PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Louisville football’s offense couldn’t have been much worse against an imposing front-seven in a 23-20 loss to Pitt at Heinz Field Sept. 26.
The Cardinals managed just 223 yards of total offense, the lowest output in Scott Satterfield’s two seasons as head coach, and went 1 of 11 on third downs.
Louisville struggled to do much against a team that led the nation in sacks last season.
“They kept the pressure on us all night defensively,” Satterfield said. “We didn’t find ways to run the ball. In passing situations, they did a great job of pinning their ears back and getting to the passer.”
Besides Javian Hawkins’ 75-yard touchdown run and a 31-yard gain by Tabarius Peterson on a fake punt attempt, Louisville rushed for just 10 yards on 28 carries.
Malik Cunningham was sacked seven times while completing 9 of 21 throws for 107 yards and a touchdown, while throwing three interceptions.
“Pitt does a great job of loading up the box, stopping the run with a lot of hats and then letting their defensive ends rush the passer,” Satterfield said. “They play fast, they’re physical up front.”
Satterfield credited Pitt’s defensive scheme that disguises its pressure.
Pitt finished with 12 tackles for a loss as Louisville struggled to keep Panther defensive linemen out of the backfield. Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver combined for 5.5 tackles for a loss for a defense that finished with four turnovers.
“It was our guys getting beat, we got beat on some one-on-one blocks,” Satterfield said. “It caused some pressure in the backfield and within the running game.”
With pressure from Pitt’s front-seven, Louisville had one-on-one opportunities on the outside with its playmaking receivers, but couldn’t take advantage of it often enough.
Tutu Atwell caught a 21-yard touchdown throw from Cunningham while Braden Smith and Marshon Ford each had receptions for more than 20 yards, but Louisville couldn’t consistently connect with downfield throws.
“We either overthrew or underthrew, we got pass interference,” Satterfield said. “We want to connect on those for touchdowns.”
Without time to throw, Cunningham and Louisville struggled to convert third downs.
The Cardinals only third-down conversion came in the second quarter, a third-and-9 that ended with a 12-yard reception by Atwell to continue a drive that was capped by a 38-yard field goal from James Turner to bring Louisville within 13-10.
“It’s hard to pickup third and long when they have the kind of pass rushers they have on the edge,” Satterfield said. “They’re an incredible pass rushing team.”
Louisville finished with just 10 first downs in its second straight loss.
“The Pitt defense came out and played a great game,” Hawkins said. “A lot of spiking inside by edge players, just causing commotion. They played a good game up front.”
Louisville heads into their first bye week, and will pick up their three-game road trip on Friday, Oct. 9 at 12:00 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech.
(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)
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