (303.4) with the Hokies next (316.0).
Three of the Hokies' first five possessions totaled negative yardage.
Louisville established its presence quickly, sacking mobile Tech quarterback Kyron Drones for a 10-yard loss on the first snap and dropped him three more times before he was pulled in the fourth quarter. He was 12 of 21 for just 69 yards and was intercepted once.
“Obviously very disappointed, not only with the score but the way we played," Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry said. "We are a better football team. They just played harder and more confident. We couldn’t run the ball and got behind the sticks.”
Louisville’s 140 yards allowed marked a season low and the fifth consecutive game for the Cardinals defense held an opponent below 300. The run includes yielding just 201 at North Carolina State and 202 last week against Duke. Their lone loss came at Pitt, which gained 288 and struck a nerve with players.
“We basically looked each other in the eyes and said that’s never going to happen again," safety Cam'Ron Kelly said. "When coach (defensive coordinator Ron) English came into this room, we had that talk, and everybody bought back in. We learned from that. Sometimes things have to get ugly before it gets beautiful, and it’s going to get real beautiful, too.”
Louisville stays in the Top 15 rankings and could gain a spot after a dominant win.
Virginia Tech: After exceeding 30 points in consecutive wins during a 3-1 stretch, the Hokies were denied in every phase by the Cardinals.
Louisville: A week after holding Duke to just 202 yards, the Cardinals clamped down harder and nastier on the Hokies. Besides harassing Drones, their special teams leveled returners several times and the offensive line allowed just one sack to a defense that posted 15 over the previous two contests.
Virginia Tech visits Boston College on Saturday.
Louisville hosts Virginia on Thursday in its fourth mid-week game this season.
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