LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- During the six seasons the University of Louisville has competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Cardinals have never beaten Clemson.
They’ve stumbled several times against Virginia and North Carolina State. They lost back-to-back games to Wake Forest.
There’s been one Get Well Card to rely on: Syracuse.
Louisville got well Friday night at Cardinal Stadium. Send the Thank You card — again — to Syracuse, as hapless as any team I’ve seen in this stadium in years.
Make the final score Louisville 30, Syracuse 0, in front of an announced crowd of 11,192. Stay loose, everybody. The Cardinals' schedule changed again Saturday morning. Instead of returning home to play Wake Forest next Saturday, the Cards will visit Boston College.
"As it was winding down we just told the young guys that this was some big stuff," U of L defensive lineman Jared Goldwire said. "Nobody gets goose eggs any more."
Keep an eye for some dazzling videos to emerge from the Cardinals' locker room. Dancing. Singing. The kind of joy you see from a team after it plays its most complete game of an underachieving season.
"It was a lot of fun (in the locker room)," U of L coach Scott Satterfield said. "There was a lot of frustration leaving. It was awesome to see them dancing in the locker room."
It was Louisville’s fifth win in six games against the Orange as an ACC member. It was the Cards' first shutout since they blanked Eastern Kentucky, 42-0, last season, and their first shutout of Power Five opponent since they dispatched North Carolina, 34-0, in 2004.
The Cards (3-6) won by 30 in a game where U of L quarterback Malik Cunningham threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble in the first half.
In the third quarter, Syracuse ran six plays and lost three yards. Credit the Louisville defense. As bad as Syracuse has been, the Orange scored 21 against Clemson and 37 against Georgia Tech.
In their first 11 possessions, the Orange failed to push inside the Louisville 45-yard line. U of L limited Syracuse to 137 yards, 46 in the second half. It was only the second time a Syracuse team coached by Dino Babers was shut out in five seasons. The Orange ran 41 plays. Only seven were on Louisville's end of the field.
"The whole thing was about not getting comfortable," said U of L linebacker Rodjay Burns. "We kept it like the score was 0-0 and we were in a dogfight. We just had juice and enthusiasm."
Satterfield credited two things: the return of the defensive starters who missed the last two games after testing positive for the novel coronavirus and an improved mindset created at practice.
He said the coaches set goals for the players every day. When the defense achieved those goals, the coaches ran sprints or did push-ups. Players love role-reversals like that.
"That was the best week of practice we've had on defense since I've been here," Satterfield said. "We made it fun with a lot of competition ... what an awesome performance by our defense. They created turnovers. They were great on third down. I just can't say enough good about those guys."
Even without prime halfback Javian Hawkins, who opted out on the remainder of the season Monday, the Cards ran for 134 yards, essentially splitting the carries between senior Maurice Burkley and redshirt freshman Jalen Mitchell. Credit Burkley with 56 yards on 10 carries and Mitchell with 46 on 11, including a touchdown.
Cunningham’s persistence in turning the ball over cost the Cardinals one or two victories this season. Louisville overcame Cunningham’s generosity, because Syracuse showed why the Orange offense ranked last in the ACC in rushing, passing and general competence.
The Cards drove 38 yards to set up James Turner for a career-best 50-yard field goal on their first possession.
A Cunningham interception followed by a careless Cunningham fumble stopped Scott Satterfield’s team the next two times Louisville had the ball.
Time for a change?
"He does a lot of good things," Satterfield said. "We obviously have to clean up some of the other things that he does."
"Like I say every week, I'm just trying to make a play," Cunningham said after throwing his 10th and 11th interceptions this season. "Some of those plays, I just have to eat."
Cunningham can never say that Satterfield doubted him. With the Cards limiting the Orange to 91 yards in the first half, the Cards scored 17 points in the final 6:25. Syracuse contributed an interception as well as a fumble.
Mitchell powered 2 yards for his first career touchdown. Cunningham ran for his sixth touchdown from the 4. Add a 40-yard field goal by Turner and the Cards went to halftime ahead, 20-0, a lead that ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill said “might be insurmountable.”
Jim Brown, Floyd Little or Donovan McNabb weren’t walking through that door for the Orange.
The Cards also scored the first touchdown of the second half. Cunningham and his pal Tutu Atwell teamed on a 19-yard scoring pass. Turner made his third field goal, from 33 yards, with 12:23 to play.
Satterfield let senior Juwon Pass replace Cunningham at quarterback for two series in the fourth quarter. Evan Conley also played U of L's final offensive series. But Cunningham, who finished 19 for 28 for 219 yards, remains the quarterback.
"(The mistakes) aren't all Cunningham's fault," Satterfield said. "Some of them are. But some of them if you go back and look at (the plays), they're other players."
"When a win happens, it's like a relief," Cunningham said.
Louisville were supposed return to Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 28 to play host to Wake Forest and then have a week off before finishing their regular season at Boston College on Dec. 12.
On Saturday morning that changed.
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