The Louisville Cardinals (3-2, 1-1 ACC) gathered their first conference win since November 2017, beating Boston College (3-3, 1-2) 41-39 in an offensive shootout.
Let’s take some of the top storylines from Wednesday’s preview and evaluate how the Cardinals performed.
— Louisville Football (@UofLFootball) October 5, 2019
How will Louisville’s Front Seven Handle AJ Dillon?: B
22 carries for 118 yards. If that were any other running back, that would be a good game to have. For A.J. Dillon, it would seem rather pedestrian compared to the totals that he has put up.
Louisville did an excellent job of handling the Boston College rushing attack for a majority of the game. Some big runs late by Dillon though was able to keep Boston College drives alive, including two that led to points in the fourth quarter. The Eagles went on to finish with 259 yards and 5.8 yards per carry, but for most of the game, Louisville did a decent, but not superb job at containing the run. Yasir Abdullah was particularly exceptional during the game with a couple tackles for loss.
Will Boston College Push the Ball Downfield Against Louisville?: D+
What wasn’t exceptional, though, was the pass coverage for Louisville. Boston College had begun to air it out further downfield than they had in previous years under head coach Steve Addazio, in lieu of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.
Boston College had a ton of success downfield against the Louisville secondary, averaging 20.3 yards per completion. Anthony Brown was on his way to a career day against the Cardinals before an injury in the second quarter ended his game early. Backup quarterback Dennis Grosel found some intermediate throws occasionally, but struggled with accuracy as he finished 9-of-24 for 111 yards.
Of note, Louisville did get their first interceptions of the season after Anthony Johnson robbed one down the sideline. It didn’t result in points on the Cardinals’ next drive, but it was a pivotal moment in a game that ended up coming down to the final play.
Louisville QB Situation: A
Much like Boston College, though, the difference in the game was Louisville’s dominance in the passing game. Micale Cunningham reached a new career-high in passing yards for the third straight game, completing 13-of-18 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown. Cunningham had exceptional prowess in hitting passes deep downfield all day against a Boston College defense that was 99th in passing entering the game.
So, too, did Evan Conley on occasional drives. The freshman continued the momentum that Cunningham had all game, finishing 10-of-16 for 140 yards with one passing touchdown. No interceptions were thrown by Louisville all game, and most throws that Louisville had were wide open. Tutu Atwell (eight catches, 110 yards), Seth Dawkins (six catches, 170 yards, one touchdown), and Dez Fitzpatrick (five catches, 108 yards, one touchdown) all reached 100+ yards receiving, the third time in school history that three U of L receivers topped the century mark in yardage.
Altogether, Louisville was 23-of-34 for 428 passing yards as a team, hit seven different targets and had a 192.8 quarterback rating. Not much to really critique from this outstanding showing by Louisville’s air attack.
428 passing yards in a single game is certainly noteworthy, but that means Javian Hawkins’ career day might get lost in the shuffle. It shouldn’t; the running back hit a career-high 172 yards, and was a big part of Louisville hitting 664 yards of total offense today. Balance is crucial to the Scott Satterfield formula, and it kept Boston College off-balance all day long.
I made a note that Louisville’s full potential can be realized when its receivers are getting more involved in the gameplan, after the Florida State game. This game was a great example of that, as Tutu Atwell, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Seth Dawkins each had over 100 yards receiving. As I said earlier, that is the third time in program history that has happened. Others like Justin Marshall and Javian Hawkins had huge catches that extended drives. You can’t expect that to happen again, but it can be a good rallying point for a passing game that has been getting better literally every single game.
However, the defense had another discouraging performance. No sacks were tallied by the Louisville defense today, and that allowed Boston College quarterbacks time to hit receivers downfield multiple times. Also of note was that Boston College was doing so with a more noticeable effort to raise the tempo, much like what Florida State had done two weeks prior in Tallahassee. It’s obviously not an encouraging sign as Louisville now prepares to face Wake Forest, a team that is likely the fastest in the entire country in terms of plays per game.
One good thing though; they did make stops when they absolutely needed to, particularly late. Yasir Abdullah was a monster late in the game with big stops in the backfield. Anthony Johnson chose a perfect time to make Louisville’s first interception of 2019 happen, thwarting a Boston College drive that had a chance to add more points on it.
All in all, 3-2 is still where I expected Louisville to be after five games. But the Cardinals enter a brutal stretch of games where they will play arguably the three best quarterbacks in the conference right now; Jamie Newman (Wake Forest), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), and Bryce Perkins (Virginia). They are absolute studs at the position and given Louisville’s struggles in pass coverage recently, it will be a matchup to watch and one they will have to get better at.
Louisville will head on the road next Saturday to face undefeated Wake Forest. The Cards and Deacons kick off at 7 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.