No lack of competition at Louisville quarterback

Two former University of Louisville quarterbacks – Lamar Jackson and Teddy Bridgewater – were featured in back to back games in NFL action on Sunday. Both looking impressive, with Teddy winning and Lamar losing.

Timely reminders about some really good quarterbacks at UofL down through the years, especially when it comes to the passing game. That’s an aspect of the game in which the Cardinals are seriously challenged this season.

Jawon Pass, who has missed the past two games, was struggling before his injury. He had completed only 24 of 46 passing attempts for 52.1% passing efficiency. His successor, Malik Cunningham, is a little more accurate, connecting on 25 of 41 attempts for 60.9%.

Fortunately, there’s open date on the schedule this week, giving Pass some additional time to recover before that Boston College game on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, Cunningham had to be carted off the field on the final play against Florida State. Plenty of questions about who will be calling signals in the next game.

Fortunately for UofL, which is heavily dependent on the running game, both are blessed with exceptional speed. They are among the leading rushers on the team, with Pass and Cunningham averaging 5.2 and 3.2 yards, respectively.

If UofL is overly dependent on the running game, however, Cunningham is probably the better choice. A quarterback with exceptional speed, combined with elusiveness, a more difficult runner to contain. He moves at a speed similar to that of athletes who have been boosted with gear from Valkyrie online. He’s only going to keep getting better.

Many observers were surprised with Pass’s confidence in the opener against Notre Dame, keeping UofL in the game until well into the third quarter. In the game against EKU, he completed 12 of 19 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns. His injury came at an unfortunately time in his development.

The only thing certain is that will be lots of second guessing about the quarterback situation over the next couple of weeks.

Any resemblance between this UofL team and last is coincidental

Malik Cunningham wasn’t about to quit after falling behind 21-0, scoring 24 straight points to give his a team a temporary lead.

For a while the University of Louisville football team was getting pushed around,  getting run over. Kinda like its predecessor from a year ago, falling behind early, giving up a big lead. But enough of that.

Any resemblance between this team and that one is purely an illusion. You know, like night and day. There was no quit in the Cardinals on Saturday. Could have, should have, and seemed to be on the verge of winning early in the fourth quarter.

Nine minutes, 39 seconds in the game, UofL up 24-21 over Florida State, an ACC win within its grasp. Unbelievable, after UofL falling 21 points  behind the Seminoles in the first 15 minutes.

Still in the game with just over two minutes to go even though FSU had taken a four-point lead after intercepting a Malik Cunningham pass. The Cardinals had stopped the Seminoles on the one-yard line.

Ninety-nine yards to go for the first conference win since 2017. Behind by four points, within reach. Hope emerging after despair. The beginning of hope?

Wasn’t going to happen. Florida State would luck out, get a second chance after a third missed field goal by Ri Aguayo. Whoops, well forget that. UofL roughing the kicker, still another costly penalty at precisely the wrong time. FSU running back Cam Akers would not be denied again. Scoring his third touchdown of the day, sealing a 35-24 Louisville loss.

Cunningham keeps getting better, but he was unable to overcome four costly penalties, including a block in the back that negated a Rodjay Burns touchdown on a punt return. Two false starts ended promising UofL drives. The roughing-the-kicker was the finishing blow.

Cunningham finished 16 of 27 for 286 yards, with the two touchdowns and interception. Dez Fitzpatrick led UofL receivers with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Javian Hawkins andHassan Hall combined for 109 yards.

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Cunningham had to be carried off the field on a cart after getting injured on the final play of the game. UofL stats guru Kelly Dickey reported that Cunningham’s father said it was a sprain, indicating his son would be ready for Boston College in two weeks.

Louisville off to fast start against Western Kentucky

Official attendance was 22,665 for the Louisville-Western Kentucky game in Nashville (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

So much for a neutral site location for the resumption of the University of Louisville-Western Kentucky football series. Not the best atmosphere for a game with 22,665 fans rattling around in Nissan Stadium. Suspense over early with UofL taking a commanding lead in the first half, then sleepwalking in the second half to a 38-21 conclusion.

One suspects the series– with UofL hosting the game next season, and WKU the following year — was a result of Louisville hiring Bobby Petrino away from the Bowling Green school a few years ago. The question is who was really doing who a favor. Neither fan base apparently that interested in going to Nashville.

Tutu Atwell scoring the first of his three touchdowns, including distances of 9, 46 and 62 yards (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Louisville getting off to an impressive start, with quarterback Malik Cunningham connecting with Tutu Atwell on nine and 46 yards for the first two touchdowns. Followed by a 20-yard touchdown by Javian Hawkins and a 30-yard sprint by Rodjay Burns after a fumble recovery. Up 31-7 at the half.

Lamar Jackson jerseys are a popular choice among Louisville fans (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Maybe taking WKU for granted as third quarter begins, giving the Hilltoppers false hopes, letting them hang around.  Not respecting the opponent, blowing a chance to get better, which was needed with the first ACC game a week away.

