Recap: Louisville O Held Up By Stout Pitt Defense

#24 Louisville was stymied by seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and held to 223 total yards as the Cardinals (1-2, 0-2 ACC) fell to #21 Pitt (3-0, 2-0) 23-20.

The game was book ended with a potentially huge loss for Louisville in terms of personnel. Quarterback Malik Cunningham was stretchered off the field after a failed fourth down attempt, falling to the ground hard while being wrapped up from behind. As of this post, the details of his injury and possible timeline are unknown.

Pitt scored on its first three drives of the game, taking a 13-0 lead. Alex Kessman hit a 45 and 41 yard field goal on the first two drives, with the Panthers scoring their first touchdown on the third drive via eight yard pass from Kenny Pickett to freshman Jordan Addison.

Louisville wasn’t able to match Pitt on their first two drives, but finally hit paydirt on a 75-yard touchdown run by Javian Hawkins on their third drive. That would lead to 17 unanswered points by the Cardinals, taking a 17-13 lead midway through the second quarter. James Turner hit a 38-yard field goal on Louisville’s next drive to cut the lead to 13-10.

Capitalizing on great field position after Louisville recovered a Pitt fumble, Malik Cunningham would find Tutu Atwell past the secondary for a 21-yard touchdown to take the lead.

However, Pitt regained the lead to close the first half. On fourth-and-five, Pickett hit Taysir Mack for a first down, then Mack narrowly avoided hitting the ground on a wrap-up to run in for a 40-yard touchdown. Pitt would enter halftime with a 20-17 lead.

Malik Cunningham threw an interception on the opening drive of the second half, leading to a Pitt field goal by Kessman. Louisville’s James Turner would add a field goal of his own in the third quarter, with the Cardinals drive aided by a fake punt that was converted on fourth-and-seven. Tabarius Peterson ran around the left side and picked up 31 yards on the trickeration, leading to the Turner field goal that cut Pitt’s lead to 23-20.

Both Pickett and Cunningham traded interceptions in the fourth quarter, with Pitt failing to score deep inside Louisville territory to open the fourth quarter, and Louisville failing to capitalize on Pitt’s mistake. Pitt, though, would come up short on fourth down on the ensuing drive.

Louisville’s final drive failed to net any points, as Cunningham threw his third interception of the game while being chased by Pitt defenders. Cunningham was wrapped up from behind and fell to the ground hard, needing to be stretchered off the field. As of this post, the severity of his injury nor a possible timeline have been made available.

Pitt’s defense, which had entered the game #1 in total defense, was as effective as advertised against a normally high powered Louisville offense. The Panthers held the Cardinals to 223 total yards, and sacked Cunningham seven times (also tallying 12 TFL). Cunningham struggled through the air with 9-of-21 passing for 107 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Hawkins had 78 yards on 13 carries, aided by a 75-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

Pitt had 376 total yards against Louisville, with quarterback Kenny Pickett completing 23-of-37 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Jordan Addison had his third consecutive game with seven catches, going for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers rushed for a season high 156 yards on 3.9 yards per carry, with Vincent Davis (14 carries, 47 yards) leading the team. Patrick Jones led the Panthers defense with three sacks.

Louisville’s defense was able to keep it close thanks to an opportunistic effort, forcing two turnovers, three forced fumbles, and 11 tackles for loss. Dorian Etheridge was effective with seven tackles, two sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss. Yasir Abdullah had a sack, three tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles, one of which led to an eventual Louisville touchdown in the second quarter.

Louisville has a bye next week, but will return to action on Friday, October 9th against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

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