Just when all hope was gone for Louisville football, the Cards beat Florida State and injected some life back into the season. But was it a Phoenix rising from the ashes or the brief reanimation of a shambling corpse?
The world would find out against Virginia Tech.
While the Cards would stay close at the end of the game, they couldn’t overcome an early three-score deficit as lost 42-35.
The Hokies were ranked until losing to Wake Forest last weekend and were looking to get positive momentum before facing #1 Clemson next week. Louisville was out to prove their victory against the Seminoles was no fluke.
These teams hadn’t faced each other since the 2006 Gator Bowl, a game most notable for a 35-24 Virginia Tech victory and Hokie quarterback Marcus Vick attempting to go all Steven Seagal on Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s leg.
The Cardinal defense was dealt a surprise blow right before kickoff, when it was announced that most of the defensive line would be out, some with COVID. Louisville would only field five defensive lineman, all inexperienced freshmen and sophomores.
This would prove to to be critical, as the Hokies exploited the inexperience gap and ran in the game’s first three touchdowns.
Virginia Tech scored first on a 6-yard run five minutes into the game. They would score again as the quarter wound down to make the score 14-0.
Five minutes later the Hokies scored a third time on another run.
Louisville wasn’t out yet, as they finally got on the board with a 14-yard pass to Marshon Ford with six minutes left to go in the first half.
The Cardinal defense was able to keep Tech from scoring as the second quarter wound down and as the clock ticked down to zero Javian Hawkins broke free to run 90 yards for a touchdown and head into halftime only down 21-14.
Louisville had a hard time carrying that momentum to the second half, as the Hokies were able to score again a few minutes into the third quarter to make the score 28-14.
Virginia Tech added a field goal early in the final quarter.
The Cards would prove there was some life in them yet when Cunningham connected with Dez Fitzpatrick for an 82-yard touchdown to make the score 31-21.
The Hokies would add another field goal on their next possession to keep Louisville at bay, but the Cards would get back within six with a 13-yard run by Maurice Burkley.
The Louisville defense couldn’t keep Tech out of the endzone, however, as they scored a 24-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes left.
The Cards stayed in it, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Javian Hawkins. But their failure to convert the ensuing onside kick was the final nail in Louisville’s coffin.
It was yet another defeat in which the Cards out gained their opponent in total yards. Louisville had 548 total yards to the Hokies’ 466. Tech did control the run game, exploiting the new defensive line to torch the Cards for 283 rushing yards.
Early in the season the Cards were one of the most turnover-prone teams in the country, but they had managed to limit them in the last three games. But the turnover vampire rose again from its coffin against Virginia Tech, as Malik Cunningham threw three interceptions, one that led to a Hokie touchdown.
Cunningham finished completing 23 of his 35 passes for 350 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had nine carries for 47 yards.
Javian Hawkins led the team in rushing with 129 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. He would also catch five passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Dez Fitzpatrick was the leading receiver with five catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Marshon Ford also caught a touchdown pass.
Virginia Tech moves to 4-3 on the season (4-2 ACC). Louisville falls to 2-5 (1-5 ACC).
The Cards go back on the road dying for a win against Virginia on November 7.<