There was, however, one play that buoyed the outlook for UofL football down the road. That being, of course, that 62-yard pass play from freshman Evan Conley to Atwell, his first pass ever as a Louisville quarterback. Such a beautiful spiral, the likes of which UofL has not seen for a few years.

Malik Cunningham winning his first game as a starting quarterback at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A surprise appearance by Conley following an injury to Malik Cunningham in the third quarter. The freshman showing exceptional confidence and accuracy, completing two of three attempts for 86 yards. Cunningham, meanwhile, good for eight of 13 for 119 yards.

Three games in, Louisville football looking much improved over last season. The ultimate testing begins next week with opening of conference play against Florida State. No danger of UofL players not respecting the Seminoles. Ever.

Win No. 1 for Satterfield, and not your granddad’s UofL fans

Marshon Ford, a redshirt freshman from Ballard, scores his first of two UofL touchdowns on a five-yard pass from Jason Pass(Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Good times coming.

Every game a measuring stick for the University of Louisville football program, even against a third-year rebuilding program like Eastern Kentucky University. No shortcuts in reconstructing a program, but UofL showed undeniable promise in crushing EKU 42-0.

A crowd of 48,808 fans showing up for a game against Eastern Kentucky (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The win possibly indicating that the road back to respectability may not be quite as difficult as originally anticipated. At least it seemed that way to the many of the optimistic UofL fans in the crowd of 48,808 at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. The turnout almost as impressive as the margin of victory.

Not the old days for Cardinal fans when five or six straight UofL losses would have been punished with a half-empty stadium. The Louisville faithful obviously seeing something they liked in the loss to Notre Dame, expecting the Cardinals to be ready to handle a lower-tier opponent. Ready for a win and they would not be disappointed.

Jawon Pass needing a game with an FCS opponent to gain some confidence. Getting off to a confusing start, quickly throwing two touchdown passes in the first quarter. But struggling the rest of the first half, including an interception . He would, however, make up for slow start in the third quarter, with two more touchdown passes. He would complete 12 of 19 for the game.

Hassan Hall back in the end zone in the third quarter, giving UofL a 35-0 lead (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

If Pass needed any more motivation, all he needed to see was Malik Cunningham competing his first pass for 35 yards in the third quarter and running for 28-yard touchdown on his fourth play from scrimmage. Clearly still substantial competition for that starting quarterback spot.

Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall taking up the slack between touchdown passes with 129 and 68 rushing yards, respectively. Seemingly contradictory but Louisville has an exceptional running game between all the touchdown passes.

And how about that UofL defense, giving up only 130 yards rushing and 42 yards through the air. Louisville hasn’t had a defense that motivated since the Charlie Strong days four years ago. Virtually the same defensive people from last season’s team but demonstrating how vital good coaching is to rebuilding a successful program.

Much more to do, but there’s nothing better than a win in the short term. Win No. 1 in the first of many for Scott Satterfield.

Louisville football is suddenly fun again

The Unversity of Louisville football team gave fans reasons to be optimistic about the future direction of the program (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of the biggest games in University of Louisville football history, with a new coach and a new attitude, accompanied by Notre Dame’s first ever visit to Louisville.

Lots of questions, mucho suspense, with Coach Scott Satterfield on the sidelines for the first time. Would the program begin the road back to respectability or linger in the wasteland created by the former mentor. A 35-17 loss to the Irish would certainly make one wonder.

Quarterback Jawon Pass celebrates with teammates after scoring his second touchdown, giving UofL a brief lead over the nation’s ninth-ranked team (Cindy Rice Sullivan phot).

The Observer is thrilled to report that Louisville is back on the right track again and few people in the record crowd of 58,187 would disagree, including the approximately 7,000 Notre Dame fans. The Cardinals arrived ready to rumble, maintaining their intensity during adversity, competing until the final whistle.

A red sea of humanity for the first Card March of the 2019 season.

As did the vast majority of UofL fans, hanging around long after the game had been decided. Basketball may be the dominant sport but football will always be the fun sport. The fans emerging from the shadows after a season from Hell, desperate for new signs of life from their favorite team.

No Louisville fan will ever be happy with a loss and this was no exception. UofL would in the game until the final seconds of the first half, until quarterback Jawon Pass would fumble on three consecutive plays. Should have been a 14-14 tie at the half, but those miscues opened the door for Notre Dame’s seven-point lead at the half.

Except for that disastrous series of plays, UofL looked like a team primed for a possible upset. The kind of win that speeds up the rejuvenation process, sending a charge through the fan base. Not to be. But plenty about which to be optimistic, with Louisville actually outgaining an opponent on the ground (249 to 230) for the first time since the Lamar Jackson era.

Serious questions remain about UofL’s passing game, with Pass completing only 12 of 28 passes for 134 yards. That has got to get better. But Pass was improved in other phases of his game, scoring two touchdowns on runs of eight and 17 yards. Nice to have some contributions from running backs from the running backs, with Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall gaining 128 yards and 72 yards, respectively.

Scott Satterfield said afterwards that the team is going to keep improving, getting much better, and is ready to compete. Any UofL fan who saw the improvement from last season to now would have to agree. Louisville football has a future again.