Rapid Reaction: Louisville bowl eligible with win
A tale of two halves ended with bowl eligibility for Louisville football.
The Cardinals defeated NC State 34-20 in Raleigh Nov. 16 for their sixth win. After an uninspired first half performance that ended with a 10-7 deficit, Louisville scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to take complete control for their fourth Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) victory.
Louisville’s defense was embarrassed last week in the 52-27 loss to Miami. The Cardinals looked entirely different against NC State.
Russ Yeast forced two fumbles and Dorian Etheridge had an interception for a defense that allowed 377 yards, holding NC State scoreless in the first and third quarter.
Micale Cunningham led Louisville’s offense for the entirety of the game. The redshirt sophomore quarter completed 13 of 20 throws for 242 yards and four touchdowns.
Cunningham took some in the first half, but played more comfortable in the second half, connecting on deep throws, a 74-yard touchdown reception to Tutu Atwell and a 42-yard reception to Marshon Ford.
Javian Hawkins finished with 67 rushing yards against NC State, surpassing 1,000 rushing yards this season. The redshirt freshman became Louisville’s first running back since Bilal Powell in 2010 to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.
Hawkins is the 18 running back in program history to have over 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.
After being injured in the first quarter of last week’s loss to Miami, Mekhi Becton did not play against NC State. The junior left tackle had 22 consecutive starts.
Becton is Louisville’s best offensive lineman and has a bevy of pro potential, but was in a walking boot with a lower leg injury. Sophomore Adonis Boone started in Becton’s place at left tackle.
NC State’s pressure bothered Louisville throughout the first half.
Louisville executed a trick play to perfection in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals lined up for a field goal attempt from the 7-yard-line, but kicker Ryan Chalifoux took a direct snap, rolled to his right, finding Marshon Ford in the endzone for a touchdown to give Louisville a 34-17 lead with 9:42 lead.
What it means
After being picked last in the Atlantic Division in the preseason ACC media poll, Louisville will be going to a bowl game. The Cardinals guarantee themselves of finishing with at least a .500 conference record.
Louisville plays its final home game of the season against Syracuse next week. The Cardinals host their final conference game at 4 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium Nov. 23.