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Louisville falls to Air Force, 31-28, in First Responder Bowl

The Cardinals finish a disappointing 2021 campaign with a 6-7 record.

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl- Air Force v Louisville Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

A late rally wasn’t enough for the Louisville football team, which fell to Air Force, 31-28, in the First Responder Bowl Tuesday afternoon in Dallas.

Thanks to some early squandered red zone opportunities, U of L never led in the game, and trailed 28-14 at halftime. That deficit proved to be too much to overcome against an Air Force team that was more than happy to bleed the clock through long, sustained drives in the second half.

The Cardinal defense actually did a solid job slowing down Air Force’s top-ranked rushing offense, limiting the Falcons to 170 yards on 55 rushes. That resulted in an average of just 3.1 yards per carry, a season-low for Air Force.

Unfortunately, an inexperienced Cardinal secondary was victimized by a Falcon offense that had run the ball on 91 consecutive plays entering Tuesday’s game. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels exposed the youth and inexperience on the back end of the U of L defense, completing 9-of-10 passes for a whopping 252 yards and a pair of scores. Daniels, who also rushed for a pair of scores, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

After a slow start passing, Malik Cunningham rallied with a big second half performance to give Louisville a chance at pulling off the come from behind win. Cunningham finished with 207 yards passing, 63 yards rushing, and a touchdown both through the air and on the ground.

By finishing 6-7, Louisville football has now produced back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Those seasons, as you either immediately remembered or had repressed for your own mental health, were the final two seasons of the Steve Kragthorpe era.

The eight months ahead will be an extremely tough sell for everyone associated with Cardinal football.