Louisville football picks up a bounce back victory in a scoring explosion.
For years it has felt like every time Louisville football gets solid momentum or something going in their favor, an opponent has their “get right game.”
In those games, Louisville has become the victim of a player, specific position group, or a general facet of the game going in the complete opposite direction, resulting in a Murphy’s Law type of “if it can go wrong it will go wrong.”
So you can bet I took a ton of pride in watching Louisville absolutely destroy Florida State in Cardinal Stadium, snapping a two game skid against their new ACC rivals.
It was even better to see that happen with the big play, an element of the Louisville offense that has been missing throughout the early portion of the season. The tone was set early on as dynamic trio of Malik Cunningham, Javian Hawkins, and Tutu Atwell were able to get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, putting the ball in the end zone on four straight possessions in the first half.
While points were going up fast, the Louisville defense once again stepped up to the plate and did everything to keep points off the board, including forcing one of those elusive interceptions.
From start to finish it was a nearly flawless performance and now there’s hope that the momentum can help carry the Cards onward through the remaining portion of their schedule.
Before getting to Virginia Tech, let’s take a closer look at Louisville’s performance.
Offense – A+
Almost every single detail went in the way of the Cardinals on Saturday in their season-high 48 point explosion against Florida State. While the Seminoles defense is by no means a Goliath type, the roster is filled with guys who have the talent to play on Sunday’s and they were coming off of a big time performance in an upset of no. 5 North Carolina. I expected them to play a little better than they did, but hey I won’t complain.
Their poor performance resulted in Louisville putting up season-high numbers across the board, as they totaled 569 yards of total offense, with Malik Cunningham throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns while Javian Hawkins ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns.
Louisville’s offense was aggressive coming out of the gate, mixing up the play calling all around moving away from the traditional and rather “vanilla” play calling we’ve seen recently. It was little things that made all the difference as not only did Louisville execute far better on first down but they connected on passes down the field, something that’s been fleeting this season.
The big play finally returned as the Cards picked up gains of 70, 66(x2), 42, 41, 35, 23, and 20 yards through the game, including a 70-yard run for Hawkins, a 66-yard TD catch for Tutu Atwell, and a 42-yard pass and run to Marshon Ford that 100 percent was a touchdown (although it was reversed).
You have to give credit to Scott Satterfield for being willing to re-evaluate play calling and doing what he could to get the ball in his playmakers hands. On the field it was an all-around team effort as the offensive line played extremely well (one sack allowed), the running back’s ran well, and Cunningham was able to connect with his talented pass catchers over-and-over again.
If this offense shows up every week Louisville shouldn’t be outscored again this season.
Defense – A
It feels weird to give the Louisville football defense such a high grade, but for the second week in a row they balled out.
We joked after last week that Louisville told on themselves with their performance against Notre Dame, holding a pretty high-powered offense to only 12 points though coming in a five point loss. It was easily the best defensive performance in the Bryan Brown era and maybe the best overall since the Cards held Syracuse to 10 points back in 2017.
Any one can play well for one week but could Louisville string together multiple games of playing at a high-level defensively? That’s the question we all had for the defense entering FSU, and it was a question the defense clearly had an answer for.
Yes, they could put together an encore performance and they did, holding FSU to 16 points while forcing two turnovers including their first interception since week two of the season.
Much like last weekend, Louisville was disciplined in their assignments not allowing the crippling big plays that have cost them so many times before. Though they gave 406 yards of offense to the Seminoles, most of which came on the ground, Brown’s defense kept everything in front of them, made tackles in space, and created “havoc” all over the field.
Third downs weren’t an issue as Louisville went was able to hold Florida State to 7/18 on third downs, as well as 1/5 on fourth downs, forced two turnovers, and did everything possible in the secondary from letting big passing plays beat them.
The A could’ve easily been a B+ or B because of the number of running plays they gave up to Jordan Travis and the three-headed rotation of Lawrance Toafili, Jashaun Corbin, and La’Damian Webb. But when an opportunity to get off the field was present or Florida State started to get momentum, the defense stepped up and made the plays that counted.
Also, I have no hard feelings for players who decide Louisville isn’t the best place for them, whether that be in the form of a transfer or recruiting decommitment. But I must admit I found a little satisfaction in the irony of Chubba Purdy’s 0/9 performance in relief of Jordan Travis. Maybe that’s wrong of me, but in the words of Michael Scott “You can’t put words back in your mouth.”
Special teams – C
I’ve 100 percent written more about special teams in the first six weeks of the 2020 season for Louisville football than I have in any other season I’ve covered the program combined.
The problems that Louisville has had haven’t been as glaring as they were in the week one win over Western Kentucky but they have been persistent and a nuisance to other areas of the team, field position being the biggest.
Leading up to the Louisville game, FSU had already blocked a total of five kicks (punts/FGs) and made countless other plays on special teams that caused me a lot of worry. I’ve written “just don’t beat yourself with special teams mistakes” already this season and that sentiment remained true heading into the weekend.
Things weren’t “awful” but still Louisville didn’t play well here, at least in my opinion. It’s not so much that they made bad plays/decisions, but it’s the fact that they aren’t doing anything to influence the game positively.
There was a muffed fair catch late in the game, that ultimately didn’t matter but was frustrating to see, and a blocked field goal attempt from James Turner before halftime that kept Louisville from more points.
In a win these issues don’t matter to the average fan nearly as much, but should this game had been closer those plays easily could’ve shifted the outcome in the other direction.