NASHVILLE — With Louisville starting quarterback Jawon Pass out with a foot injury, redshirt sophomore Malik Cunningham had a productive first half to set the tone early for the Cardinals (2-1) on their way to a 38-21 victory against Western Kentucky at Nissan Stadium on Saturday.
Cunningham was 7 for 10 in the first half with 114 yards and two scores to guide his team to a 31-7 halftime advantage. He directed a 10-play, 58-yard drive in the first quarter.
A 9-yard shovel pass to Chatarius Atwell gave Louisville a 7-0 first-quarter lead with 4:18 left. On the Cardinals' next offensive series, Cunningham and Atwell hooked up again on a 46-yard touchdown throw.
Cunningham added 46 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Atwell finished with four receptions for 141 yards, the second 100-yard receiving game of his career and the first since he and Jaylen Smith each registered 100-yard games against Wake Forest in 2018. Atwell's total is the most yards by a receiver since Jaylen Smith recorded 183 versus North Carolina in 2017.
Quarterback Evan Conley became the fourth true freshmen to appear in a game this season. He tossed a 62-yard touchdown pass to Atwell – the longest scoring pass by a true freshman since a 74-yard scoring throw by Brian Brohm versus Houston in 2004.
The Cardinals' defense also put together a solid outing, forcing a season-best two turnovers.
Linebacker Rodjay Burns picked up a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, the first defensive touchdown of his career and the first in the Scott Satterfield era. It was the first fumble return for a touchdown since Sheldon Rankins returned one for a score versus Boston College in 2015.