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Louisville looks to hit restart button vs. UCF

Sep 1, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) carries the ball as South Carolina State Bulldogs defensive lineman Jeblonski Green Jr. (34) moves in during the second half at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville’s season and Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Syracuse went about as poorly as it possibly could during an ugly 31-7 loss.

The Cardinals (0-1) don’t have much time to recover, either, as they travel to Orlando to face UCF (1-0) on Friday night.

Louisville mustered very little offense beyond a 36-yard touchdown run by Tiyon Evans and barely slowed down the Orange, who racked up 449 yards of offense.

Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader, who has been known more as a rushing threat than a passer, amassed 332 yards of offense — throwing for 237 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 95 and another score against the Cardinals defense.

Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham completed 16 of 22 passes, but they covered only 152 yards and he was intercepted twice. He was also neutralized as a rushing threat, gaining just 34 yards on 13 carries (including three sacks).

“It hurts. I’m very disappointed, the team is disappointed, I’m disappointed in myself,” Cunningham said. “I let my team down, I let the city down. I just got to learn from it.”

Tennessee transfer Evans averaged 6.8 yards on the ground for the Cardinals, finished with 89 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Last season, Louisville beat visiting UCF 42-35 with Cunningham putting up 364 yards — 265 yards and a touchdown through the air and 99 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The Knights routed South Carolina State 56-10 in their opener last Thursday, and one of the catalysts was quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who rolled up 407 yards of offense. As a freshman at Ole Miss in 2019, Plumlee ran for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 910 yards, four TDs and three interceptions before switching to receiver the past two seasons.

Back at quarterback, Plumlee gave a glimpse of what he could do in UCF’s offense as he completed 20 of 31 passes for 308 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 99yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

“It was his first game back there in two years … there’s nothing like being out there and playing,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s football savvy. He’s a smart guy and I think every game you’ll see him improve.”

Other new arrivals who made immediate impacts in Malzahn’s passing attack were Alabama transfer Javon Baker and Florida transfer Kemore Gamble. Baker caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, and Gamble had three receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.

–Field Level Media