Louisville Football has had a remarkable turnaround since losing to lowly Boston College in early October. Since then, the defense has become one of the absolute best in the country and they won 4 of their last 5 contests. However, coming off a loss to Clemson and entering the game with senior QB Malik Cunningham out with a shoulder injury, it was far from certain whether the Cards could muster enough offense to beat a very good NC State defense. In the end, the defense, as it has done throughout this stretch of excellent football, was able to stifle NC State while the offense and special teams scored enough to win the home finale 25-10.
NC State was playing without true freshman QB MJ Morris, who had been the catalyst to a bunch of wins after heralded starter Devin Leary went down and backup Jack Chambers was ineffective. Chambers got the start in Morris’ absence, but ended up splitting time and then giving way to Scout team QB Ben Finley in the second half.
Meanwhile, Brock Domann started in place of the injured Malik Cunningham. This was Domann’s second career start after starting and defeating Virginia earlier in the year. The victory over the Cavaliers was the first victory of 4 straight before the Clemson loss.
This game required the Cards to be largely mistake-free on offense, dominant on defense, and precise on special teams. It is exactly what the team delivered. The offense wasn’t spectacular, but it was effective and timely. Domann managed the game and the Cards were able to find enough offense. Domann was 12-25 for 153 yards. Obviously not spectacular, but he didn’t have a turnover which is exactly what the team needed. He made just enough throws to keep the offense moving including a nice 36-yard throw to Tyler Hudson in the third quarter that put the Cards at the 2 and led to a 2-yard Jawhar Jordan TD run. Another big throw was a 38-yard pass to senior TE Marshon Ford that helped get the Cards get the first 3 points of the game on James Turner’s first field goal.
It was the Jawhar Jordan and James Turner show when it came to the majority of scoring. In addition to Jawhar’s third quarter TD run, he had a big 98-yard kickoff return TD in the first quarter to help the Cards regain momentum after NC State had tied the game up with a field goal. He ended up running for 105 yards on 16 carries averaging just over 6 yards a carry. His running led to many of James Turner’s 4 field goals. Turner even overcame a snafu just before half. As he was in the process of kicking a field goal to give the Cards a 14-3 lead heading into half, fireworks went off. With ice in his veins, Turner managed to knock the field goal through despite the unexpected loud boom of the firework.
Defensively, UofL was stingy and dominant. While NC State was able to move the ball in spurts and score a TD, UofL, for the most part, hounded the Wolfpack. They forced only one turnover, an interception in the end zone on the last play. However, the Cards were able to get 5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. Yasir Abdullah and Monty Montgomery had senior days to remember. Abdullah had 7 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 big sacks including a huge sack of Ben Finley late in the second quarter. Montgomery was a monster that NC State had no answer for. He totaled 10 tackles, a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup (that should’ve been an interception), and 2 QB hurries. The biggest play may have been by Momo Sanogo. On 4th-and-1 in the 4th quarter UofL was nursing a 17-10 lead. NC State lined up to attempt what appeared to be a QB sneak attempt. However, they tried to catch the Cards sleeping as they tossed the ball to RB Michael Allen to the outside. Sanogo was able to knife into the backfield and stop Allen for no gain. This gave the Cards the football back on the NC State 45 yard line and led to the Cards touchdown that basically iced the game.
This senior class left Cardinal Stadium for the final time knowing it was they who helped turn a season on the brink of failure into a season that will be remembered fondly. When many questioned if the Cards could win another game after losing to lowly Boston College, the team rallied around each other and their coaches. Determination was found. They willed their way to victories that were unthinkable and a maligned defense suddenly became the strength of the team behind Yasir Abdullah, Yaya Diaby, Kei’Trel Clark, Monty Montgomery, and MJ Griffin. They have been the leaders, playmakers, and arguably the heart and soul of the team. Dez Tell stepped in for an injured All-Conference type player in Jermayne Lole and became a force in the middle. Ben Perry has lived up to his 4 Star status and Josh Minkins has been a playmaker many expected him to be when he signed. Jarvis Brownlee has been solid on the other side from Clark. Quincy Riley has shown flashes in his opportunities on the field as well including with the game-ending pick tonight.
Now, the team turns to one final hurdle. It’s a big one…the Governor’s Cup. They head to Lexington hoping to finally defeat rival Kentucky. UK has won the last 4 meetings, including all of the games in the Satterfield Era. The games have, unfortunately, not been close. However, UofL enters the game with all the momentum. They have an advantage with their defensive front. It’s not a forgone conclusion that the Cards win. It’s on the road, we don’t know the status of Malik Cunningham, and the Cards just seem to have a mental block when playing this game. Yet, this team feels different. They have won in a variety of ways and they have faced obstacles in each game they’ve won that they’ve overcome. There is a determination and resolve that I can argue we haven’t seen in recent seasons. Now, we wait a week and see if our Cards can finally conquer the Cats.
Saturday, November 26th at 3 pm in Lexington.