Though not confirmed officially, Louisville football quarterback Jawon Pass has been rumored to be dealing with a foot injury. What does the Cards’ offense look like without their starting quarterback?
One of the greatest concerns around Louisville football this offseason was depth.
Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield consistently had high praise for his team’s first-string players saying that they could compete with anyone in the country. However, it is the team’s lack of depth in key areas that is most concerning.
Through two games, the Cards have made it out relatively healthy. But according to multiple reports, there is at least some truth to rumors that the Cards’ starting quarterback, Jawon “Puma” Pass has been nursing an injury this week.
According to Mark Ennis of 93.9 The Ville, we can now say with confidence that something is going on behind the scenes with Pass, but the extent of his injury is unspecified.
It is certainly possible that Pass could be banged up but play through injury during Louisville’s road match-up with Western Kentucky in Nashville. But what if he can’t go?
If Pass is out on Saturday, the Cards’ back-up Malik Cunningham is waiting in the wings to grab some more reps.
Cunningham, who played in every game in 2018 and started the Cardinals final two contests, was right in the thick of things with Pass over the offseason, but a knee injury early in fall camp put him out of contact drills for a couple of weeks.
Since then, Cunningham has recovered and is near 100 percent. He took over for Pass after Louisville pushed their last game against Eastern Kentucky out of reach in the fourth quarter, and picked up right where he left off in 2018.
Cunningham’s one pass attempt was a long completion to Justin Marshall along the sideline for a 24-yard gain, and then he took over on the ground, rushing four times for 74 yards and a touchdown while bleeding out the game clock.
Most walked away impressed by Cunningham’s performance, and many pondered how effective Louisville’s offense could be with the sophomore behind center.
So, if Pass is a no-go, what will the Cardinals offense look like without him?
Here are three things you can expect with a Cunningham-led offense under Satterfield and offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford.
A run-focused offense
It’s already a given that the Cards are going to run the ball.
Satterfield is a huge proponent of the ground game, and he loves to get his running backs heavily involved regardless of the opponent or situation.
Louisville has an excellent one-two punch with Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall, a duo that is on pace to combine for more than 2,000 yards on the ground. They will not go away from that regardless of the quarterback situation.
Speed, speed, speed
When you add in Cunningham, you get a quarterback that values accuracy over the long ball. Under the previous staff, Cunningham was rarely asked to take deep shots.
However, with Cunningham, the opponent will have to prepare for another player who has blazing speed and excellent vision.
In just two drives, one of which was shortened by the end of the game, Cunningham ran the ball four times, accounting for two runs of 38 and 32 yards. His quickness and burst getting to the edge made him virtually untouchable.
Last season, Cunningham became adept to this running style. In a season without many positives to take away, and in only two starts, Cunningham led the Cardinals in rushing yards with 497 and an impressive 6.3 yards per carry.
That’s what he brings to the table for a Louisville offense that is already lethal on the ground.
A heavy dose of Tutu Atwell and Marshon Ford
We’ve already seen Atwell, the shifty receiver with blazing speed, absolutely burn the defenses of his last two opponents, and he will be heavily used again if Cunningham is the man behind center.
Atwell brings surehandedness and versatility to the table for an offense that will likely look to get the ball out of Cunningham’s hands quickly on passing plays.
Ford, a walk-on turned starter this season, has been a massive surprise thus far and could be a huge asset out of the backfield as an H-back.
Additionally, the Cards will see the return of Jordan Davis, the expected starter coming into the season, who is returning from a two-game suspension. Davis is likely to assume the starting tight end role and brings a lot of experience to the table. Between Ford and Davis, the Cards can be the aggressors in the short-yardage passing game.
Though losing Jawon Pass would be tough for Lousiville’s psyche and depth, replacing Pass with Cunningham is not a bad deal.
Should Cunningham get the start, the Cards are facing an interesting opponent. For a line-up that is likely to run it 40 plus times, Western Kentucky is not a team that they want to face.
The Hilltoppers have been stingy on the ground thus far, only allowing 85.5 rushing yards per game. Though their weakness is in the passing game, Louisville is likely to try to establish the run early in hopes of opening things up even more as the game progresses.