Louisville and Georgia Tech, a pair of rebuilding programs, began the season with victories, raising expectations for the season. But the signals those two wins sent may have been misleading ones, instead, as the two clubs are a combined 0-4 since.
The ACC foes will each take a two-game losing streak into Friday’s nationally televised match at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Louisville (1-2, 0-2 ACC) has lost back-to-back games against Miami and Pittsburgh after beating Western Kentucky 35-21 in its opener. Georgia Tech (1-2, 1-1) has dropped consecutive games to Central Florida and Syracuse after its season-opening 16-13 win at Florida State. Both the Cardinals and Yellow Jackets were off last week.
Louisville’s offense is led by quarterback Malik Cunningham, who has thrown for 757 yards and seven touchdowns, but has been picked off five times. He struggled against the Pitt defense, throwing for only 107 yards with three interceptions. He has thrown a touchdown pass in nine straight games, however, and his seven touchdown passes are tied for the most in the ACC and eighth in the nation.
Cunningham was taken off the field after a hard tackle against Pittsburgh, but he returned to practice during the team’s off week and will start.
“He’s feeling good and ready to go and there shouldn’t be any limitations,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said.
The Cardinals’ top back is the elusive Javian Hawkins, a redshirt sophomore who ran for 164 yards against Miami and has totaled 313 yards and three touchdowns. The preseason All-ACC selection has run for a touchdown in six straight games.
Junior Tutu Atwell (19 catches, 229 yards and three touchdowns) and fifth-year senior Dez Fitzpatrick (12 catches, 198 yards, 16.5-yard average) lead the Louisville receiving corps.
Louisville’s defense is led by linebacker Dorian Etheridge, who leads the nation with 8 1/2 tackles for loss in three games. He also has two sacks and one forced fumble.
“We had a good week last week,” Satterfield said. “We worked on and stressed fundamental concepts, blocking, tackling, throwing and catching, then we came back in and had our normal practice week.”
The Georgia Tech offense operates behind quarterback Jeff Sims, who has experienced the highs and lows expected from a true freshman. Sims has thrown for 695 yards and three touchdowns, but has tossed eight interceptions. He has rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve got to fix the unforced errors, we’ve got to fix ball security,” Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “All of those things we’ve got to improve on.”
The Yellow Jackets have been without Jordan Mason, last year’s leading rusher, for the last two games. But true freshman Jahmyr Gibbs and redshirt freshman Jamious Griffin have shown signs why they were two of the team’s prized signees the last two springs. Gibbs has rushed for 171 yards and one touchdown and caught six passes, two for scores, and Griffin has rushed for 140 yards and one touchdown.
Satterfield and Collins have personal history, as well. Satterfield was offensive coordinator and Collins was defensive coordinator at Florida International in 2010.
This will be only the second meeting between the two clubs. The first came in 2018 when Georgia Tech rolled 66-31 in Louisville during coach Paul Johnson’s final season at the helm.
–Field Level Media