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Louisville Falls Short at Florida State 35-24

Cards rally from a 21-point deficit, but can’t close the comeback out.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville (2-2, 0-1 ACC) was able to take the lead in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 21 points. But a crucial interception flipped the momentum to Florida State, and parlayed into two late touchdowns by the Seminoles as FSU (2-2, 1-1 ACC) pulled out a 35-24 victory over the Cardinals.

As has been the case for most of the 2019 season, Florida State got off to a hot start against Louisville. The Seminoles came up short on fourth-and-two on their first drive, but their next three drives in the first quarter ended in three touchdowns. Cam Akers scored the first with 9:11 left, pounding it in from one yard out.

Backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook entered the game on the next drive, and needed only two plays to score Florida State’s next touchdown. Hornibrook connected with Keyshawn Helton on a 46-yard pass to put the Seminoles up 14-0. A four-yard touchdown run by Akers put Florida State up 21-0 as time expired in the first quarter.

Louisville’s offense struggled for most of the first half, averaging 2.1 yards per carry and tallying 112 total yards. But they picked up momentum towards the end of the half, as Malik Cunningham found Tutu Atwell on a nine-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-7. Florida State had a chance to add more points in the first half, but two missed field goals by Ricky Aguayo prevented it from happening.

Florida State quarterback James Blackman, who started for the Seminoles, exited the game with an injury on the Seminoles’ first drive of the second half. That allowed backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook to enter the game permanently, but that drive ended in a punt.

Blanton Creque hit a 30-yard field goal on Louisville’s next drive to cut the lead to 21-10. Florida State followed that up with a drive that got them in field goal range, but Aguayo missed his third field goal of the game from 41 yards out.

Louisville’s Malik Cunningham would then capitalize on their drive, cutting the lead to four with a four-yard touchdown run. Cunningham would then hit Dez Fitzpatrick for a 74-yard touchdown pass on his next drive, completing a 24-0 run to take a 24-21 lead with 14:22 left in the fourth quarter.

Florida State’s next drive ended in a three-and-out, and Louisville had a chance to pile onto their momentum with another drive inside Florida State territory. But Malik Cunningham misfired on a throw and was intercepted by Florida State’s Cyrus Fagan.

With the momentum swiftly falling into Florida State’s favor, the Seminoles would use that to score the go-ahead touchdown. Alex Hornibrook found Tamorrion Terry wide open down the sideline on a blown assignment, as Terry ran in for a 60-yard touchdown.

Florida State then got the ball back after a Louisville punt, and finished their final drive with Cam Akers’ third touchdown run of the day. This came after Florida State was given a first down following a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Louisville, as Marlon Character hit Ricky Aguayo during an 18-yard field goal attempt. Akers would get the touchdown on his second carry following the penalty.

Louisville got to the Florida State 39-yard line with four seconds left, but fumbled the ball away to Florida State as time expired. Quarterback Malik Cunningham was carted off with a leg injury following the final play.

Malik Cunningham put up career highs in passing for the second straight week, finishing with 286 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The sophomore also had 17 carries for five yards and one touchdown, part of Louisville’s 124 rushing yards in the game.

Hassan Hall led Louisville with 57 rushing yards on 11 carries, with Javian Hawkins getting 52 yards on 17 carries. Louisville’s 124 rushing yards is a season-low through four games this season, as is the 2.6 yards per carry average.

Dez Fitzpatrick finished with a team-high seven catches for 133 yards and one touchdown, his first 100-yard game since October 2017. TuTu Atwell finished with five catches for 69 yards and one touchdown, bringing his season totals to a team-high 314 yards and five touchdowns.

Florida State’s offense tallied 522 total yards, 382 of it by way of passing. As a team, the Seminoles completed 26-of-34 passes and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. Alex Hornibrook led the team with 15-of-20 passing for 255 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.

Cam Akers continued his stellar season with 29 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Keyshawn Helton led the Seminoles with seven catches for 96 yards and one touchdown, with Tamorrion Terry (two catches, 73 yards) also getting a touchdown.

Louisville now has a bye week to close September out. The Cards return to action on October 5th at home against Boston College.