It took nearly six hours thanks to three first-half lightning delays, but Louisville finally overcame Tropical Storm Gordon’s wrath and an inspired Indiana State squad for a 31-7 nonconference victory on Saturday night at Cardinal Stadium.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Malik Cunningham came off the bench midway through the third quarter to spark Louisville’s offense. He rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then set up 6-foot-7, 355-pound right tackle Mekhi Becton for a 1-yard touchdown plunge to spark a 24-point run by the Cardinals (1-1).
Cunningham completed 6 of 7 passes for 75 yards and one score and finished with 54 yards rushing before leaving the game with 2:17 to play with an injured right ankle.
Indiana State (1-1) controlled much of the game’s tempo and momentum with its running attack and carried a 7-7 tie into the second half. Senior running back Ja’Quan Keys rushed 20 times for 102 yards, while sophomore Titus McCoy delivered a first-quarter rushing score.
With a driving rain and a small but rowdy crowd greeting both teams at the outset, the first four plays resulted in either fumbled snaps or slippery incompletions.
Louisville sophomore cornerback Rodjay Burns delivered the game’s first big play with 12:04 left in the first when he caught sophomore Travis Reiner’s line drive punt, burst up the middle and shifted down the right sideline for a 55-yard score.
Then came the first of three weather delays that totaled 2 hours, 33 minutes during the first quarter. After the second delay, a 68-minute stoppage, Indiana State junior linebacker and Louisville native Jonas Griffith made a leaping interception of starting Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass and returned it 20 yards to the Cardinals’ 22.
McCoy took it from there. He rushed four times in five snaps, capped by a 2-yard blast to pull the Sycamores even with 3:51 left in the first. After Indiana State kicked off, officials called for the game’s third lightning-related delay as the teams needed just more than three hours to complete the first quarter.
The game’s momentum changed with 10:05 left in the third when Indiana State junior quarterback Jalil Kilpatrick had to leave with a right shoulder injury. While trying to get around the right edge, Kilpatrick was tripped up by Louisville redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Okeke and landed on his throwing shoulder.
On Louisville’s ensuing possession, head coach Bobby Petrino pulled Pass in favor of Cunningham. The speedy quarterback’s 19-yard keeper triggered an 83-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard keeper with 3:29 left in the third to give the Cardinals a 14-7 lead.
That inspired Louisville’s defense to make a stand and, more than four hours and 30 minutes after Burns’ touchdown return, he authored a 27-yard punt return that set up the Cardinals at Indiana State’s 23. Cunningham scampered to the 1, then Becton lined up at fullback and plunged in to give Louisville a 21-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Kilpatrick returned to start the fourth, but couldn’t loosen up his shoulder and Indiana State couldn’t regain its flow. Louisville tacked on a field goal and a 34-yard Cunningham touchdown pass to senior wideout Jaylen Smith.
—Field Level Media