The 2020 season was disappointing for the Louisville football team. After going 8-5 with a Music City Bowl win in 2019, last years Cards could only muster 4 wins in a season wracked with COVID cases and capped off with head coach Scott Satterfield flirting with South Carolina in a scenario Louisville fans knew all too well.
They were looking to turn it around in the Cards opener against Ole Miss in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.
Louisville could not overcome an abysmal first half and fell to the Rebels 43-24.
The Cards come into this year with a lot more experience but more than a few question marks. Have Malik Cunningham and the rest of the Louisville offense cured their turnover woes? Who in the receiving corps will step up and catch Cunningham’s passes? Will Satterfield play footsie with another Carolina school? Will the coronavirus clear out another position group five minutes before a game?
The Rebels struggled as well last season, going 5-5 while simultaneously fielding one of college football’s best offenses and worst defenses.
Ole Miss was dealt a blow on Friday when it was announced that head coach Lane Kiffin had caught COVID, and would not be coaching tonight’s matchup.
Apparently he just didn’t really need to be there.
The Rebels scored early on a short touchdown run, missing the PAT to make the score 6-0. They added another field goal late in the first quarter.
The biggest question mark on offense for Louisville, besides if Cunningham can keep from turning the ball over, was what the Cards were going to do in the passing game. They lost both Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick, two of their statistically best receivers, to the NFL draft. And much of the rest of the receiving corps was unproven.
They struggled early throwing the ball, earning only five passing yards in the first quarter.
The defense suffered a blow when they lost linebacker Monty Montgomery to a confirmed targeting penalty a few minutes into the second quarter. The Rebels took advantage, scoring a few plays later to make the score 16-0.
There was quite of bit of targeting in the first half, with four penalties being called between the two teams. All ended in ejections.
The offense did not get better as the first half wore on. Cunningham threw his first pick of the season on a forced throw to an Ole Miss safety.
The Rebels scored three plays later to make it 23-0.
The second Louisville turnover came on a 4th down play late in the half on a Hassan Hall fumble. Ole Miss made a field goal as the half wound down to make the score 26-0.
At the half, Malik was the team leader in passing, rushing and receiving yards, having caught a nine-yard pass from Braden Smith late in the second quarter.
The Cards scored their first points of the game on a 38-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
The Rebels responded with a field goal of their own to make the score 29-3 midway through the third quarter.
Louisville’s first touchdown of the year came on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Braden Smith in the closing minutes of the third quarter.
Ole Miss was not done scoring yet though, running the ball in from 11-yards out to get a 39-10 lead.
The Cards did not give up though, with Cunningham running into the endzone for another score halfway through the final quarter.
This was not the start of a Louisville run, however, as The Rebels scored on their next possession with a six-yard touchdown pass to make the score 43-17.
The Cards scored again with a nine-yard Malik run with four minutes left to go in the game make the score 43-24.
Louisville had no offense to speak of in the first half, but started to figure things out in the final two quarters. They finished the game with 355 total yards, 200 passing and 155 rushing.
The Cards’ defense couldn’t stop the Ole Miss offense , who racked up 569 yards of offense, 188 rushing and 381 through the air.
A bright spot for Louisville was the punting game. Mark Vasset, the much ballyhooed freshman from Melbourne, Australia, kicked three punts today. He averaged just over 44 yards per punt with his longest being 53 yards.
Malik Cunningham would finish the game completing 22-37 passes for 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 79 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
Marshon Ford was the Card’s leading receiver, with four catches for 50 yards. Braden Smith caught the only touchdown pass.
Louisville’s will look to lick their wounds and vastly improve in their home opener against Eastern Kentucky on September 11.<