Louisville owns Music City & Mississippi State

By Ed Peak

Coach Scott Satterfield and his coaching staff made football fun again this season, capping it off with another bowl win over an SEC team (Adam Creech photo, UofL Athletics).


The chant from the partisan University of Louisville football fans started low and continued to grow until it echoed throughout Nissan Stadium late in the fourth quarter. The Mississippi State faithful had already headed to Broadway to drown their sorrows.

Such a sweet victory for everyone associated with UofL, a football team needed to totally reinvent  itself after a 2-8 record from hell last season. Crawling back from humiliation and emptiness to an amazing 8-5 record and a bowl win. A team that lost 22 transfers in addition to its senior class.

The final score, making many UofL fans proudly take second, third and fourth looks at the scoreboard, was Louisville 38, Mississippi State 28. The first bowl victory for the Cards since Lamar Jackson and company defeated Texas A&M in 2015 at the same venue.

UofL seems to like Nashville. For the second time this season and third time in four years the Cardinals came away with a victory. None of those last minute heroics needed in this one. Louisville won in convincing fashion, with quarterback Micale Cunningham and the Cardinal offense nearly unstoppable.

The Bulldogs, favored by 4.5 points in the Music City Bowl, starting strong, building a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. From that point on, however, it was all Cardinals, scoring 31 straight points, including four touchdowns in the second half.

More than a little traumatic shortly after the kickoff, with UofL’s Dez Fitzpatrick fumbling the ball on the Mississippi State four-yard line after an eight-play, 96-yard march from its own three. Visions of the Kentucky loss looming in the minds of Cardinal fans. Only temporary, their fear would eventually be transformed into unbridled joy and pride.

A memorable day for fifth-year senior Dante Peete would score his first and only touchdown on a pass from Cunningham to give Louisville a 17-14 lead at 5:01 in the third quarter.

Then came the play that changed the game. Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens fumbled around his own 35. Senior Khane Pass playing in his final game scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 with 2:51 in the third quarter.

Cunningham was the game’s Most Valuable Player, completing 16 of 23 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns while running 16 times for 81 yards. Tutu Atwell finished with nine catches for 147 yards, making several highlight reel catches. Javian Hawkins carried 23 times for 105 yard and a touchdown. And how about that 33-yard touchdown pass from Tutu Atwell to Marshon Ford in the second quarter?

ACC Coach of the Year Scott Satterfield, who is 4-0 in post season play, was ecstatic. “These guys brought it every day, I’m so proud of them,” said Satterfield from the celebration stand. “All of these guys and you Card Nation. We’re going to burn up Nashville tonight, I’ll tell you that.”

Mekhi Becton will be missed at Music City Bowl

By Ed Peak

Some University of Louisville football fans won’t like my take. I’ll let you decide.

On Monday, junior offensive tackle and all Atlantic Coast Conference First-Team selection, Mekhi Becton has decided to forgo his final season and enter the National Football League draft.

“First of all, I want to thank the man above for giving me the physical opportunity to play this great game, without him I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I have in my career,” said Becton in a prepared release,
thanking his parents, coaches, fans and teammates “for an amazing year and helping me become one of the top linemen in the ACC.”

Mekhi Becton leaving one game too soon for many Cardinal fans.

This is the part some won’t like. Why not one more game? The bowl game. It’s meaningless in the overall scheme of things but I think players owe it to their teammates, coaches, fans and the school to finish their careers if they are healthy.

When UofL needed a first down, the runners went behind Becton. He protected the quarterback’s blind side. Watching Becton block was fun. I made it a point personally to watch him and saw him push defenders as much five yards down field. On several occasions.

The 6-foot-8, 370-pound Beckton will go down as one of the top offensive lineman ever at Louisville. He was selected as the ACC’s Blocking Trophy recipient, the first Cardinal ever. He had started 33 games and had 60 knockdown blocks to help the Cardinals finish 7-5 and 5-3 this season.
He helped the Cardinals rushing attack average 214.2 yards a game, third in the ACC and 32.7 points per game.

I respect Becton because I believe he is a quality person who worked hard and gave the university everything he had. Quarterback Lamar Jackson played his final game in the bowl two years ago. Jaire Alexander did not.

If millions of dollars are at stake, however, why not just take out insurance policies as some players have done. That probably wouldn’t be the best interests of the player agents, not benefiting their bank accounts.

Forgoing the team’s final game leaves a bad taste and lack of empathy for a team’s most faithful fans. That’s too bad because his teammates could use him in the Music City Bowl.

Still Mississippi State in the Music City

By Ed Peak

As a journalist one should never assume anything. Ask questions, check and double check facts. Pretty certain Louisville is playing Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl, December 30 at 4 p.m. (EST). That has been double checked.

