The University of Louisville football team bounced back from a Labor Day loss against Mississippi, with a 30-3 victory over Eastern Kentucky just five days later. The home opener on Saturday evening in Cardinal Stadium pushed the team to 1-1 on the season, but the overall performance raised some concerns from some of the fans.
Like the season opener in Atlanta, Louisville’s offense started out slow. However, special teams came up big in the first half. It wasn’t until Marvin Dallas recovered a muffed punt at the Colonel 25, that the Cardinals were able to get on the board. Malik Cunningham scored on a broken play from 10 yards out to break the scoreless tie.
A couple minutes later, Braden Smith took a punt off the bounce to the house for a 49-yard touchdown, marking the first Louisville punt return touchdown since the 2018 home opener against Indiana State (Rodjay Burns). Cornerback Kei’Trel Clark intercepted a jump ball, and Cunningham’s three-yard touchdown late in the first half gave the Cardinals a 20-3 halftime lead.
The offense started getting into a rhythm in the second half in the rushing department, with Jalen Mitchell breaking off some big runs. Justin Marshall recorded his first touchdown of the season and Clark intercepted another pass midway through the third quarter. Freshman Ahmari Huggins-Bruce fumbled what would’ve been a 95-yard touchdown at the one-yard-line in the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals won comfortably 30-3.
The offense starting slow again is alarming
In the first half, Louisville only had 173 yards of offense against an EKU squad that gave up 501 to Western Carolina the week prior. The Cardinals had one drive of over 34 yards, and it was the 11 play-72 yard scoring drive right before the half. The rushing game averaged just around three yards per carry in the first two quarters. Simply put, Louisville got lucky that they were playing EKU.
The secondary stepped up
Kei’Trel Clark became the first Louisville player with multiple interceptions in a game since Trumaine Washington back in 2017, and also finished with a team-high six tackles. Safeties Qwynnterrio Cole and Kenderick Duncan Jr recorded sic and five tackles, respectively. There were times in the second quarter in which the Colonel offense gave Louisville fits with the uptempo play-calling, but the defense didn’t break.
Louisville’s pass rush has to improve
True freshman Ashton Gillotte recorded the Cardinals’ only sack of the night. For the most part, Louisville struggled to get pressure on the EKU backfield, which is alarming despite holding the opposition to just three points. They got away with it this week, but the pass rush has to improve over the coming weeks if the defense wants to take the next step forward.