Louisville Football needed a big win against a struggling Syracuse team Friday night. The Orange were undermanned, starting a true freshman QB and missing numerous players on defense and the offensive line. UofL, on the other hand, was finally playing with their full deck of Cards, minus Javian Hawkins, who opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft, and the injured Marshon Ford. A win turned out to be in the Cards as UofL squeezed the Orange 30-0.
It was far from a perfect performance on offense, but it was still a very encouraging one. Offensively, Malik Cunningham played a good game. Unfortunately, he did have two interceptions, but Malik did throw for 219 yards and a touchdown. He also had 21 yards rushing and a TD on the ground.
UofL used a three-headed monster at RB to replace Javian Hawkins and they were effective. The carries were nearly evenly distributed. Redshirt freshman Jalen Mitchell got the most carries with 11, redshirt senior Maurice Burkley had 10, and junior Hassan Hall had 9 carries. Mitchell impressed with 46 yards and 1 TD, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Burkley led all rushers with 56 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Hassan Hall managed 22 yards on the ground.
While Tutu Atwell returned, it was Dez Fitzpatrick and a slew of new faces that helped the Cardinal passing attack. Braden Smith led all receivers in receptions and yards with 7 catches for 65 yards. Dez Fitzpatrick only caught two passes, but they were big plays. He finished with 60 yards receiving. Redshirt junior Josh Johnson and freshman Jordan Watkins made their presences felt. Both had 4 receptions, Watkins for 34 yards and Johnson for 40. Freshman Duane Martin filled in admirably for the injured Marshon Ford with 2 catches for 27 yards and some nice blocks. Jalen Mitchell not only made his mark running the ball against the Orange, but catching it out of the backfield as well. He had 3 receptions for 24 yards, giving him 70 total yards. While Tutu was back, he was still limited due to his injury. Still, Atwell managed to catch the only TD pass Malik threw on the night; a 19 yard TD reception.
The Cards pitched a shutout on defense. It was arguably the best and most complete performance of the season defensively. The entire defense tackled well, as evidenced by the fact the two leading tacklers, Rodjay Burns and Dorian Etheridge, each having 4. Burns had another excellent game, recording a sack and tackle for loss in addition to his 4 tackles. Yasir Abdullah had himself a game too with a tackle for loss and a sack of Syracuse QB Jacobian Morgan that led to a fumble and Cardinal recovery. Jared Goldwire was disruptive with 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss. Kei’Trel Clark continued to show why his pickup was a great move by the staff, as he intercepted a Morgan pass.
Louisville desperately needed this win. The offense, despite some turnovers, was able to deliver 30 points with a good mix of passing and running. Meanwhile, the defense, playing a Syracuse offense that is mediocre at best, dominated as they should have. They held the Orange to just 137 total yards and only 45 through the air. Hopefully, the Cards can build on this performance and finish the regular season out with two wins.
Below, you can see the aftermath of the victory. Check out game highlights, player press conferences and quotes, Coach Satt’s postgame presser, and, of course, the locker room celebration.
Coach Satterfield Postgame Presser:
Postgame Player Quotes:
Syracuse University at Louisville
Football | Cardinal Stadium | 11/20/20
Post Game Press Conference
UofL linebacker RODJAY BURNS
(This is the first shut-out against a Power Five team since ’04. What was this win like? It seemed like a combination of everything you guys have done the last few weeks.)
“I’d say this win is just more or less coming together as a team. You know, it’s one thing we always we always preach: ‘we always play as one.’ Sometimes the offense shows up, sometimes the defense shows up and we haven’t put it all together. So I believe tonight we put it all together as one and we were able to come out victorious.”
(Coach Satterfield mentioned this might have been your best week of practice for the defense as a whole. What led to that, and was that kind of the reason why we saw so many big hits?)
“I will say practice helped me prepare. I just try to be the leader and give it my all and just run around and show them boys that if we practice hard, we’re able to do great things as one. When opportunity presented itself, I was able to make the play. Everybody was doing their job. It’s one thing we preached before the game was to trust in yourself to make that play and trust your teammate to do his job. So I believe as a defense that’s what we did. We just believed in each other and trusted one another and those plays they would present themselves.”
