It was all Hurricanes from start to finish on Saturday. Quarterback Jarren Williams made history by throwing a school-record six touchdown passes, including two each to Mike Harley, Jr. and Dee Wiggins, to blow Louisville out in a 52-27 win.
Will Louisville’s pass rush continue its momentum on Saturday?: C
I had essentially boiled a win for either side down to two things; win the line of scrimmage, and put your quarterback in the best position to succeed.
Louisville’s front seven was able to get occasional stops against the run, but Miami’s offensive line dictated the pace of the game from the very start. The Miami O-line was able to create massive holes for Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris to run through, as both combined to run for 174 yards on 23 carries (7.6 yards per carry).
They also bought time for Miami quarterback Jarren Williams to throw the ball, and it resulted in the freshman having a career day against Louisville. Williams completed 15-of-22 passes for 253 yards and six touchdowns, the latter which set a new single-game record for Miami. Williams was able to find success on intermediate and deep routes against Louisville’s coverage all day, and had great rapport with both Mike Harley, Jr. and Dee Wiggins throughout the game.
Will Miami’s defensive line continue to dominate like last week?: B
The Hurricanes weren’t able to have nine sacks in this game, but their front seven still had a huge impact on the outcome. Miami tallied three sacks and 14 tackles for loss, including four TFLs by senior linebacker Shaquille Quarterman. In their last two games, Miami has recorded 12 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
At the end of the first half, Miami held Louisville to 48 rushing yards and stifled Louisville’s efforts to establish the run. With the Hurricanes also creating a big lead behind a solid effort from their quarterback, the Cardinals were forced to pass the ball more often and put the game in Cunningham and Conley’s hands. Louisville did get a decent effort through the air with 328 total passing yards, but the Miami front seven was able to hold the quarterbacks to 13 total carries for two yards (Conley 10, Cunningham -8).
Jarren Williams v. Micale Cunningham: A (Williams), B- (Cunningham)
The obvious winner is Williams, who again, set a single-game Miami school record with six touchdown passes. Not only was Williams efficient in throwing the ball, he also had a couple of nice scrambles that extended Miami’s drives.
Micale Cunningham did his best to keep up with the freshman with a strong first half, throwing two first half touchdowns to Tutu Atwell and Ian Pfeifer. But Cunningham threw a late interception in the first half as his lob to Atwell was off-target, thwarting a potential scoring drive to cut into Miami’s lead. Cunningham would get a third touchdown on a one-yard run in the third quarter, but exited the game with an injury. Cunningham went 12-of-18 for 219 yards with three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and an interception before leaving the game.
Conley entered the game in the second half, leading the Cardinals on one scoring drive as Hassan Hall sprinted down the middle for a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Conley finished 6-of-11 for 109 yards with an interception.
Louisville’s last four games can be summarized as a pattern of cathartic wins, and crushing losses. Saturday was the latter, as the Cardinals never got on the right track against a Miami team that was firing on all cylinders in all three phases of the game.
Offensively, Miami was superb, as a freshman quarterback established himself with one of the best games in program history. Defensively, Miami was tenacious in stopping the run and exerting its will at the line of scrimmage. And even on special teams, Miami was optimal as they blocked a punt and recovered a muffed punt, both which inevitably led to touchdowns.
Add all of that with the turnovers Louisville committed (three), and the season-high in penalties they had (14), and it’s easy to see why this was the most disappointing performance all year.
But part of the story should be how well Miami is playing in their now three-game winning streak. Since turning back to Williams as their starting quarterback, he has thrown nine touchdowns with no interceptions and has been extremely efficient (in fact, outside of the Virginia Tech game, Williams hasn’t thrown an interception this season). With a defense that is playing at a really high level in that stretch, the Hurricanes have a very good chance to win out their final two games of the regular season (FIU and Duke), and depending on their bowl assignment, could also win that. Do that, and Miami could position itself for a big 2020 with a potential Top 25 team.
Back to Louisville now. The loss will sting, but this was obviously going to be the hardest game left on their schedule. Miami’s front seven was going to be a tough assignment for Louisville, and it was evident especially after Becton left the game. Miami tallied 14 tackles for loss and was very successful in containing Louisville’s rushing attack for most of the game. They forced Louisville to beat them through the air, and ended up forcing enough turnovers to keep them at bay and get the win.
Mental mistakes were a huge reason why Louisville got behind, and were never able to make a comeback against the Hurricanes. Louisville committed three turnovers — two of which were interceptions inside Miami territory — and a season-high 14 penalties, including two facemasks on Miami’s first touchdown drive. Those mental errors haven’t been as much of a problem this season, but it was a big one on Saturday.
Lost in the shuffle will be how solid Louisville’s passing game looked at times on Saturday. The Cardinals completed 18-of-29 passes for 328 yards as a team, and Cunningham was on his way to a big day before an injury ended his day.
Tutu Atwell was extremely solid all day as Louisville’s top receiver, reeling in six catches for 142 yards and one touchdown. Atwell now sits at 810 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, putting him 190 yards and two scores away from reaching the 1,000-yard and 10 touchdown marks. Javian Hawkins also sits at 978 yards rushing with six touchdowns, needing 22 yards and six touchdowns to reach the same milestone. If both can do it, that would probably be the biggest indicator of the turnaround head coach Scott Satterfield has done in week one.
Fortunately for Louisville, the schedule now gets easier. Louisville is 5-4, but their final three games of the regular season will feature teams that are under .500. Louisville’s first eight games against FBS competition saw the Cardinals play against teams at .500 or above, and coming out of that stretch with a 5-4 record is a great sign. NC State sits at 4-5, Syracuse at 3-6, and Kentucky is 4-5 after losing on Saturday. Winning all three isn’t guaranteed by any means, but Louisville’s chances at a bowl game are still very much alive.
Until next time, the Cards will play NC State on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.