Louisville hasn’t been shy about shooting itself in the foot this season.
The turnover-prone Cardinals (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) will look to limit their miscues on Friday night when they host Syracuse (1-7, 1-6).
Louisville held a 478-368 advantage in total yards last Saturday, but three costly turnovers led to its undoing in a 31-17 loss at Virginia. The Cardinals have 18 turnovers on the season.
“That was obviously the big difference in the (Cavaliers) game when you go back and watch it, but there’s a lot of plays that were good on both sides of the ball and we have got to continue to build off of it,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “We need to take care of the football and get this turnover margin going in our favor as we finish out these last three.”
Dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham passed for 161 yards and rushed for a career-high 197 and two touchdowns against Virginia. Fine numbers to be certain, but his fumble inside Cavaliers territory with 8:22 left in the game dashed any hope of a rally.
Cunningham, however, isn’t giving up on the season following Louisville’s second straight loss and sixth in seven games.
“We’re definitely playing for pride,” Cunningham said. “We want to win these games out. We’ve been trying to do everything right throughout the weeks. We’ve just been coming up short.”
Cunningham came up large against the Orange last season, throwing for a career-best five touchdowns and rushing for another in Louisville’s 56-34 win.
Louisville’s Javian Hawkins rolled up 233 yards and a touchdown on the ground in that game while teammate Tutu Atwell had five receptions for 152 yards and two scores.
Hawkins and Atwell, however, were two of seven Cardinals players who did not play against Virginia. Hawkins, who ranks fourth in the ACC with 822 yards rushing, announced on Monday that he was opting out of the remainder of the season and would enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
“(Hawkins) came in this week to talk about it, and he wasn’t fully decided on what he wanted to do. I think it hit home when one of his roommates tested positive,” Satterfield said. “He has a dream that he wants to go tackle that. Obviously for us, selfishly, we’d love to have him.”
Hassan Hall is expected to return after missing three games with an undisclosed injury to join redshirt freshman Jalen Mitchell and Maurice Burkley in the Louisville backfield.
Atwell, who is also nursing an undisclosed injury, is questionable to play Friday.
“No specifics,” Satterfield said of Atwell. “Should know more this week. I think he’ll be really close to be able to come back. The negative is that it’s a short week.”
The Cardinals have fared well when they are not committing turnovers. Louisville is averaging 27.9 points per game and 440.6 total yards while surrendering just 392.1. By comparison, Syracuse is averaging 18.3, 263.8 and 464.3, respectively.
The Orange fell under those two offensive numbers while dropping their fifth straight decision in their most recent outing, a 16-13 setback to Boston College on Nov. 7.
Syracuse freshman JaCobian Morgan completed 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his first career start.
“The team needs to carry JaCobian, JaCobian is young,” Orange coach Dino Babers said. “We need to all play better to make it easier on him.”
Taj Harris reeled in seven passes for 61 yards against the Eagles. He had a team-leading six catches for 58 yards in last year’s tilt versus the Cardinals.
–Field Level Media