(Syracuse only ran seven plays on your end of the field. They didn’t get inside your 45 yard line until the last series. At what point wereyou guys were aware that you were just dominating them physically)
“I don’t think we were really aware of it. The whole thing was not getting comfortable. We knew we were winning, so we kept preaching on the sideline: ‘the score is 0-0,’ in order to keep the focus up, you know, we’re still in a dogfight. So I don’t think many players were focused on ‘oh, we’re winning,’ or ‘we’re beating them’ or ‘we’re abusing them and keeping them down here.’ It was just keeping them down the whole game, score was 0-0, we’re in a dogfight all game and just keeping that mentality and that focus in order to able to shut them out like that.”
(When you commit turnovers, what kind of pressure does that put on you all as a defense? How do you feel like you all had to respond to that and come up with the plays you made?)
“You know, adversity will strike. So I feel like as a defense we just handled it well. We always say, if a turnover happened, we always say ‘good.’ That’s something we use as a defense. Play the next play. Go get it back for the offense. So, I feel like that’s what we did tonight. We just had juice, enthusiuasm, ran around, and was able to make those plays.”
(In the last couple of weeks, obviously all the COVID has impacted the defense. You’ve seen a lot of young guys come in and make plays and get a lot of playing time. How much improvement have you seen out of those guys over the course of the last three weeks to a month?)
“I feel like it gives the young guys more confidence. Being able to go out there and play and make plays, they know they’d be able to play comfortably. Going out there, from them not playing in the beginning of the season to them playing now, I just think it’s a confidence booster and they’re able to play comfortably now. You know, we can always depend on them now, as one, to put them in a game. So you see a lot of young players now getting more playing time, so I just feel like is this a confidence booster.”
(Do you think that confidence showed up, kind of, today?)
“Yeah, believe it did.”
UofL Quarterback MALIK CUNNINGHAM:
(On his thoughts on the offense including turnovers and the interceptions)
“I just want to give credit to the O-line and the running back and those guys. Jalen Mitchell was stepping up a lot and Hassan Hall, it was great having him back. I just want to give thanks to those guys for running the ball well, and for the guys up front blocking. On the turnovers, like I say every week, just trying to make a play. Some of those things I just have to eat and throw away, and just have to protect the football from here on out.”
(How does this win feel after a lot of struggles. What was it like there on the sidelines after the game?)
“It’s a great feeling. The guys were enthusiastic, and it was good Friday night football in our own stadium. We were very pumped up for this one. It just feels good to win again. We put in so much work, and when a win happens, it’s like a relief. We can’t dwell on it. We have an off day tomorrow, and then it’s back to work on Sunday.”
(About his good game passing once he settled in with the ground game. How much did that help, and how important was that, considering with Javian [Hawkins] gone and somebody needing to step up?)
“The run game from those guys was very big. It starts up front, and those guys took it on their shoulders and told the running backs to run behind them, and that’s what they did. They ran the ball well, [Jalen] Mitchell and all those guys like (Maurice) Burkley and (Hassan) Hall. That’s good to see, those guys running the ball and getting a chance to step up.”
(On getting the ball to a lot of people today,, and a lot of guys who hadn’t gotten experience before tonight. How important was that for you all to get them some experience, and do you think that bodes well for the future as well?)
“It definitely does bode well for the future. Those guys have been putting in work. A lot of those guys are freshmen, and some of the guys haven’t got a chance to show what they can do. It was good to see those guys make plays. [Josh Johnson] came in with me, and it was good to see him catching the ball and running around and doing something he loves to do and can do. It was good to see a lot of those young guys on both sides of the ball, defense as well, and seeing those guys make plays. Those guys make plays in practice and they work hard in the weight room.”
(Rodjay [Burns] was talking about how a lot of young guys have gained confidence over the last three weeks to a month when they’ve had to play more because of the COVID stuff. Did you see that, and did you see that come out tonight?)
