It was a game that took both fan bases on a wild roller coaster ride. Louisville trailed 21-0 and looked like they were going to be routed, but gathered their wits and mounted a 24-0 run of their own to take a 24-21 lead. Florida State’s fan base went through another devastating blown lead, but saw their Seminoles score two late touchdowns to come out with a 35-24 win.
To evaluate that, and everything else in between, we’re here for the review of the game.
The Report Card
The Louisville Front Seven v. FSU Offensive Line: C+
Florida State’s offensive line had the advantage on Louisville in the first and fourth quarters. It was a part of why the Seminoles marched to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter, and why Florida State was able to score its two late touchdowns to thwart Louisville’s comeback.
But in between, Louisville’s front seven was able to sell out for the run and be effective. Cam Akers was held to a season-low 3.9 yards per carry, and Louisville’s front seven was especially effective in disrupting the passing game in the early part of the second half.
Tamorrion Terry v. Louisville Secondary: B
Tamorrion Terry came into the game as one of the top receivers in the ACC through three games, averaging 16.7 yards per catch and leading the team in receptions (14) and yards (234). Terry was held in check throughout most of the game, but scored a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown after Louisville sent the corner on a blitz. With no safety help overtop, Terry was wide open on the sideline and sprinted into the endzone untouched.
What Can Louisville Get Out of the QB Position?: B-
Louisville got career highs from starter Malik Cunningham for the second week in a row, with 286 passing yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
But Cunningham missed on some throws, and at times bailed on the pocket instead of looking through his progressions. The interception was a backbreaker for Louisville, as it led to Florida State taking all the momentum and scoring the final two touchdowns in the game.
Having said all that, Cunningham settled down and delivered strikes in the second half.. The long touchdown throw to Dez Fitzpatrick was hands down the biggest throw he’s made so far in his career, and Fitzpatrick was the biggest factor in his performance.
With a 2-2 record, it looks like the two areas of concern for the team will be at quarterback, and in the secondary.
As many have probably seen, quarterback Malik Cunningham was carted off the field with an injury after the final play of the game.
Malik Cunningham is leaving the field on a cart. pic.twitter.com/kQcdboZN8f
— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) September 21, 2019
We don’t know the severity of his injury as of this post, but for Louisville’s sake, hopefully it’s not season-ending. One thing in Louisville’s favor is they have a bye week before returning to play in two weeks, so that will allow both Cunningham (maybe) and Jawon Pass to get some rest.
Why is quarterback play going to be important? Because when Louisville’s running game can’t get going, as it did for the most part today, they will need the passing game to pick up the slack. And they struggled for a while in the first half, but found their bearings towards the end of it. The second half showed a lot more from Cunningham, but the interception was a backbreaker for the Cardinals.
As for the secondary, it will be an area to watch in October and possibly November. The Cardinals allowed 382 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Florida State’s quarterbacks seemingly finding open receivers at will. Through four games, Louisville also has zero interceptions. That’s not a good stat to have, as Louisville gears up to play Jamie Newman (Wake Forest), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), and Bryce Perkins (Virginia), three of the better quarterbacks in the ACC. Louisville does get three home games that month and hosts Clemson and Virginia later in October, but those two games remain the toughest left on Louisville’s schedule.
The running game wasn’t as great as it had been in the first three games, but I think it will be more of an aberration than the norm. Louisville should be able to return to form when they return from the bye week.
That leads me into talking about the positives of the game. First, Louisville coming back from 21 down to take the lead. That was probably the most cathartic comeback Cards fans have had in a long time. This, along with the two touchdowns Louisville had after allowing the opening score to Notre Dame in the season opener, show that this team has a far better mental approach than last year. I doubt Louisville will go down by 21 to a team in their tier again, but that resolve goes a long way towards winning games down the road.
The offense also got a huge boost from Dez Fitzpatrick, who recorded his first 100-yard game since October 2017 against the Seminoles. He led the team with 133 receiving yards and seven catches. It’s great for Louisville to have somebody besides TuTu Atwell get opportunities in the passing game, because we know that the wide receiver group has a lot of playmakers. If Louisville can get more of its receivers involved in the offense, the potential for this offense goes way up.
The front seven has been productive this year, tallying 11 sacks and tying last season’s total. They also held the Florida State running game to 3.4 yards per carry, which is a season-low for the Seminoles. The defense as a whole took some lumps today, but overall it was a good enough performance by them to make it competitive.
In conclusion, the bye week at the end of the month is huge for Louisville. With both Pass and Cunningham injured, hopefully both can come back healthy for their October run. Louisville’s got a tough month ahead with two top-20 teams, and possibly going to face an undefeated Wake Forest team if they can get past Boston College next week. If chalk holds for me, Louisville might be on the outside looking in, in terms of bowl eligibility.
But remember, this is supposed to be “Year Zero” of the Scott Satterfield era. The football team went beyond rock bottom last year, so this is a rebuilding process from the ground up. Any wins from this point should be celebrated. I understand fans have a right to be upset about the way they lost to Florida State, as well as any loss that may come this season. But it’s all part of the process. They’ve already taken steps in making the running game and their front seven a big part of the team’s identity in 2019. The next step will be getting all the auxiliary and mental foundations in place, and that’s where Louisville has to go heading into October.