--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals won their first game of the 2018 season Saturday, in rain-soaked fashion. While it took a while for the offense to get going, they settled down in the second-half, and won a comfortable 31-7 game.
While the game was against Indiana State, an FCS opponent, there were a few key takeaways:
QB Race brewing?
Jawon Pass originally got the start for Bobby Petrino and the Cards, but was benched for redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham with 8:59 left in the third.
Pass connected on 8 of 14 for 89 yards and a pick, while Cunningham made 6 of 7 for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Cunningham also proved to be an effective rusher, gaining 54 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts.
One game is a small sample size, and Saturday’s game may have just been a bad night for Jawon Pass; but having another QB on the depth chart that can perform admirably isn’t a bad problem to have.
While the benching was more likely sending a lesson to Pass, one could expect Cunningham to get more reps against Western Kentucky next week.
Ground game found
The first half was not good. The Cardinals were tied with the Sycamores 7-all when both teams went into the locker rooms. The second half on the other hand wasn’t bad. The Cards scored 24 to put the game out of reach.
The difference? More reliance on the ground game.
Louisville had a higher time of possession in the first half, but only rushed 15 times for 61 yards. The Cards tried 12 plays through the air. In the second half, Louisville went on the ground 23 times for 138 yards. They only attempted 10 passes.
While a few of those attempts were in clock-chewing time, Louisville’s new-found run game, assisted by Cunningham, made the offense tremendously more difficult to defend against.
The “King” of special teams
FBS-FCS matchups rarely prove anything. The level of competition is different for both sub-divisions. One area that can be indicative, on the other hand, is special teams.
And Louisville punter Mason King did his job.
King booted six punts for 279 yards, hitting a long of 64, three inside of Indiana State’s 20, and two above 50 yards.
Not bad for King.
Grading Week two
If Louisville didn’t pull away in the second half like they did, the Cards would have ended up with a D-. The fact of the matter is, however, the Cards got it done when it counted. If the offense had looked like it did in the second half for the whole game, the grade would be different. But the defense and special teams both held up when they should have, and the Cardinals weren’t upset.
Week two grade: C