“Yeah. Like I said, those young guys have been waiting on their chance to show what they can do for the future coming up here, and they did a good job with that. They’ve been putting in lots of work, I promise. Even some of the scout team guys got a chance to show what they can do, and they are pretty good. It’s a pretty good bunch of young guys.”
UofL Defensive lineman JARED GOLDWIRE
(Scott Satterfield said that defense as a unit probably had its best week of practice this week. What led to that? What was the reason for the enthusiasm in practice this week?)
“We told ourselves that we have three games left and we were going to give our all, but we all know it starts with practice. We kept the intensity up. Every single practice play was like game play for us, and we just kept it on like that throughout the week.”
(This is the first time in about a month you guys have had everyone on the defensive side of the ball. What was that like, and do you feel like that led to some of the high-energy plays and hits you saw tonight?)
“It was great having my guys back out there with me. It was a great feeling having the whole squad together. You could definitely see it during the game, and definitely during practice. It was a great feeling having my guys back with me.”
(Shutouts don’t happen too often, how motivated are you guys to keep that blank scoreboard on there?)
“As it was winding down, even during the fourth quarter, we were just telling the young guys when they were getting in there that this is something big. Nobody really gets goose eggs anymore. This is a special moment, and you remember these always throughout your whole career. We kept that motivation going, and that’s what led to the late push.”
(How much in the last month, when some of these young guys have been forced to get more experience, have you seen their growth and their confidence grow in the last month?)
“Tremendously. A lot of the younger D-lineman had to step up. Their study habits and their work ethic just increased exponentially. It was a great thing to see this past month, just seeing how they grew and matured while the older dudes were out.”
(As one of the older guys who was actually still there, what did you tell them or what did you say to those guys to keep them focused, even when they had to be thrown in on a short notice?)
“I just told them, and this has been a crazy year – everyone knows that – but college is short. I told them that these opportunities are once in a lifetime, so you boys go out there and swag out and ball out and do what you need to do. And that’s what they did, and I’m proud of those boys for holding in there.”
UofL running back MAURICE BURKLEY
(You’ve been through a lot in your time here in Louisville as a former walk-on and working everyday. What has it been like to get more snaps and have your moment to shine on the field?)
“It means everything. Me, personally, I would like to say I work very hard. To see the hard work pay off and get more snaps and to be able to get more opportunities to prove myself to the staff and to myself, means a lot, honestly, especially from being a walk-on to scholarship to now playing more snaps.”
(There was one drive there where you were basically the workhorse. I think it was 45 or 48 yards of your total came on that one series. What was that like, just getting the ball one after another after another and coming up with big runs there?)
“With that momentum, it was fun. I just had to realize to stay the course and I was using that momentum to carry me throughout those other carries. I wanted to end up with a score, and we did later on in that drive with Tutu [Atwell]. That was the main focus, just getting the ball in the end zone.”
(You touched on it a little bit there, but as you are going through your career and, especially last year, you were behind Javian [Hawkins], you were behind Hassan [Hall]. What do you tell yourself to keep yourself focused and working hard on a day-to-day basis like that?)
“What I always tell myself is that life is a marathon. The late, great NipseyHussle said that. It just means to me that you can’t quit. Life is a marathon. The one that goes the longest is the one who is going to survive the most. That’s what I keep telling myself every day.”
(Jalen Mitchell has obviously come on strong over the last few weeks. What have you seen from him in practice, and how bright of a future do you think he has being such a young guy?)
“Jalen is a very hard worker. He always does the little things correctly and always does extra work more than anybody. For practice, like I said, he’s a very hard worker and he pushes himself to the limit. I feel like his future is going to be very bright here in Louisville, for sure.”
(The defense obviously gets motivated by the goose egg up, as Jared Goldwire called it. As an offensive guy, when you see the score up there, what’s it like when you’re watching a potential shutout happening? Do you talk to the defense, or do you stay away from them? What’s it like as an offensive guy watching that happen?)
“We definitely motivate the defense to keep them going. We always want zero points in a game. That’s phenomenal. We try to encourage them, and we’re going to try to get some points on the board so we can look even better. We can keep encouraging them to have zero points, and they encourage us to basically get more points.”