Louisville’s defense turned in a stellar performance, holding Eastern Kentucky to 172 total yards and tallying five sacks against the Colonels. The Cardinals (1-1) would ride that effort to a 42-0 shutout victory over the Colonels (1-1).
One year ago, the defense was allowing catastrophic numbers in practically every category. But today, Louisville held EKU to a goose egg on the scoreboard, their first shutout victory since September 2013.
It was led by an aggressive effort from Louisville’s front seven that was on display from the beginning. Louisville’s Yasir Abdullah got a third-down sack that forced the Colonels to punt. Louisville’s next drive afterwards would go two plays, ending in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jawon Pass to Tutu Atwell.
It wouldn’t be until 2:17 left in the first quarter that Louisville scored its second touchdown, coming on another touchdown throw from Pass to tight end Marshon Ford. This was set-up by Tutu Atwell getting a 33-yard punt return that set Louisville up inside the 15-yard line. The Cardinals only needed two plays from there.
Louisville had two drives end inside EKU territory in the second quarter; one ended on a fourth down interception thrown by Pass, the second on a missed 43-yard field goal by Blanton Creque.
While Louisville’s offense didn’t score any points in the second quarter, its defense did its part in stopping EKU. The Cards tallied four sacks in the first half, all of which came at crucial moments. EKU’s first two drives had third-down sacks that forced the Colonels to punt. Another sack on 4th-and-five by Jared Goldwire early in the second quarter forced a turnover on downs. Boosie Whitlow got another sack on EKU’s final drive in the first half, effectively shutting down an opportunity for last minute Colonel points.
Louisville would come out of the second half swinging. Javian Hawkins had a 66-yard run on the first play of the drive, ultimately setting up Jawon Pass to throw his third touchdown of the night to Marshon Ford. After another EKU punt, Pass wrapped up a 12-play, 93-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown throw to Dez Fitzpatrick on 4th-and-goal.
Hassan Hall and backup quarterback Malik Cunningham would score Louisville’s two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Hall reached out past the goal line on a one-yard run up the middle with 12:05 left in the game. After Hall’s touchdown and another EKU punt, Cunningham played out the final two drives for Louisville. The sophomore scored a touchdown on the first of those drives, keeping it on the option for a 38-yard run.
While there were some hiccups, Louisville turned in a near complete performance. The offense ran for 322 yards on 38 carries, including a team-high 123 yards from Javian Hawkins. Hawkins becomes the first freshman Louisville running back since 2008 to rush for back-to-back 100-yard games. Malik Cunningham (four carries, 73 yards, one touchdown) and Hassan Hall (15 carries, 58 yards, one touchdown) also had significant contributions on the night.
Jawon Pass also finished with a solid night, completing 12-of-19 passes for 196 yards and a career-high four touchdowns with one interception. Malik Cunningham completed his lone pass for 24 yards.
The defense’s shutout was led by an aggressive effort from Louisville’s front seven, tallying five sacks and allowing 172 total yards. EKU rushed for 130 yards on 43 carries, averaging 3.02 yards per carry. Daryl McCleskey, Jr. led the Colonels with 22 carries for 79 yards. EKU was held to just 42 yards passing.
Louisville’s next game will be on the road in Nashville, as they take on another in-state foe in Western Kentucky. The Cards and the ‘Toppers do battle at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.