After all, he had Lamar Jackson on his side.
Jackson threw for three touchdowns and rushed for three more as No. 17 Louisville defeated North Carolina 47-35 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams at Kenan Stadium.
"We just try to stay focused," Jackson said of the game's twists and turns. "You've got to stay focused and have the ability to score touchdowns."
Jackson gained 132 yards on the ground and threw for 393 yards. His 525 yards of total offense marked the most ever allowed by North Carolina to one player.
"They were really trying to stop the run, so Lamar's patience I thought was really huge for us," Petrino said. "He made some great decisions, and what a great competitor. The great poise he shows and his maturity."
Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, scored the go-ahead points on a 3-yard run with 13:50 remaining. His two-point conversion pass was incomplete.
North Carolina reached the Louisville 29 but turned the ball over on downs. The Cardinals responded when Jackson hit Dez Fitzpatrick on a 30-yard touchdown pass on third down.
The Tar Heels' next possession ended at the Louisville 1.
The Cardinals took the ball 99 yards, with Jackson reaching into the end zone at the end of an 11-yard rush.
"I feel my teammates helped me," Jackson said of the team's big production. "They're showing it. It's not just me talking."
The Cardinals finished with 705 yards of total offense.
"It's kind of disheartening," Tar Heels linebacker Cayson Collins said. "It's on us as a defense."
Jackson, a junior, racked up his 33rd, 34th and 35th career rushing touchdowns, ranking third on Louisville's all-time list. He has 15 games of 100 or more yards rushing, tying a school record.
Louisville running back Malik Williams rushed for 149 yards on 13 carries.
The Cardinals converted nine of 15 third downs.
"It's pretty frustrating when you get that third downs and don't make the stop," North Carolina defensive end Malik Carney said. "We didn't do the best job."
Jackson's 43-yard touchdown run on the Cardinals' first possession of the second half pushed Louisville to a 27-14 lead.
North Carolina's Anthony Ratliff-Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
Brandon Harris threw 22 yards to Thomas Jackson for a play that enabled the Tar Heels to go up 28-27 with the extra-point kick at the 3:41 mark of the third quarter.
Through three quarters, Louisville dominated in total offense, 552-228 in yardage, despite trailing on the scoreboard.
"The first half, we didn't get the ball in the end zone like we wanted to," Petrino said. "We talked at halftime about coming out and putting it all together."
North Carolina quarterback Chazz Surratt, a redshirt freshman, made his first collegiate start. He didn't play in the second half because of an undisclosed ailment, with LSU transfer Brandon Harris, who started a week earlier in a loss to California, taking the snaps.
Surratt threw two touchdown tosses to tight end Brandon Fritts in the first half.
Surratt's first pass of the game went for 54 yards to Dazz Newsome, setting up a 1-yard flip to Fritts for the opening touchdown. The second one went for 5 yards.
But 10 seconds later, Louisville was back on top with Jackson's 75-yard strike to Jaylen Smith.
Jackson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Fitzpatrick to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive to regain the lead in the first quarter.
Louisville ended up with Blanton Creque's 37-yard field goal on the game's opening possession. He booted a 19-yarder early in the second quarter.
The Tar Heels dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2010.
There were no turnovers in the game.
NOTES: These teams hadn't met since 2012, and that was a nonconference matchup before Louisville joined the ACC. ... Louisville QB Lamar Jackson became the first reigning Heisman Trophy winner to face the Tar Heels since North Carolina met Ohio State with Archie Griffin in 1975. ... North Carolina TE Brandon Fritts, a junior, had one touchdown catch last year and then two in the first half Saturday. ... Louisville returns for two more games in the state of North Carolina this season with visits to North Carolina State and Wake Forest (and the Cardinals would like to return to the ACC championship game in Charlotte). ... North Carolina's men's basketball team received national championship rings during a halftime ceremony. ... Louisville takes on Clemson in a showdown next Saturday for its home opener. ... North Carolina plays its road opener next week at Old Dominion.