Micale Cunningham

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Louisville caps Year 1 of Scott Satterfield Era with Music City Bowl win

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For a year that was supposed to be a little bit more of a rebuild, Louisville (8-5) certainly feels good with how the season ended. The Cardinals finished off the first season under head coach Scott Satterfield with a 38-28 victory over Mississippi State (6-7) of the SEC Monday afternoon in the Music City Bowl.

Louisville went on a run of 31 striaght points to turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs could put another score on the board. Micale Cunningham passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards on the ground. Javian Hawkins rushed for a game-high 100 yards for the Cardinals.

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill got banged up early in the game, needing a cart to be taken off the field for further evaluation. The good news for Mississippi State was Hill returned to the game. The bad news is Louisville never allowed Hill to be a factor. Hill rushed for just three yards on seven rushing attempts. Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Stevens had some rough moments, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Louisville’s Khane Pass to give Louisville a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.

It can sometimes be too easy to react dramatically to what transpires in a bowl game, but Louisville did show some signs of a program that is poised to take a step forward in 2020. The defense took control of Mississippi State after a tough start to the game (Mississippi State led 14-0 and had a 99-yard touchdown drive following a Louisville turnover). We’re not about to throw Louisville into the category of teams that could challenge Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division just yet, but the Cardinals could potentially be the second-best team in the division next season.

Louisville opens the 2020 season with an ACC game, although the ACC schedule has yet to be confirmed for next season. The Cardinals will host Murray State on sept. 19, Western Kentucky on Sept. 26, and Kentucky on Nov. 28. Louisville also makes a road trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 21 to complete the non-conference schedule.

Mississippi State’s 2020 season will begin at home on Sept. 5 against New Mexico.

Travis Etienne and defense powers No. 3 Clemson past Louisville

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Louisville (4-3, 2-2 ACC) brought forth a worthy challenge to No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 5-0 ACC) at the start of the game but a failure to capitalize on early mistakes by the Tigers would do more than come back to haunt the Cardinals. Clemson overcame their own self-inflicted mistakes in a 44-10 rout of Louisville on the road Saturday afternoon.

Clemson running back Travis Etienne had a big day running the football with 192 yards and touchdown, although he did leave the game in the fourth quarter after coming up limping at the end of a play. Having Etienne proving capable of putting the team on his back at times was needed by Etienne, because quarterback Trevor Lawrence took some time to get his game going. Lawrence was picked off twice in the first half, bringing his season total to eight, but the sophomore star quarterback ended the day on a positive note. Lawrence tossed three touchdowns.

Clemson also got a strong effort from its defense, and they needed it in the first half. While the Clemson offense was running into its own problems, the defense was ready to get the ball back when needed and prevent the Louisville offense from establishing any momentum. Nyles Pinckney recovered a Louisville fumble by Micale Cunningham (forced by Justin Foster)five plays after Louisville picked off Lawrence in the end zone in the first quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out after Lawrence’s second interception after giving up just two yards.

It was a game that offered a reminder that Clemson’s defense is fully capable of dominating a game it needs to, even if the offense gets off to a slow start. It was also a brutal reminder that if you are going to upset Clemson, you have to capitalize on opportunities. Louisville simply was incapable of doing that.

Clemson will return home for their next two games. First up will be a matchup with Boston College next Saturday night. Then the Tigers get a glorified scrimmage against Wofford before returning to ACC play on the road against NC State. Louisville will stay home next week to host Virginia.