LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Backup quarterback Malik Cunningham accounted for two touchdowns, right tackle Mekhi Becton rushed for a 1-yard TD and Louisville finished strong for a 31-7, rain-delayed victory over Indiana State on Saturday night.
Out of sync offensively for most of a soggy game that featured three first-quarter lightning delays totaling 2 hours, 33 minutes, the Cardinals (1-1) finally found their rhythm late in the third quarter after Cunningham replaced struggling Jawon Pass. The redshirt freshman’s 1-yard TD run capped an 83-yard drive before the 6-foot-7, 355-pound Becton leaped over the pile early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-7.
Cunningham followed Blanton Creque’s 43-yard field goal with a 34-yard TD pass to Jaylen Smith to help Louisville overcome last week’s blowout loss to No. 1 Alabama and christen Cardinal Stadium following a $63 million makeover. Rodjay Burns returned a punt 55 yards for a TD before the first lengthy delay.
Titus McCoy’s 2-yard TD run after Jonas Griffith’s interception provided the lone score for FCS Indiana State (1-1), which sought to follow up its 49-0 rout of NCAA Division II Quincy that ended a 14-game losing streak. Ja’Quan Keys rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries for the Sycamores.
Indiana State: The Sycamores forced two first-half turnovers and had moments in which they seemed poised to drive on Louisville. But other than the 22-yard scoring drive after Griffith’s interception, they couldn’t sustain anything offensively and never got past Louisville’s 42 in the second half in being outgained 363-211.
Louisville: Cunningham’s feet and arm gave the Cardinals a much-needed spark in the third quarter. He rushed 12 times for 54 yards, completed 6 of 7 passes for 75 yards and led four scoring drives. The defense lost middle linebacker Dorian Etheridge to injury late in the first half but stiffened up to hold the Sycamores to just 94 yards after halftime.
Indiana State visits Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
Louisville hosts in-state rival Western Kentucky on Saturday in the first series meeting since 1998. Bobby Petrino coached the Hilltoppers in 2013 before returning for a second stint with the Cardinals the next season.
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