--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals won a nail-biter last night against Western Kentucky.
It shouldn’t have even been close. Louisville was a 21-point favorite, and needed a missed field goal as time expired for the win. The most troubling aspect for Louisville was the player under center. Jawon Pass, who started the game, was benched in the second quarter for last week’s hero, Malik Cunningham.
Cunningham looked like a good quarterback, especially on the ground; but giving him the permanent starting job will be a tough decision.
For starters, Pass, the previous starter; has more experience. He completed 20 of 39 for 252 yards against Alabama. Pass initially looked like a guy that can sit back in the pocket and have some success under center. He was also a four-star recruit that Nick Saban tried to snag for Alabama.
Pass’s second game, in a literal monsoon, could be looked at with a grain of salt. It’s known that football games taking place in snow or torrential rain need to have a run-first offense. Pass still completed 8 of 14. In comparison, Indiana State completed only 3 of 12.
Then, against Western, Pass was 0 for 3 with an interception.
It wasn’t all Pass’s fault. Two of the passes were dropped by the receiver. The other was behind the intended target, but was catchable. The interception was a fluke. The ball was dropped, and the defensive back was in the right position to dive under it.
After being benched, his replacement went 10 of 18 for 88 yards through the air. He also had 21 rushing attempts for 129 yards. Cunningham’s performance warrants a start in Virginia next week.
Despite this, Pass shouldn’t get overlooked, and should get playing time in Charlottesville. Cunningham is not as sharp of a passer as Pass. The team had other problems. Just 88 of Louisville’s 292 all-purpose yards were through the air. Louisville converted just 2 of 11 third-down tries. They’re at 29.7 percent for the season.
Good offenses convert much higher than that. While a good ground game opens the playbook, passing plays for large chunks of yardage, especially on third down, wears out defenses and opens scoring.
Pass has shown he can throw. He did a decent job against the No. 1 team in the nation. The QB is young. He showed some immaturity, but also potential. He should at least get another chance in Charlottesville.
The jury is still out on Cunningham- while he was a four-star recruit and the No. 1 Alabama QB in his class, he’s relatively untested. Indiana State and WKU weren’t necessarily good defenses.
Next week will be the first true test Louisville faces. The Cavaliers are 2-1, after defeating Richmond and Ohio. The Cavaliers have the 42nd defense overall. It will prove if the Louisville quarterbacks can play at a high level, and play against ACC competition.
The game may also be the deciding factor on who starts in the future. Whoever it is, they need to be able to get the job done. If not; it will be a long season.