In a game that had a lot of everything in it, Louisville needed every bit of their efforts to survive Wake Forest’s attempt at a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter.
Evan Conley’s 41-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one with 2:15 left provided the cushion Louisville needed, as the Cardinals (4-2, 2-1 ACC) pulled off a 62-59 upset of #19 Wake Forest (5-1, 1-1).
The win over the Demon Deacons marked the first time since September 2016 that Louisville defeated a ranked opponent, and the first time since November 2011 that the Cardinals beat a top-25 foe on the road.
The Cardinals charged to a 28-7 lead with 14:50 left in the second quarter, leaning on explosive plays in all three facets of the game. Louisville’s first touchdown drive came after recovering a Wake Forest fumble, as Javian Hawkins rushed in for an eight-yard score.
Louisville’s next touchdown came on a 55-yard throw from Micale Cunningham to Seth Dawkins, the second time in as many weeks that the two paired up for a 50+ yard passing touchdown.
Wake Forest did get their first touchdown on a 12-yard throw from Jamie Newman to Sage Surratt, cutting it to 14-7.
But two huge special teams plays helped Louisville roll to a 28-7 lead over the 19th-ranked Demon Deacons. Hassan Hall took the ensuing kickoff coast-to-coast for a 100-yard return touchdown. Tutu Atwell’s 53-yard punt return on Wake Forest’s next drive set Louisville up to score its next touchdown, a nine-yard throw from Cunningham to the aforementioned Atwell.
Two Wake Forest touchdowns in the second quarter cut Louisville’s lead to within one possession. Newman found Surratt in the end zone for a second time, and Cade Carney bulldozed in for another score to cut it to 28-21.
In the meantime, Louisville’s offense saw its starting quarterback depart early for the second consecutive game. Micale Cunningham left after taking an end-over-end hit, landing head first and fumbling the ball to Wake Forest in the process. The recovery by the Demon Deacons led to one of Wake Forest’s touchdowns to close the lead within one possession.
Backup quarterback Evan Conley, much like last week, hardly missed a beat in his relief duty. The freshman led Louisville on a scoring drive near the end of the first half, as his nine-play, 32-yard series led to a field goal from Blanton Creque to bump their lead to 31-21.
Wake Forest got in the red zone for their final drive of the first half, but an interception by Yasir Abdullah thwarted a chance at late points.
Another big special teams play to start the second half led straight to Louisville’s next touchdown. An 83-yard kick return by Hassan Hall parlayed right into Evan Conley’s 15-yard touchdown throw to Dez Fitzpatrick, putting the Cardinals up 38-21 early in the third quarter.
Louisville’s next drive ended in a deep interception thrown by Conley, leading to a Wake Forest touchdown that saw Newman connect with Surratt for the third time.
Conley would bounce back from his first collegiate interception by taking Louisville on another touchdown drive, culminating in Hassan Hall’s eight-yard run to the end zone.
An interception inside Louisville territory once again cost Wake Forest an opportunity to get back within one possession. Newman’s throw over the middle was tipped and later corralled by Rodjay Burns, thwarting another Wake Forest drive.
Evan Conley would once again hit Dez Fitzpatrick for a touchdown, connecting on a 50-yard pass downfield that put Louisville over 50 points for the first time since November 2017.
The next drive for Wake Forest resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Walker III, cutting it to 52-38. Louisville responded with a 36-yard field goal by Blanton Creque, seemingly icing the game at 55-38 with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Wake Forest nearly pulled off an improbable comeback with backup quarterback Sam Hartman, led by their patented high-tempo offense and big passes downfield. Hartman hit Scotty Washington for a 22-yard touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 55-45. Wake Forest then recovered an onside kick and Hartman capped off the following drive with a 21-yard touchdown throw to Jake Freudenthal, closing the lead to 55-52.
Wake Forest couldn’t come down with another onside kick, and a gutsy 4th-and-1 call by Scott Satterfield led to Evan Conley scrambling for a 41-yard touchdown, extending Louisville’s lead to 62-52.
Despite Conley’s long touchdown run that put Louisville up two scores, Wake Forest continued to threaten the Cardinals with the improbable comeback. Sam Hartman led a seven-play, 92-yard drive that ended with him scoring on a one-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 62-59. Another onside kick attempt nearly ended up in Wake Forest’s possession, but Louisville came with it and thus the victory.
Evan Conley undoubtedly will draw Player of the Game nominations from Louisville, as he led the Cardinals in both passing (12/18, 196 yards, 2 TDs, INT) and rushing (seven carries, 79 yards, one touchdown). Conley’s efforts were part of Louisville’s well-balanced attack, with the Cardinals tallying 520 total yards (295 passing, 225 rushing). Micale Cunningham also had a solid outing in his brief time, completing 5-of-6 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, with four carries for 59 yards.
Dez Fitzpatrick continued his hot streak from the Florida State game, leading the team with 125 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five catches. Seth Dawkins (three catches, 68 yards) and Tutu Atwell (seven catches, 85 yards) also hauled in touchdown catches.
Wake Forest’s offense had its usual productive outing, tallying 112 plays and 668 total yards. The Demon Deacons had 423 passing yards and five touchdown passes, with Jamie Newman (24/41, 251 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) and Sam Hartman (9/15, 172 yards, three total touchdowns) leading the charge. They also had 123 yards rushing from Christian Beal-Smith, and two receivers (Sage Surratt and Kendall Hinton) tallying 10+ catches for 100+ yards. Surratt finished with 12 receptions for 196 yards and three touchdowns, with Hinton tallying 13 for 134 yards.
But three turnovers, two of which came inside Louisville territory, proved to be costly in a game that was a high-octane shootout. Yasir Abdullah and Rodjay Burns recorded interceptions, as Louisville tripled its interception count on the season. Burns also led the team with 16 total tackles, two for a loss.
Louisville now has its second ranked opponent in as many weeks, setting themselves up for a showdown with #2 Clemson on Saturday at Cardinal Stadium.