Louisville ran 45 times for 227 yards, including a team high 136 from Javian Hawkins with two touchdowns, as the Cardinals (5-3, 3-2 ACC) rallied to a 28-21 win over Virginia (5-3, 3-2).
Sitting at 5-3 now, Louisville is one victory away from bowl eligibility after going 2-10 last season. The Cardinals have also won four of the last five games against the Cavaliers, and have yet to lose to UVA at Cardinal Stadium since joining the ACC.
Louisville got off to a great start on its first drive of the game, marching to the Virginia 29-yard line. But a fourth-and-14 attempt ended in Micale Cunningham getting sacked, forcing a turnover on downs.
After the turnover on downs, Virginia capped its drive off with a six-yard touchdown run by Wayne Taulapapa. The drive was aided by a pivotal third down conversion by quarterback Bryce Perkins, one that saw him recover a bobbled snap and complete a 39-yard pass to Hasise DuBois down the sideline.
However, Louisville tied it quickly on a 77-yard touchdown by Tutu Atwell, coming on a pop pass from Cunningham.
Bryce Perkins exited the game on Virginia’s next drive with an injury, and Louisville’s defense ended up forcing a three-and-out (Perkins would return and finish the game out for UVA).
Despite Louisville taking its next drive deep into Virginia territory again, they would come away empty as Blanton Creque missed a 38-yard field goal.
After another Virginia three-and-out, Louisville opted to change quarterbacks for the fourth straight game. Evan Conley made another appearance, and his first drive ended in a three-and-out. It would foreshadow a second quarter that saw Louisville constantly pinned deep in its own territory, and Conley’s drives ending in quick three-and-outs. With the freshman on the field for the second quarter, Louisville’s offense had six total yards of offense.
Virginia’s second quarter would go much better than Louisville’s. With the Cardinals constantly having to start deep in its own territory, that gave the Cavaliers a shorter field to work with. They had a five-play, 53-yard drive that closed with Taulapapa’s second touchdown, coming on a 19-yard run up the middle.
Virginia made another red zone trip late in the first half, but an errant pass thrown by Bryce Perkins led to an interception by Louisville’s Chandler Jones.
Trailing 14-7 at halftime and Louisville being unable to move the ball with Conley at quarterback, Cunningham made his return to the field. His first drive back on the field went 12 plays for 89 yards, and ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Javian Hawkins that tied the game.
The 14-14 tie energized a Louisville crowd that endured through the rain, but was loud throughout. Louisville’s defense rallied behind the home crowd as they shutout Virginia for a majority of the second half. They constantly harassed Bryce Perkins, sacking him four times and bringing pressure to force incompletions. They also recovered a key fumble in the second half; Boosie Whitlow forced a fumble on Joe Reed, with C.J. Avery recovering it and giving the Cards a possession inside the Virginia 40.
Louisville would parlay that into a three play drive that ended with Micale Cunningham finishing a 25-yard touchdown run, putting the Cards ahead 21-14 with 14:22 left in the fourth quarter. Another touchdown run by Javian Hawkins with 2:46 left pushed the lead to 28-14.
Virginia would not go away quietly, though. The Cavaliers overcame heavy rain in the final parts of their 15-play, 89-yard drive to score a touchdown on Bryce Perkins’s four-yard pass to Tavares Kelly, Jr. The Cavaliers recovered the following onside kick to get one last chance at tying the game, but failed to come down with the Hail Mary attempt.
It was a run-heavy showing for the Louisville offense, tallying 45 carries to just 14 passes. Despite facing a Virginia defense that was allowing 96 rushing yards per game coming into Saturday, the Cards managed to get 227 yards against the Cavaliers. Javian Hawkins had a career high 28 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and became the first U of L player with five straight 100-yard rushing games at home. Micale Cunningham completed 6-of-10 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, with 11 carries for 98 yards and another score.
Tutu Atwell had another 100-yard game, reeling in six catches for 122 yards and a score. Atwell caught six of Louisville’s eight passes and accounted for all but 11 of Louisville’s 133 receiving yards.
Louisville’s defense had by far its best outing in a month, holding the Cavaliers to 311 total yards and 88 rushing. They had four sacks and forced two key turnovers, including the interception by Chandler Jones that thwarted a Virginia red zone opportunity near the end of the first half. Bryce Perkins completed 24-of-41 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wayne Taulapapa (11 carries, 54 yards, two touchdowns) and Hasise DuBois (seven catches, 93 yards) led the Cavaliers in rushing and receiving, respectively.
Louisville has a bye next week, but will return on November 9th to take on Miami (FL) at Hard Rock Stadium.