TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Louisville seemingly could do no wrong in the first half, building a 24-point lead. But even as the game flipped on the Cardinals, they again made a big defensive play in the second half to hold on for a second straight critical win.
Malik Cunningham had four first-half touchdowns — two passing and two rushing — and Louisville held off Florida State’s second-half rally, 31-23, in the Cardinals’ Atlantic Coast Conference opener on Saturday.
Cunningham now has eight rushing touchdowns, two in each game for Louisville (3-1, 1-0). He completed 25 of 39 passes for 264 yards and ran 14 times for 56 yards.
“They definitely made adjustments because if not we would have had 60,” Cunningham said. “I think we relaxed a little bit as an offense. We kind of laid back a little bit and thought the game was over. We got to finish off games. We started off fast. We just have to finish better in order to get to the next step to an elite offense.”
The Seminoles trailed 31-7 with 1:49 to halftime but gradually chipped away at Louisville’s lead in the second half, trimming the deficit to 31-23 on Ryan Fitzgerald’s 45-yard field-goal with 8:40 left. But the Seminoles’ rally fell short when McKenzie Milton’s downfield pass was picked off by Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark with 48 seconds left.
Despite a shaky second half, Louisville can now claim back-to-back wins over UCF and Florida State. The Cardinals can also credit their defense for again coming through with a late interception — Jaylin Alderman picked off a tipped pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown in a 42-35 win over UCF.
“We didn’t play pretty in the second half, but we found a way to win and that’s what I’m proud of,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “You come on the road in ACC play, you get your first win, I think that was huge for our team. That’s back-to-back good weeks of good wins.”
Florida State (0-4, 0-2) has not opened with four straight losses since 1974, two years before the late coaching legend Bobby Bowden arrived.
Milton completed 24 of 39 passes for 248 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Parchment. Jashaun Corbin had a 75-yard touchdown run and Treshaun Ward added a 20-yard TD run for Florida State.
Corbin had 11 carries for 159 yards, the third time he has surpassed the 100-yard mark. The Seminoles ran for 209 yards, the third time in four games they surpassed that mark.
“Came out and played really hard in the second half,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “Defensively did a great job there being able to get off the field. Just missed opportunities. We had our chances. Didn’t finish drives. We got to finish.”
Louisville lost receiver Braden Smith to injury on Saturday. Smith’s injury is not known but Satterfield said, “It’s a pretty bad injury. I saw him in a brace.” He has 11 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Cardinals linebacker Monty Montgomery (knee) will miss the rest of the season. Montgomery, who was injured in last week’s win over UCF, had 17 tackles and a quarterback hurry in Louisville’s first three games. He had nine tackles in the win over UCF.
Louisville: The Cardinals converted on 8 of 10 third-down opportunities to score all 31 points in the first half and capture a win a week after an emotional home victory over UCF.
Florida State: The Seminoles have given up 30 or more points to all three of their FBS opponents — Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Louisville.
Florida State: The Seminoles host Syracuse on Saturday.
Louisville: The Cardinals play at Wake Forest on Saturday.
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