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Western Kentucky Unable To Keep Pace, Lose 38-21 To Louisville

A slow first half was too much to overcome in Nashville for the Tops.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Western Kentucky Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

While the second half was competitive, being down 31-7 at the break provided too big of an obstacle for Tyson Helton’s team on Saturday. Louisville outgained WKU 415 to 288 and held the Tops to just 43 yards rushing.

In a surprise turn of events, Louisville went with Malik Cunningham at the starting quarterback spot due to an undisclosed lower body injury to Jawon Pass. It ended up not making a huge difference for the Cardinals as Cunningham threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns along with 46 rushing yards.

Cunningham hooked up with receiver Tutu Atwell for two touchdowns in the first half. Atwell finished the day with four catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns.

WKU got on the board early in the second quarter with a 77-yard play action touchdown pass from Steven Duncan to tight end Joshua Simon.

The Cardinal offense followed that up with two long drives that resulted in touchdown run by Javian Hawkins and a field goal by Blanton Creque. The final score of the first half came when Rodjay Burns picked up a fumble by Duncan and returned it 30 yards to the house for Louisville.

In the third quarter, the Tops were able to capitalize on a Devon Key fumble recovery with a touchdown pass to Jahcour Pearson from Duncan from eight yards out.

Cunningham left the game with an injury in the third, but it had just a small effect on the Cardinals. Evan Conley took his place and connected with Atwell for a 62-yard touchdown following the Tops’ second lost fumble of the day.

WKU showed they still had some fight left by opening the fourth quarter with a nine play drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Kyle Fourtenbary from Duncan. They then followed it up an onside kick, which they recovered, but turned it over on downs with the ensuing drive. They tried to put together one more scoring drive but turned over on downs despite being deep in the red zone.

Duncan clearly played through a lower body injury of his own in the second half and seemed even more limited than usual in terms of mobility. The two turnovers also hurt the team’s offensive momentum throughout the game.

Ultimately, the Tops clearly still have some issues to work out on the offensive side of the ball, as this game would have been even closer had the turnovers not occurred and a few passes had not been dropped on fourth downs. Nevertheless, Helton got another glimpse of the benefits of playing aggressive, which his team will likely have to do if they want to get to six wins and go back to a bowl game.