University of Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino has named Malik Cunningham starting quarterback for Saturday’s Virginia game. This, after Cunningham sparked a lethargic offense while playing in their last two games.
Going forward, I expect Louisville’s offense to look very much like it did with Lamar Jackson under center. We’ve seen it so far and I doubt it will change. During the Cards’ game on Sept. 15th against Western Kentucky University, it was night and day between Jawon Pass and Cunningham taking snaps.
Alas, Pass’ struggles continue. UofL managed just 292 yards against a WKU team that allowed 324 to Maine. They passed for 88 yards. They went 2-for-11 on third downs. The Cardinals had a negative 2 yards while WKU struck first after a 16-play, 8-yard drive that ate 7:13 off the clock.
“We haven’t been able to get our receivers involved like we need to,” Petrino said. “It looked like we had a couple of opportunities for some big plays and we weren’t able to make them. Jaylen makes that play just about every single day, so it’s just something, one of those nights where it isn’t clicking. But I’ll call his number again, and we’ll throw it to him again. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Jaylen Smith.”
Hoping to ignite their offense, Louisville put Cunningham in, but the same results followed. While Cunningham made a couple of plays with his feet, the same story was told as their offense stalled. While the first half for UofL was filled with turnovers, penalties and dropped passes, Cunningham began to find his groove during the last drive of the half. He showed flashes of Lamar Jackson on an 81-yard, 12-play drive that shaved 2:46 off the clock and ended in a field goal. At the half, WKU led 14-3.
But coming out after halftime, Louisville had a whole new swagger under Cunningham. They ran more run pass option plays, allowing Cunningham to get to the edge of the defense and make plays with his legs. UofL scored on three, straight drives, energized by a blocked field goal. Malik solidified himself as the starter. His ability to make defenders miss and extend plays led to a Cardinal victory.
Cunningham has won two games for Louisville with his running ability after taking Pass’ place. In both games, the quarterback dropping back to pass then taking off, has been Louisville’s best offense. That’s not how their coaches drew it up over the past eight months, but at the end of the day, whoever gives you the best chance to win, you go with.