Chris Mack is pretty sure Mississippi State will be opponent in the Music City Bowl (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville coach Scott Satterfield was a good 15 minutes into his media briefing Sunday before a reporter told him your playing the Mississippi State. “That doesn’t change anything,” said Satterfield.

Somebody was messing with the SEC bowl picture for sure. One possible suspect, Tennessee AD Phil Fulmer, has been known to change the status quo but he’s not talking about how UT suddenly wound up in the Gator Bowl instead of the Music City Bowl.

Louisville (7-5) and Mississippi State (6-6) are not post season strangers. In 2017, Mississippi State edged the Cardinals 31-27 in the Citrus Bowl. It was quarterback Lamar Jackson’s final game in a Louisville uniform.

  “We get 15 extra practices,” said Satterfield. “We’ll treat the first seven practices like spring ball. Work on fundamentals. Blocking and tackling. Then we’ll start putting in our game plan.”

Satterfield said other than a few bumps and bruises everyone on the roster should be available except Russ Yeast, who is out for an extended period of time after an injury against Syracuse.

Quarterback Micale Cunningham has an ankle problem but should be okay. “We’re excited about playing. Where this group came from winning no conference games to five and finishing second is truly incredible.”

Satterfield was on the road recruiting when he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year last week. “There were a lot of guys that did a great job, Dabo (Swinney) down at Clemson, undefeated two years in a row. Bronco (Mendenhall) at Virginia. All of my assistant coaches all the way down to the grad student coaches and, of course, the players.”

Kentucky favored by three points over UofL in unfriendly rivalry game

Photo by Mike DeZarn

By Ed Peak

No love lost between these two schools, and the outcome is always unpredictable.

I’ve been fortunate to cover the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry since it was renewed in 1994. Thank goodness for former coaches, Louisville’s Howard Schnellenberger and Kentucky’s Bill Curry and athletic directors Bill Olson and C.M. Newton.

Kentucky needed a boost in attendance to renovate Commonwealth Stadium to 65,000 seats in 1994.  Schnellenberger would play anyone, anywhere. He just wanted to play. Capacity at the renamed Kroger Field has since been reduced 60,000 seats.

The first several years the game was in Lexington because of the size of the fairgrounds stadium. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was christened in 1998 and first year coach John L. Smith was helpless as Tim Couch and the Wildcats trounced Louisville 68-34. It was a hot day in Louisville. Couch was hotter. He still holds the opponents stadium record for most passing yards in a game with 498. Gosh, he put on a show.

Continue reading “Kentucky favored by three points over UofL in unfriendly rivalry game”

Micale Cunningham just keeps on getting better

No one was going to catch Tutu Atwell on this 90-yard touchdown pass from Micale Cunningham in the second quarter. All the scoring kept the Cardinal Bird and the National Guard busy with all those pushups celebrating another phenomenal offensive performance (Photos by Mike DeZarn).
Micale Cunningham (3) and Marshon Ford combine for UofL’s first touchdown just over four minutes after the opening kickoff (Mike DeZarn photo).

Micale Cunningham’s on the job training is coming along just fine, thank you. The University of Louisville quarterback is becoming quite comfortable throwing the football to complement his running game. Keeping opposing defenses guessing, what’s coming next.

The redshirt sophomore just keeps getting better, throwing for five touchdowns and rushing for still another in Louisville’s 56-34 win over Syracuse in the team’s final home game at Cardinal Stadium. In a span of 11 games, he has evolved from a backup quarterback to making the position look easy.

His best pass play on Saturday one of marvelous missiles catching Tutu Atwell in full stride for a 90-yard touchdown. He would get UofL in the end zone on a seven-yard pass to Marshon Ford, a 29-yarder to Seth Dawkins, a 28-yarder to Jordan Davis,  and a 14-yarder to Atwell. 

Making much of his possible was Cunningham’s freshman teammate Javian Hawkins, having the best game of his college career. The Louisville freshman rushed for an incredible 236 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. Averaging over 10 yards per carry to surpass the freshman record posted by Victor Anderson.

Another one of those games that could have been decided in the final seconds. The UofL offense was good for a total of 608 yards, including 370 on the ground. They would need every single yard because Syracuse was accumulating a total of 561 yards, including 261 yards rushing.

The much-maligned UofL defense deserves much credit for avoiding the last minute drama. The Orange posed a serious threat in the final two minutes, starting a first-and-goal on UofL’s three-yard line. Six plays later they would give the football back to Louisville on the 18-yard line. 

Never a dull moment for UofL football. 

Gallery courtesy of Mike DeZarn: