Louisville football survived a second-half injury scare and rolled past Western Kentucky in a comfortable win.
The drama started a few hours before kickoff, as Louisville football starting quarterback Jawon Pass was ruled out with a turf toe. But once the Cards took the field, it was smooth sailing on Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Cards were going to look a little different on offense with Malik Cunningham at the helm. Vegas didn’t bat an eye at the QB change, the spread remained in between 10 & 10.5 despite the change at the most important position.
It was a scorcher at Nissan Stadium, with the heat index around 100, this was going to be a tough game to play in and if you made the trip, very tough to watch comfortably. But regardless of the blistering heat or the opposition, coach Satterfield had our guys ready to go.
WKU chose to receive to begin Saturday’s contest, but after only one first down was forced to punt to the Cardinals.
The major storyline of the first quarter was the Louisville defense, who kept the momentum from last weeks win over EKU to start the game. Louisville allowed fewer than 40 yards in the first quarter.
The first drive for the Louisville offense didn’t go as planned, miscommunication and sloppy play led to an immediate three and out. Malik looked a bit uncomfortable to say the least.
Things looked a little smoother the next time the Cards regained possession. The play calling from the UofL coaching staff was simple and brilliant today, they gave Malik exactly what he needed to take us down the field. A steady rushing attack capped off with a beautiful shovel pass to Tutu Atwell put the Cards in front 7-0. Standout freshman Marshon Ford had a key block on the edge to get Atwell into the end zone easily.
UofL allowed only 1 first down on the next drive before it was time to get down the field again. A gutsy call to go for it on 4th & 2 in Louisville territory sustained the drive, then Malik gave us what we’ve all been waiting for…. a beautiful, on the money 46 yard touchdown pass to a guy that just looked too fast today, Tutu Atwell.
This put the Cardinals up two touchdowns early in Nashville and with the way the defense had been playing, things felt like they may already be safe.
But as you know, things are never easy. The second play of the next Tops drive resulted in a 77-yard passing touchdown straight down the middle of the field. It was time to refocus.
The young Cardinals team did just that.
A key 23-yard reception from Marshon Ford on 3rd & 2 sparked another beautiful 1st half drive from the Cardinal offense. Star freshman running back Javian Hawkins capped it off with a 20-yard touchdown around the right side to put Louisville back up by 14.
The Louisville defense was the star of the first half, immediately forcing another Topper 3 & out. On the next drive, Hassan Hall gave us what could’ve been the picture of the day, on a 17-yard run ended with quite the hurdle.
Blanton Creque converted from 43 yards out to put UofL up by 17 with 1:30 left in half number 1. At this point in the game we had come to expect 3 & outs, but this time we got so much more.
As BRL’s Jacob Lane correctly predicted, Rodjay Burns scored a touchdown that was a huge key to putting the game out of reach. His 30-yard scoop and score made this game feel like it was over, as the Cardinals took a 31-7 lead into the locker room.
The second half started a lot like the first did: a little sloppy. A pitch play gone wrong resulted in WKU getting the ball deep in Louisville territory to start the 3rd quarter. The Tops made the most of it, scoring quickly to make it a 17 point contest.
Both offenses became stagnant at this point and both teams started to look a little less energetic than they were in the 1st quarter, which made sense given the weather. But with five minutes left in the 3rd, this game hadn’t run out of storylines.
Malik Cunningham took a hit resulting in the loss of his helmet, so this meant Evan Conley at QB for at least one play. As it turned out, Conley ended up running the show the rest of the way for the Cardinals.
Cunningham, thankfully, appears to be okay.
After Louisville’s Andrew Johnson recovered a huge WKU fumble to halt a drive that could’ve brought the game within two possessions, it was time to see more of Evan Conley.
This Cardinal offense wasted no time, Conley dialed up a 62-yard touchdown to Tutu Atwell to put this game out of reach. It was a great throw, a better route and maybe the best moment of this young season.
You’ve got to love it!
The Cardinal defense only allowed one more score, as Louisville went on to win the game comfortably, 38-21.
This 17 point victory brought Louisville to 2-1 overall and 3-0 against the spread in 2019.
This was without a doubt a must-win game for the Cards, a game they were supposed to win, they played like it. This team battle the adversity of quarterback uncertainty all week leading up to the game and quite literally the entire game. The Cardinal defense allowed only 43 rushing yards all game. The UofL running backs were effective as they always were, with Hassan Hall and Javian Hawkins combining for 148 yards rushing.
Tutu Atwell was the MVP today. There was never a moment where he didn’t feel like the best player on the field. He just needs to touch the ball more. He had 4 catches for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns, an unbelievable performance when we needed it most.
The Cards have to be feeling good at 2-1, but things only get tougher from here. We’ll see Louisville in Tallahassee a week from today against a struggling Florida St. team. Let’s see if they can keep this momentum going, despite major questions at QB.