Yes, it was Eastern Kentucky, a school that toils a division down, with a smaller squad in stature and depth, an FCS directional in-state “rival” come to town for the paycheck and experience, with but faint hope to prevail.
All true, and certainly a perspective when considering the mean.
Buuuuuuuuuuuut . . . when a group of players hasn’t celebrated the thrill of victory for a week short of 365, when a gang whose coaches inexplicably gave up on them last year causing them to give up on themselves, when a squad under new tutelage to address both systemic and psychological issues, when that team pulls it together and does what it’s supposed to do, it’s reason for celebration.
Forgive the purple prose, if you can. The first win in a long while can instigate excessive verbiage.
The Louisville Cardinals manhandled EKU as they were supposed to. Never for a moment think that’s a given. (Ask Willie Taggert how it felt yesterday to escape when that poor kid from Louisiana Monroe shanked an extra point in OT?)
U of L 42, Eastern Kentucky 0.
It’s a start.
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I wouldn’t be clearing out your calendar for a bowl visit just yet, but there were more than a few heartening aspects to Saturday night’s victory.
At the half, Louisville’s QB Puma Pass was a reasonable but far from exemplary 6/13 with two scoring tosses, one for 50 yards. Proving once again that statistics, analytics based solely on numbers can, and often do, mislead.
The fifty yarder was on that often employed little 2 yard toss play to Tutu Atwell, who did the rest around end. The other TD was a short floater to Ballard’s Marshon Ford from five yards out.
Meanwhile on any pass of distance, Puma was, to be honest, seriously inaccurate. He missed Atwell deep. He missed Seth Dawkins deep. And low on his one pick of the night. He missed Dez Fitzpatrick deep. (Yes there were defensive holding calls on a couple of those, but the passes were errant nonetheless.)
But, on U of L’s 6th drive of the 1st half, Pass found a bit of rhythm, hitting Fitzpatrick on a rollout for 13 yards, and Ford over the middle for a gain of 16.
It was a worrisome performance by the Cards’ signal caller.
Buuuuuuuuut . . . the second half was a different story.
Coach Scott Satterfield: “What we tried to do at halftime is kind of talk about what they were doing. Sometimes you come into games, you think you know but you don’t fully know. In that halftime. we really got a bead on what they were doing in the secondary. We felt like that we could really isolate a couple guys. He (Pass) felt comfortable back there in the second half. Hitting that back foot and letting the ball go. Really in the first half there were a couple of guys that slipped out there in the routes that kind of messed us up on two throws. He just got in a good groove.”
Yes, he did. Puma was 6/6 after the break, with another TD toss to Ford, and one to Fitzpatrick.
For the game, improving Pass was 12/19, 196 yards, 4 TDs. He also carried the ball 4 times for 37 yards, and wasn’t sacked.
Coach Satt: “I was proud of the way he played tonight. He came back. There’s was a lot of talk about his performance throwing the ball last Monday night, but you bounce back tonight and did a lot better. We’re not there yet, but we’ll continue to work. Hopefully that will give him a little bit of confidence heading into this week.”
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The Cards new mentor obviously is a firm believe in the old warhorse of an adage, “Speed Kills.”
Which is why we suspected throughout the preseason that Tutu Atwell would be a major offensive focus. Which he is.
Atwell’s punt return to open U of L’s second scoring drive was instinctive genius. He started to cut left as was the plan, but saw a hole straight ahead through a phalanx of tacklers, darted through for 33 yards, setting up the Cards at point blank range at the 15.
And why we have learned the name of redshirt freshman Javian Hawkins, who again scampered for triple digits. 11 carries for 123 yards.
(I gotta pose the question. Given how horrid the Cards’ running game was last year, why didn’t Hawkins play? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.)
Satterfield, without going into details for obvious reasons, mentioned some halftime blocking adjustments intended to get Hawkins open. It didn’t take long. The Cardinal scatback went for 66 yards on the first play, before the marching band was even back in their seats. He later went for 50 up the middle.
* * * * *
Some other noteworthy moments, at least for me.
The OL surrendered nary a sack. The Cardinals registered five, many of which came on “critical” plays. Rodjay Burns. G.G. Robinson. Jared Goldwire. Yasir Abdullah. Boosie Whitlow.
Marlon Character’s punt coverage at the end of U of L’s 2d drive was exemplary.
On EKU’s opening possession after halftime, Russ Yeast fought off a block on a swing pass, and registered a TFL to end the series.
On the Cards ensuing possession, Keion Wakefield, after a catch, fought through some tacklers for a 1st.
On Louisville’s 3d possession of the 2d half, wideout Justin Marshall used his speed to catch up with the ball and make a delicious shoe top reception for 35 yards.
Trenell Troutman made a sweet open field TFL on the visitor’s next possession.
Yeah, you’re probably wondering if I’m going to mention Malik Cunningham’s first action of the season?
Correct answer: Yes.
His first play was a 24 yard sideline completion to Marshall. Three plays later he zipped his way right for a 38 yard score. The word efficient comes to mind.
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Coach Satt on the what it was like after the game: “The locker room was awesome.”
As well it should have been.
— Seedy K