Micale Cunningham started the 2020 season with a career performance, throwing for 329 yards and scoring four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) as Louisville (1-0) opened with a 35-21 win over WKU (0-1).
Louisville extends their winning streak to 12 games over the Hilltoppers, and snapped a two-game losing streak in season openers.
Highlights from the season opening win on Satterday night.#GoCards pic.twitter.com/1RXWAaUXgK
— Louisville Football (@UofLFootball) September 13, 2020
Though Louisville was not without its hardships to start their 2020 season. A holding penalty on their opening drive pushed Louisville behind the chains, leading to a muffed punt that put WKU’s offense inside the one-yard line. WKU would score on the following drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Gaej Walker.
Louisville would then score 28 unanswered points in the first half, led by an array of deep passes from Cunningham. A 63-yard pass to Braden Smith put Louisville inside WKU territory on their next drive, followed by a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ean Pfeifer.
Cunningham and Smith would connect again on a 48-yard pass late in the first quarter, leading to a 14-yard touchdown run by Cunningham to start the second. Javian Hawkins (19-yard run) and Marshon Ford (two-yard catch) added two more touchdowns for Louisville, giving the Cardinals a 28-7 halftime lead.
Another special teams error led to WKU points in the second half. Logan Lupo’s punt was blocked and recovered inside the five-yard line, leading to a one-yard touchdown run by Malik Staples on the following drive.
Much like the first half, Louisville answered WKU’s touchdown with another deep pass. Cunningham’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Dez Fitzpatrick extended the lead to 35-14, and giving Cunningham his first career 300-yard game.
WKU turned the ball over twice on downs in the second half while trying to cut Louisville’s lead down. The Hilltoppers finally broke through with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter, with Ty Pigrome connecting on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Tinsley.
Louisville’s passing game was extremely explosive against WKU, averaging 10.1 yards per attempt as Micale Cunningham had a career-high 329 passing yards. The redshirt junior scored four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), completing 19-of-34 passes.
Dez Fitzpatrick and Braden Smith both had four receptions for 110 yards, with Fitzpatrick reeling in a 70-yard touchdown catch. Tutu Atwell had seven catches for 78 yards, with tight ends Ean Pfeifer and Marshon Ford each scoring touchdowns.
Louisville’s defense recorded 10 tackles for loss in the contest, with Monty Montgomery recording two sacks on opening night.
WKU was held to 248 total yards, as the Cardinals kept quarterback Ty Pigrome in check for the majority of the game. Pigrome finished 10-of-23 for 129 yards and a touchdown, and led the team with 17 carries for 68 yards on the ground. Jahcour Pearson led WKU with five receptions for 67 yards. Reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Deangelo Malone lived up to his promise, tallying eight tackles (3.5 for loss), one sack, and a forced fumble.
Louisville returns next week with a Saturday night showdown against Miami (FL), as College Gameday comes to campus for the first time since 2017. The Cards and the Hurricanes kickoff Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.