After defeating Eastern Kentucky University, the Louisville Cardinals beat the second of three in-state rivals this year after trouncing the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Saturday 38-21.
In front of a crowd of 22,665 at Nissan Stadium, the 2018 rivalry was renewed. Dating back to 1922 with the Louisville Cardinals having an overall 20-12 record, last year Louisville won 21-17. It was WKU’s third time playing in Nissan stadium and Louisville’s first.
“They just overpowered us, to be honest with you,” WKU coach Tyson Helton said. “Defensively for them, they controlled the line of scrimmage and were able to hold the point and control it. I thought our defense did fairly well. They moved the ball, but they were able to keep them at bay. They were able to do those and get the shots down the field and that’s what really hurt us.”
Starting QB Jawon “Puma” Pass was sidelined with “chronic foot issues”. Malik Cunningham, who had time under center last year, started in his place.
Cunningham finished the day completing eight of 13 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns with 46 yards. The first quarter started slowly as both teams produced short drives while having strong defensive plays from both teams.
Neither team could find a rhythm. The game’s first score was on a shuttle pass from Malik Cummingham to Tutu Atwell, who’s been the best player this season thus far for the Cardinals.
The Quarter Pounder
The second quarter, however, began with an explosion as Atwell and Cummingham connected on their second TD pass and catch of the game. WKU’s next drive resulted in a TD as WKU put points on the board with a scoring connection from Steven Duncan.
The game seemed somewhat competitive, but a Louisville field goal and defensive touchdown from a WKU fumble put the game in hand. The Cardinals scored 24 points in the second quarter to blow the game open. The Hilltoppers (1-2) outscored Louisville (2-1) in the second half, but couldn’t overcome their second quarter.
Louisville had a total of 415 yards. Javian Hawkins lead the team in rushing with 93 yards on 19 carries. While WKU’s Steven Ducan was able to make plays in the air, the Louisville defense was a beast in run-stopping, giving up only 44 yards.
Malik Cunnigham took a shot in the third quarter and was replaced by Evan Conley who went ⅔ for 86 yards and a TD.
The health of Pass and Cunningham remains unknown at this point, but this much is certain; whoever plays QB for Louisville’s next game against Florida State will have the biggest spotlight shining on them.