Louisville football rallied for a 28-21 victory over Virginia at Cardinal Stadium Oct. 26 with a dominant second half. The Cardinals (5-3) held Virginia scoreless until late in the fourth quarter, outscoring the visitors 21-7 to become a win away from bowl eligibility.
The Cardinals made things a little too interesting in the final minute as Virginia scored with 21 seconds left and recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Louisville batted down the hail marry attempt.
Defense is back
After allowing over 500 yards in four consecutive games, Louisville’s defense might have put together its most complete performance of the year. The Cardinals forced two turnovers and held Virginia to 311 yards of offense.
Louisville brought pressure in a variety of ways and had success particularly in the second half. Boosie Whitlow and G.G. Robinson had back-to-back tackles for a loss early in the fourth quarter to end a Virginia drive that started on the Cardinal 49-yard-line.
The Cardinals had six tackles for a loss and held Virginia to 78 rushing yards.
Forgettable first half
The first half won’t be included in any archives for offensive production. Besides Tutu Atwell’s 77-yard reception tossed by Malik Cunningham, the Cardinals had just 110 yards of total offense. Take away Cunningham’s 48-yard carry, Louisville averaged 2.1 yards on 30 plays.
Louisville had six first downs, but Virginia wasn’t much better. The Cavaliers finished with nine first downs and 167 yards of offense in the first two quarters. Chandler Jones had an interception late in the first half for a Louisville defense that held Virginia to 6.0 yards per play.
Malik Cunningham and Evan Conley combined to complete 8 of 22 passes for 107 yards against Clemson last week. The two quarterbacks struggled in the first half in a consistent downpour and a running game that couldn’t get going. Cunningham and Conley combined to complete 5 of 9 throws for 98 yards, but one of Cunningham’s completions was a forward shuffle pass that went 77 yards.
Cunningham played exclusively in the second half, directing three touchdown drives. Cunningham finished with 126 passing yards while rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Louisville had some gaffs in the first half on special teams, but made several key plays in the second half. Blanton Creque missed a field goal and Virginia had a 77-yard punt in the first half that helped field position that led to an eventual Cavalier touchdown.
Mason King had a punt that was downed on the 1-yard-line with 7:43 left in the fourth quarter with Louisville leading 21-14.
Joe Reed, who entered the game as the nation’s second-best returner, averaging 39.4 yards per return, didn’t have a game-breaking play. Reed had a 28-yard return in the first half, but it didn’t lead to points. The senior had a 39-yard return to bring the ball to midfield in the fourth quarter, but Virginia couldn’t capitalize on the field position.
Louisville couldn't escape the game with another mistake on special teams.
The Cavaliers recovered an onside kick on the Cardinal 41-yard-line with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter following a touchdown.
Javian Hawkins became the first player in program history to rush for 100 yards in five consecutive home games. Hawkins finished with 136 yards and two scores. His 17-yard touchdown run with 2:46 left in the fourth quarter put the game away.
The redshirt freshman has rushed for 887 yards this season.