Louisville 30 – Eastern Kentucky 3: Cards Drop Ball But Still Win

Tim Easley | AP

After a nightmare season opening loss against Ole Miss, the Louisville Cardinals look to right the ship in their first home game against Eastern Kentucky.

And while Louisville emerged victorious, they certainly could have been a lot more impressive than their 30-3 win over the Colonels.

EKU was coming off a close win against Western Carolina. It was their first win as a member of the ASUN conference and the first time beating the Catamounts at Cullowhee in over 30 years.

While the Cards loss was technically 43-24, it was never really that close, with Louisville looking hopeless is almost all phases besides punting.

They have a good record against the EKU, beating them 42-0 in 2019.

The Colonels may be their easiest opponent left this season and the only chance to work on their game before the season begins in earnest.

The Cards took a bit to get going, and it was special teams that’s ended up providing the spark needed to get them on the board.

A Louisville punt was muffed by EKU and recovered by the Cards at the Colonel’s 25-yard line. Three plays later, Malik Cunningham ran it in from 10-yards out for the first score of the game and their first lead of the season.

The special teams came up big again five minutes into the second quarter. Braden Smith returned a punt 49-yards for a touchdown. The Cards missed the PAT to make the score 13-0.

It was Louisville’s first punt return TD since Rodjay Burns against Indiana State in 2018.

The Colonels kicked a field goal a couple minutes later to finally get on the board.

As the first half drew to a close, Cunningham ran it in for another touchdown to go into halftime up 20-3.

The Cards has 173 yards of total offense in the first half.

There was no more scoring until just over five minutes left in the third quarter, then Cunningham threw a 30-yard pass to Justin Marshall for a touchdown.

Louisville added a field goal early in the final quarter to make the score 30-3.

The Cards almost had another touchdown with 10 minutes left in the game, with Ahmari Huggins-Bruce fixing to have a 94-yard reception for six points, but he dropped the ball before he crossed the goal line, resulting in a turnover and EKU ball.

If successful, it would have been the longest reception in school history.

Evan Conley went in on Louisville’s next possession. Conley didn’t do much in the garbage time period, going 1-3 with six passing yards.

Malik Cunningham finished the game throwing 15-23 for 183 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 29 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.

There was no more scoring by either side as the game wound down, and the Cards took their first victory.

While a win is a win, Louisville looked less than impressive on defense and offense, only scoring 30 points on a man EKU team that gave up over 500 yards to their last opponent.

Fans who were looking to be encouraged about the rest of the season have some more to see.

Jalen Mitchell was the Cards’ leading rusher, running for 90 yards on 18 carries.

Even with that boneheaded dropped touchdown, Ahmari Huggins-Bruce was Louisville’s top receiver, catching four passing for 56 yards.

Both teams are now 1-1 for the season.

The schedule gets a lot tougher as the Cards stay at home as they host UCF on September 17.

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