It was a historic day for Louisville in many ways for several different people. The Cards got career highs from Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins, and Tutu Atwell as Louisville poured it on in a 56-34 win over Syracuse on a rainy Senior Day at Cardinal Stadium.
As always, let’s take our top storylines from the preview and assess how Louisville performed.
Can Louisville’s front seven control the game?: C
Louisville made enough plays on defense to win in a game that saw both teams combine for 90 points. Louisville’s front seven was able to get two sacks on Tommy DeVito, but otherwise, the Orange were very solid on offense. Syracuse put up 510 total yards of offense and had 261 rushing yards, including a stretch in the second half where Louisville’s defense constantly missed tackles in the third and fourth quarters.
As an aside from the Syracuse game, it’s not an encouraging stat to have when Louisville has to face a Kentucky team that will run the ball a lot next week. But this week it was enough for Louisville.
Louisville has to avoid turnovers to spark another big offensive showing: B+
Once again, Louisville’s offense played a very clean game in terms of discipline. Louisville had five penalties which is admittedly average for a team in a football game, but they did not allow a sack. They did have one turnover on an interception in the fourth quarter, but Louisville’s defense was able to deny Syracuse on fourth down.
However, Louisville did force a turnover on a muffed punt in the first quarter. That led to a Louisville touchdown, part of a 21-point spree in the opening frame.
Will Tutu Atwell have another big outing?: A
The answer is a resounding yes. Atwell had his fourth straight game of 110+ yards and 5+ catches, with a touchdown in each of those games. The sophomore had five catches for a career-high 152 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard bomb late in the second quarter. The 90-yard touchdown was the fourth-longest in U of L history, and the first of that distance since 2009.
Atwell is also on a historic run for his 2019 season. He becomes the second U of L receiver in school history to have over 1,000 yards and 10+ touchdowns in a single season since Arnold Jackson 1998. Atwell now stands 193 receiving yards and two touchdowns away from holding both the single-season yards and touchdowns records, which might be the biggest surprise of the entire 2019 season.
Atwell’s remarkable day was part of a common theme for Louisville; career best performances. Javian Hawkins and Micale Cunningham also joined him in having a remarkable performance.
Hawkins became the ninth different U of L player to rush for over 200 yards in a single game, going for 233 yards and a touchdown in the win. The 233 yards is the fourth-highest in single-game U of L history, and Hawkins also has had over 100 yards rushing in every home game this season. I might not have enough space in this article to list all of the accomplishments Hawkins has this season (and still might be able to reach with two games left), but let me summarize it like this: Hawkins has been one of the best backs in college football all season, and should be one of the biggest breakout stars in 2019.
Javian Hawkins is the only player in Louisville history to have a 100-yard rushing game during every home game of a season.
— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) November 24, 2019
As for Micale Cunningham, he topped his old career-high of four touchdowns — set last week against NC State — with six today against Syracuse (five passing, one rushing). Louisville’s offense was very consistent and dominant through a majority of the night with a well-balanced showing, having 376 rushing yards and 238 passing.
(Sidebar: it is the sixth time that Louisville has had over 350 yards rushing, and the last three times have all come against Syracuse in 2016, 2017, and 2019. That may be the most bizarre stat of the season).
While the crowd wasn’t a sellout by any means, it was a loud and passionate one throughout the game. The fans that arrived showed their support for a senior class that had endured a ton of hardship and heartbreaks, especially last season. We’re long past the abomination that was Louisville’s 2018, but it is inevitably part of the story that will be told about the 2019 team. Why? Because Scott Satterfield, as I and others have probably said one billion times (make it one billion and one, now), and the turnaround he and his coaching staff have orchestrated this year has been nothing short of remarkable.
The fact that Louisville has had both a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver for the first time since the turn of the millennium is a wild stat to think of, considering who all has come to Louisville in that time (as well as how many points Louisville’s offenses have scored frequently throughout that 20-year span). And the best part for Louisville is that Hawkins and Atwell both return next year. Cunningham is having a great year as well, and if he wins the starting job next season (right now I would say he is the favorite, but who knows), Louisville could be in line for an even better 2020 season.
Rest assured though, there is still work to do. Louisville’s defensive effort against Syracuse’s running game wasn’t assuring, given that they face Kentucky next week and the Wildcats will almost assuredly run the ball a lot. They made enough plays in the end to ultimately outgun Syracuse in a mild shootout, but the production that Syracuse managed to have against Louisville on Saturday should be a talking point heading into the rivalry game next week.
And to sum up a very enjoyable Senior Day game, Louisville is 7-4. If you remember, I picked Louisville to finish 4-8 before the season started. I am often wrong about most things (and I’ll be honest, I am one of those people that tends to point out more things I’m wrong about than I am right), but the Cards have a chance to double up on my win projections from this year. Nothing else needs to be said other than Scott Satterfield should be a legit contender for national coach of the year.
Up next, the Cards and the Cats will do battle one more time in Lexington. Louisville and Kentucky face off on Saturday at noon on the SEC Network.