Saturday night’s intrastate battle at Cardinal Stadium was guaranteed to produce a milestone victory for one of the combatants. Turns out, it was the home team that earned the proverbial feather for its cap.
Behind a barrage of huge plays and a dominant defensive performance, Louisville pounded Eastern Kentucky 42-0, giving Scott Satterfield his first victory as the Cardinals’ head coach and spoiling the Colonels’ hopes for a marquee win over a Power Five opponent. It was the first shutout for Louisville’s defense since 2013 and the first win for the Cardinals in nearly a calendar year.
“We needed it bad,” said Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass, who threw for 196 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. “It felt great. We had fun in the locker room. We just want to keep it going every week and make it normal to win and get back to being how we know we can be.”
After forcing an EKU punt on the first possession of the game, Louisville struck quickly. Pass ran for 24 yards, then he hit speedy sophomore receiver TuTu Atwell with a short throw. Atwell got a great block on the edge and burst down the right sideline, racing 50 yards untouched for a touchdown and a 7-0 Cardinals lead less than three minutes into the game.
After the Cardinals defense forced a three-and-out, Atwell reeled off a nifty punt return, finding a small seam up the right sideline and barreling down to the EKU 5-yard line. Pass hit Marshon Ford for a touchdown on the very next play.
It was the first career TD as a Cardinal for Ford, a redshirt freshman from Ballard High School. It didn’t take long for him to haul in his second.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, redshirt freshman Javian Hawkins broke through line for a 66-yard run. Pass hit Ford for another 5-yard touchdown on the ensuing play.
On Louisville’s next possession, Hawkins broke off a 50-yard run that set up a 5-yard TD throw from Pass to Dez Fitzpatrick, giving the Cardinals a 28-0 lead with less than four minutes left in the third quarter. Hawkins had a game-high 123 rushing yards and became the third Louisville freshman to top 100 yards on the ground two games in a row and the first since 2008.
“They kind of had (Hawkins) hemmed up in the first half,” Satterfield said. “So we made an adjustment at halftime and came back out in the second half with the first play, we felt like we’d have an opportunity and he popped it. I mean, he hit that thing wide-open and went down the sideline. Did a great job tight-roping the sideline, I hated that he didn’t score ... but he ended up having a great game.”
U of L ended any chance for an EKU comeback with an 85-yard, fourth-quarter drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Hassan Hall.
Cardinals backup QB Malik Cunningham capped the rout with a 38-yard touchdown run with less than six minutes to play.
EKU seemed to struggle with Louisville’s defensive speed all night. The Colonels got a first down on their first play of the game, but then went backward the rest of the possession. The Colonels went three-and-out on their next three drives, two of them ending with sacks.
“To have a goose egg, as our guys like to call it, it was exciting for them to be able to celebrate that,” Satterfield said. “That’s a hard feat to do in college football, to shut another team out ... they just kept the pressure on them all night.”
Louisville held EKU to 172 yards of offense while gaining 542 and sacked EKU quarterbacks five times.
“The locker room was awesome (after the game),” Satterfield said. “It’s been a long time for them to celebrate in the locker room with a victory. And all the hard work we put into the offseason and summer ... to come out here and get a victory like that was tremendous for our guys. I’m just so happy for them because it validates all of the things we’ve been doing.”
Satterfield was hired to helm Louisville’s rebuild after a wildly successful six-year run at Appalachian State, where he led the Mountaineers to a 51-24 record and oversaw their transition from the FCS to the FBS. He took over a squad that suffered a total meltdown in 2018, when Bobby Petrino was fired with two games left in the season after the Cardinals lost their seventh straight game. Louisville finished the year 2-10 and went winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The first clue that Satterfield might have the rebuilding campaign ahead of schedule came in last week’s opener, when the Cardinals gave No. 8 Notre Dame all it could handle for most of the game. Now, the Cardinals will look for their second win of the Satterfield era during next week’s matchup with Western Kentucky in Nashville. It’s Louisville’s last non-conference game before opening its ACC schedule at Florida State on Sept. 21.
Louisville vs. Western Kentucky: 4 p.m. Saturday in Nashville (Nissan Stadium)
Eastern Kentucky at Indiana State: 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN Plus)