NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - No starting quarterback, no problem for the Louisville Cardinals in their 38-21 victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday in a neutral-site nonconference game at Nissan Stadium.
Louisville announced prior to kickoff that starting quarterback Jawon Pass would miss the game due to a foot injury. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Malik Cunningham directed four first-half scoring drives before leaving in the third quarter following a hit to the head. True freshman Evan Conley finished up and threw a 62-yard touchdown pass on his second throw of the game as the Cardinals (2-1) dominated the Hilltoppers (1-2).
Cunningham completed 7 of 10 passes in the first half for 114 yards and two touchdowns as Louisville built 31-7 halftime lead. A 9-yard shovel pass to Tutu 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.
Western Kentucky closed to within 14-7 when Steven Duncan found Joshua Simon for a 77-yard TD pass. But the Hilltoppers gave up 17 unanswered points to close out the first half, including a 30-yard score on a fumble return by Rodjay Burns with 47 seconds remaining in the first half.
For the game, Cunningham completed 8 of 13 passes for 119 yards and added 46 yards rushing on 16 carries. He left with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter on a hit by Western Kentucky's Jeremy Darvin that knocked his helmet off.
Louisville: No matter the quarterback, Tutu Atwell proved to be a big-play receiver for Louisville on Saturday. He caught four passes for 141 yards for the Cardinals, with three of the receptions going for touchdowns. Atwell caught touchdown passes of 9, 46 and 62 yards on Saturday. The Cardinals were balanced on offense with 205 yards passing to go with 210 yards rushing.
Western Kentucky: After trailing 31-7 at halftime, Western Kentucky's offense played much better in the second half, but it was highly one-dimensional. Steven Duncan, who had a 77-yard touchdown pass for the Hilltoppers' only first-half points, threw for two more scores in the second half and finished 25 of 47 for 245 yards. Gaej Walker, who came into the game ranked 11th in FBS with 252 yards rushing, was held to 41 yards on 14 attempts.
Louisville, now 2-1, moves into Atlantic Coast Conference play next Saturday when the Cardinals travel to face Florida State. The Cardinals' win Saturday at Nissan Stadium was their first win away from Louisville since a November 2017 victory over arch-rival Kentucky.
Western Kentucky, which fell to 1-2, has a bye week upcoming. The Hilltoppers will play host to Conference USA foe Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 28 in WKU's first conference game of the season.