For the second week in a row, redshirt freshman quarterback Malik Cunningham came off the bench to rally Louisville to victory -- this time a 20-17 decision over Western Kentucky on Saturday night at Cardinal Stadium in the teams' first meeting since 1998.
With the Hilltoppers seeking their first win in 43 years against their neighbors 110 miles to the north, Cunningham led two second-half scoring drives capped by 1-yard touchdown blasts by sophomore running back Dae Williams. His second score came with 5:01 to go and gave Louisville (2-1) its first lead of the night.
Cunningham rushed 21 times for 129 yards and completed 10 of 18 passes for 88 yards. Williams carried nine times for 58 yards and two scores as head coach Bobby Petrino defeated his previous employer.
Freshman quarterback Davis Shanley completed 22 of 33 passes for 240 yards and a score for Western Kentucky (0-3), which outgained Louisville 428-292. Senior running back D'Andre Ferby rushed for 74 yards.
Western Kentucky senior Drew Eckels, who threw for a career-high 347 yards last week against Maine, did not dress after suffering an upper-body injury in the final minute of that game.
Sophomore Steven Duncan started at quarterback, but Shanley entered midway through the first quarter. Shanley orchestrated the game's first score as he hit sophomore tight end Kyle Fourtenbary for 9 yards to give Western Kentucky a 7-0 lead with seven seconds left in the first quarter.
Sophomore Jawon Pass got another start at quarterback for Louisville, but he threw two incompletions and an interception in the first quarter as the Hilltoppers built a 143 to minus-2 lead in total yards after 15 minutes. Petrino called on Cunningham to start the second, but Western Kentucky stuffed him on fourth-and-3 at Louisville's 32 on his first drive.
Western Kentucky needed just two plays to capitalize on Louisville's failed gamble as Shanley fired a 28-yard strike to junior Quin Jernighan before taking a 3-yard keeper around left end into the end zone for a 14-0 advantage.
Louisville finally got on the board with 13 seconds left in the half when junior Blanton Creque converted a 23-yard field goal. Creque added another 23-yard kick on the Cardinals' first possession of the second half.
Louisville's defense stiffened after Western Kentucky drove all the way to the 1-yard line, but the Cardinals dropped Shanley for losses on back-to-back plays, and then sophomore defensive lineman Jared Goldwire blocked senior kicker Ryan Nuss' 32-yard field-goal attempt and the ball bounced all the way to Western Kentucky's 31.
The Cardinals used that field position to pick up their first touchdown of the night as 232-pound sophomore Dae Williams blasted in on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Louisville opted to kick the extra point, which cut the deficit to 14-13 with 14:23 to go.
Western Kentucky responded with a time-consuming drive that Nuss capped with a 35-yard field goal. After Louisville took its first lead on Williams' second touchdown run of the night, Western Kentucky had two chances to rally.
Shanley guided the Hilltoppers to Louisville's 36, but freshman defensive end Jarrett Jackson sacked him for a 9-yard loss on third down and Shanley couldn't connect on fourth down.
Western Kentucky regained possession at its own 36 with 16 seconds left. A 36-yard Shanley hook-and-ladder with Jernighan and Lucky Jackson moved the ball to Louisville's 34 with 0:01 on the clock, but Nuss' 51-yard field-goal attempt on the game's final play went just right.
--Field Level MediaBet Now