After dog-walking Eastern Kentucky, the Cards headed down to Nashville hoping to keep the streak alive against Western Kentucky.
And while it wasn’t the dominating performance of last week, Louisville was still able to leave the Music City with a 38-21 victory.
Much like Louisville, Western changed up coaching staffs after an abysmal season. The Hilltoppers have split two close games this year, and much like the Cards need every win they can get to make it to a bowl game.
Jawon Pass, who had started the previous two games at quarterback, was out with a foot injury, so Malik Cunningham got the start.
While it took a couple series for the Louisville offense to get in rhythm, eventually they were able to move the ball until they scored on a 9-yard shovel pass to Tutu Atwell for a 7-0 lead.
The second quarter saw a lot more offense than the first. Atwell caught another touchdown pass early in the quarter, but Western responded with a monster 77-yard touchdown pass of their own on the following possession.
Louisville got the lead back up to two scores with their first running touchdown of the game on a handoff to Javian Hawkins. After the Hilltoppers punted, Blanton Creque made the games first field goal with less than 90 seconds left to get the Cards to a 24-7 lead.
Louisville’s defense even got in on the scoring, recovering a fumble and returning it 30 yards for a score to go into halftime up 31-7. It was the Card’s first fumble return for a touchdown in almost four years.
Louisville did not play perfectly, however. Their first possession of the second half ended in a fumbled pitch from Cunningham to Atwell. WKU recovered and a scored on an eight-yard pass a few plays later.
This was the start of a rough quarter for both teams. The Toppers couldn’t capitalize on the momentum from their touchdown and struggled to move the ball. The Cards had problems offensively too, which wasn’t helped when Cunningham came off with an injury and third-string quarterback Evan Conley started playing.
With Louisville fans holding their breath, Conley threw it to Tutu Atwell for a 62-yard touchdown on Conley’s second pass of the game.
Western didn’t go away as the game went on, scoring another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 38-21. They would follow it up with a successful onside kick to get the ball back on the Louisville 49-yard line, although the Cards’ defense would force the Tops into a four-and-out.
The remainder of the game devolved into turnover after turnover with neither team getting anything else done offensively before the final whistle blew.
Cunningham completed eight of his 13 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 46 yards on 16 carries.
Conley went 2-3 for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Javian Hawkins narrowly missed his third 100-yard rushing game in a row, running for 93 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Atwell caught 4 passes for a career-high 141 yards and three touchdowns and was the team’s leading receiver. It was the most touchdowns a Louisville receiver has caught since James Quick in 2015.
Last season’s win over WKU was Louisville’s final one that year. They left with a victory, but plenty of questions some hope and a little dread. As the Cards again defeated the Hilltoppers and head into ACC play, they still need to settle on a quarterback, string four quarters of offense together and clean up some simple mistakes.
Will Louisville continue their winning ways or repeat the sins of the past? They begin their conference season with their first true away game against Florida State on September 21.