Louisville had a season high 317 rushing yards, but could not overcome several miscues and make late stops as the Cardinals (2-6, 1-6 ACC) fell 31-17 to Virginia (3-4, 3-4).
Despite their season high totals on the ground, including a career-high 197 from quarterback Malik Cunningham, Louisville was hindered by poor pass protection, turnovers, and a limited passing game. Virginia forced four sacks and three turnovers on the Cardinals, gaining 14 points out of it, ultimately becoming the margin of the game.
Also compounding errors for Louisville was that star players Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell, along with running back Hassan Hall, were announced as unavailable for Saturday’s game against Virginia. Defensive linemen Yaya Diaby, Derek Dorsey, and Tabarius Peterson, along with cornerback Chandler Jones, were also unavailable.
The Cardinals got off to a promising start, forcing a three-and-out on defense and getting into the red zone on the offense’s first drive. However, an errant throw by Cunningham while under pressure led to an interception by Noah Taylor, taking it 85 yards for a touchdown.
Louisville answered with a scoring drive to cut it to 7-3, coming on James Turner’s 48-yard field goal.
Marlon Character created two turnovers for Louisville that gave the Cardinals chances in the first half, including a forced fumble near the goal line that thwarted a potential scoring drive for Virginia. He also had an interception on the next drive, which led to points as Cunningham ran in for a 19-yard touchdown, giving Louisville a 10-7 lead.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong shook off the interception to help the Cavaliers retake the lead on the next drive, running for an eight-yard touchdown for a 14-10 halftime lead.
The second half did not start off as promising for Louisville as the first did. Louisville’s opening drive of the half ended with a failed fourth down attempt inside their own 50, leading to Virginia extending their lead to 21-10 on Armstrong’s nine-yard pass to Lavel Davis, Jr.
Cunningham cut the lead to 21-17 with a one yard touchdown run on a bootleg around the right side, giving Louisville a chance at a fourth quarter comeback.
A multitude of mistakes, however, led to Virginia pulling away in the fourth. A penalty on fourth down by Louisville extended Virginia’s drive, leading to a 23-yard field goal that pushed it to 24-17.
Cunningham had a 27-yard run on Louisville’s next drive that was fumbled and recovered by Virginia, leading to Armstrong’s third touchdown with a nine-yard scoring run. Another fumble on Louisville’s next drive, as well as a failed fourth down attempt, stopped Louisville’s attempts at a comeback.
Once again, mistakes on offense proved fatal for a Louisville team that has been plagued by them this season. The Cardinals lost the turnover margin 3-2, with Virginia scoring 14 points off Louisville turnovers. Four sacks and a limited passing game also led to another loss for the Cardinals, despite Malik Cunningham’s career high 197 yards rushing (he also finished 13-of-21 for 161 yards with an interception, 358 yards total). Louisville also outgained Virginia 478-368, the sixth time that the Cardinals have outgained their opponent in eight games played.
Brennan Armstrong was vital for Virginia’s success today, scoring three total touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) and accumulating 263 total yards (203 passing, 60 rushing). Lavel Davis, Jr. led the team with 71 yards receiving and a touchdown, with linebacker Noah Taylor scoring a pick six on Louisville’s first drive.
Louisville’s next two games will both occur on Friday, with the Cardinals first hosting Syracuse at Cardinal Stadium on Friday night. U of L and Syracuse play at 7:00 p.m. ET, airing on ESPN.