September 16, 2018

Football season kicks off to middling start after WKU scare

By Matt Bradshaw —

Football ended their third week of play with 2-1 record and 20-17 comeback win over Western Kentucky. The instate rival traveled to Cardinal Stadium this past Saturday and delivered Louisville an unexpected scare.

“We’re not playing very good football right now,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “The competition gets tougher and it’s really important for us that we get to playing better football on the field.”

The Hilltoppers played well and the Cardinals nearly slipped under the pressure. Sloppy defense, ineffective offense and critical penalties crippled U of L’s chances throughout the game until a fourth quarter rally.

“We came out too slow,” redshirt sophomore Dae Williams said. “A good team like Clemson would have come out and made a run on us.”

Solid performances from a couple of players brightened the outlook of the contest. Redshirt freshman quarterback Malik Cunningham and running back Williams combined for 187 rushing yards and charged the offense in the second half.

“Right now we gotta look at Malik and get him going,” Petrino said. “Two weeks in a row he’s done a great job, competed extremely hard.”

Nonetheless, the near-loss signals a disappointing beginning for what originally seemed a promising season.

Fans were hopeful for the season opener in week one and Alabama owned the field in a 37-point demolition. It was disappointing result, but the contest provided a valuable test for an untested team.

Week two’s home opener with Indiana State offered the chance for a fresh start. Following three hours of rain delays and a sluggish offensive performance, the Cards emerged with a 31-7 win.

Their first game in newly renovated Cardinal Stadium did not reveal an impressive squad. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass struggled to direct the offense as U of L stumbled to victory.

Still, it’s difficult to judge the definitive talent of a team in a rain-soaked matchup. Week three’s bout with the Toppers seemed the perfect opportunity for football to break the bonds of mediocrity.

In perfect weather on their home turf, Louisville allowed Western Kentucky to grab an early 14-0 lead. Puma continued falling flat at quarterback, the receivers failed to lived up to preseason hype and the defense enabled several offensive opportunities for WKU.

“We haven’t been able to get our receivers involved like we need to,” Petrino said. “I’ll call his number and we’ll throw it to [Jaylen Smith] again. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Jaylen Smith.”

Let’s be clear: It’s not time to hit the panic button for football. U of L showed grit with their comeback and have the potential to improve as ACC play begins.

That being said, the Cardinals cannot call themselves a formidable opponent after a shaky victory over a 23-point underdog from Conference USA. It’s a long season, but time is running out for Louisville to prove themselves.

“We’re a long ways from being where we need to be,” Petrino said.

You can catch football in action at Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photos by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal

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