The Barbour Shop: 10 Takeaways From UofL’s Epic Win Over UCF

Friday night was one of the most special nights in Cardinal Stadium in a few years. It’s arguably one of the top 5 games in the history of the stadium. So many ingredients came together for a tasty Cardinal victory: 1986 national title team, Denny Crum, Montrezl Harrell, Angel McCoughtry, a football team that was hungry for victory, and a raucous crowd bringing the energy. So, how did UofL bring it all together on the field to defeat a very good UCF Golden Knights team? Here are my 10 takeaways from last night’s game.

  1. Malik Cunningham played like one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC.
    • Malik Cunningham didn’t have the greatest start to the season. It was a bad enough start that people questioned whether or not Evan Conley should be getting snaps. However, last night the absolute best version of Malik Cunningham showed up. He threw dimes all over the field from the pocket, on designed roll outs, and, most importantly, when scrambling. He kept his eyes downfield and made plays with his arm. Malik made great decisions on when to run and when to get out of bounds during runs as well. His 265 pass yards, 99 rush yards, and 3 total TDs were testimony to his excellent play and decision-making.
  2. Offensive Line was on point.
    • The offensive line looked very underwhelming the first two games of the season. Mississippi was able to get pressure with just three down linemen. EKU was getting penetration into the backfield causing our running game to falter. Last night, the offensive line did very well. Yes, they had a couple of mistakes, but they played very much like the offensive line the fans had been sold during the off season by the coaching staff. Malik was well protected on passing plays and they got major push and opened holes for the running backs. The offensive line truly lived up to the preseason hype.
  3. Jalen Mitchell played like Louisville’s top back.
    • Jalen Mitchell was, quite simply, the man last night. He ran with a ferocity that UCF could not match defensively, often turning 2-yard gains into 5-yard gains. Mitchell had 16 carries for 74 yards and a TD. He was a tank, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. If Jalen Mitchell is able to run like that the rest of the season, UofL can be a 7 to 8-win team.
  4. Marshon Ford was the X factor many expected him to be.
    • Marshon Ford is a player Coach Scott Satterfield singled out in the preseason. He was expected to be the X factor on offense, with coaches utilizing him as a mismatch for defenses by lining him up all over the field. In the first two games, he was largely kept silent, but against UCF, we saw the player many pegged to be one of the top tight ends in the ACC. Ford was getting wide open consistently and he was making huge catches. He led the team in receptions and yards, with 8 receptions for 100 yards and a TD. He was Louisville’s first 100-yard receiver this season. Ford was everything the staff had advertised him to be. He was Louisville’s best receiver and Malik’s security blanket. If Marshon builds off this performance, he will become arguably the best tight end in the ACC.
  5. Jordan Watkins and Justin Marshall made key receptions.
    • Jordan Watkins had 4 receptions for 46 yards and Justin Marshall had 3 for 34 yards. Each receivers receptions were key, often for first downs. Watkins had a big third down catch that kept a drive alive. If Watkins and Marshall are able to continue to grow into their roles on offense, the Cards receiving corps will have a solid trio with them and Marshon Ford.
  6. Coach Satterfield’s play calling was excellent.
    • Louisville presented a much more balanced attack than the first two weeks. They actually passed the ball slightly more than they ran it. They had 39 pass attempts and 37 rushes. What was truly noticeable was Coach Satterfield made what seemed like a concerted effort to break tendencies many coaches, analysts, and fans seemed to have noticed. While there were a couple of plays like the first fourth down play where they tried to run for it, he truly had UCF on the ropes all night. He threw a lot on first down, threw a lot on second and long, he utilized the short passing attack, and had Malik moving on bootlegs that allowed him to have more time to make reads and opened passing windows. This may have been Coach Satt’s best play calling performance since the 2019 Music City Bowl. Hopefully, he continues to mix it up, yet stay balanced. If he does, 8 wins is definitely within the realm of possibility.
  7. Defense made stops and got a timely turnover.
    • The defense as a whole played well. Some people may see the 35 points given up and question my statement. However, the UCF offense is a very potent one. They stormed back to defeat Boise State in their first game 36-31 and destroyed Bethune-Cookman in their second game 63-14. There’s no question, in my opinion, they are a legitimate offense. For Louisville to hold them to 35 points was a victory in and of itself. The defense got a few timely 3-and-outs and, of course, got the timeliest of turnovers when Jaylin Alderman picked off Dillon Gabriel and scored with 13 seconds left to snatch a victory. The defensive line was able to get some pressure on Gabriel, they were able (with a few exceptions) to contain the UCF run game, and they were able to make read-and-react plays that blew up some of UCF’s plays that lead to tackles for loss. Hopefully, this continues next week at Florida State. Hopefully, a few more sacks and turnovers result.
  8. Qwynnterrio Cole could be one of the best safeties in the conference.
    • Qwynnterrio Cole is the real deal. Cole was tied for second on the team in total tackles with 6. 5 of those were solo and he recorded 2 tackles for loss. He played with great instinct and with great intelligence, sniffing out a screen to come up and make a big hit for one of his tackles for loss. Maybe his biggest play was batting down a deep pass that, if caught, would’ve been a UCF touchdown and changed the complexion of the game. Hopefully, he continues his strong play against the Seminoles on the road.
  9. Monty Montgomery, CJ Avery, and Yasir Abdullah are quite the formidable trio of linebackers.
    • Monty Montgomery, CJ Avery, and Yasir Abdullah are truly a formidable trio. They all three had very good nights against UCF. Montgomery led the team in tackles with 9, 4 of those being solo. Avery, the undisputed leader of the group, in my opinion, had 6 tackles, 2 of which were solo. He also added a tackle for loss and 1 of UofL’s 2 sacks of Dillon Gabriel. Yasir Abdullah had 2 tackles, with 1 being solo. However, he had a tackle for loss and the other sack UofL had. The three linebackers had been solid through the first two games with Montgomery having missed most of the opener after a targeting ejection. However, on Friday night, we got to see the linebacking corps close to its best. If they continue their trajectory, they will be a true force that no ACC foe will want to reckon with.
  10. Two of the biggest plays involved true freshmen from 2021 signing class.
    • Two of the biggest plays in the entire game were made by true freshman. Many people have been criticizing the recruiting after the first couple of games. We’ve all seen the tweets about 3 stars can’t win, we need more 4 stars, etc. However, it was two true freshmen were involved in arguably the two biggest plays on the night. RB Trevion Cooley caught the TD on the trick play pass from Braden Smith. He actually had to slow down to make the catch. In a huge moment when he might have taken his eye off the ball and dropped it, Cooley cooly caught the ball and waltzed into the end zone. The game-winning interception was made true freshman Jaylin Alderman. He hadn’t played a snap in the game before his pick. He only came in due to Monty Montgomery’s injury. He could’ve bobbled it and dropped it. He could’ve been caught before reaching the end zone. He wasn’t, though. Some of the freshman from the 2021 class have been making noise in all 3 games so far. I expect you will see more do so as the season progresses. Scott Satterfield has proven he can identify talent and it showed in the two biggest plays Friday night.

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