Mack’s second-half toss creates reverse Cavalanche for Virginia
While the Virginia offense had plenty of accountability of its own in a 28-21 loss at Louisville, the defense seemed to fold like a cheap suit after Jordan Mack was ejected from the game midway through the third quarter for a targeting hit.
After the Mack ejection, Virginia appeared to be clueless as to how to stop the Cardinal offense the remainder of the game. After holding Louisville to one score, a 77-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Michael Cunningham to Tutu Atwell in the opening half, it was a different story over the game’s final 22 minutes.
On its first possession after Mack headed for the locker room, Louisville methodically marched 89 yards on 14 plays to tie the game at 14-all when Javian Hawkins bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out.
Asked if the Mack ejection affected his team, Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said “it was certainly uncharacteristic of us to give up so many third-down conversions, then you take on the 15-yard penalty after the ejection, that really hurt.”
Louisville played two quarterbacks during the game. Cunningham had been removed from the game, replaced by true freshman Evan Conley in the second quarter. But Cunningham’s return in the third quarter was pivotal for the Cardinals. Cunningham finished the day with 126 passing yards and 97 rushing yards and two scores.
The Cavaliers’ defensive meltdown seemingly crossed over to the offense as well. UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins spent most of the second half on the run, in an attempt to elude Louisville’s suddenly resurgent front seven.
Perkins was sacked several times after the break, narrowly missing many more. Virginia’s running game, which averaged over five yards per attempt in the first half, was seemingly abandoned in the second half.
It’s becoming apparent that both the defensive unit and offensive unit for the Cavaliers mirror their effort and play on one another. On Saturday in the Bluegrass State, neither unit was all that clear.
Column by Scott German