Cunningham’s 2 TDs lift Louisville over Pittsburgh 24-10


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Malik Cunningham threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to underused tight end Josh Lifson midway through the fourth quarter, Kei’Trel Clark returned a sack fumble 59 yards for an insurance TD and Louisville beat Pittsburgh by 24: 10 on Saturday night for the second win in a row.

Cunningham threw his second TD after a 33-yard catch-and-run on a pass by receiver Braden Smith to the Panthers’ 11. Two games later, a wide-open Lifson snagged Cunningham’s low 9-yard pass for just his second catch Louisville and the first goal to make it 14-10 with 9:45 remaining. James Turner’s 48-yard field goal gave Yasir Abdullah a seven-point lead dismissed Kedon Slovis and forced a fumble, which Clark returned for the deciding score.

Lifson’s TD was surprising considering his previous touch was a 28-yard reception against Kentucky. Even bigger was Cunningham’s reception, a play the QB said didn’t work in practice all week.

“In my head, I knew they were going to name it eventually,” Cunningham said. “So I thought, ‘I have to do the play,’ and I did. Braden threw me the pass well and I followed my blocks.

Cunningham also threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marshon Ford early in the second quarter to level the game at 7. He finished just 10 of 21 for 122 yards, but it was enough after missing a game with symptoms including a concussion. Louisville’s reunion gave him another week to recover.

The fifth-grader was shaken up late in the first half after another hard hit and missed the Cardinals’ first series in the second half but came back to convert two big games for Louisville (4-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) . .

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The Panthers (4-3, 1-2) led 10-7 after Ben Saul’s 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter, but couldn’t extend it. Four turnovers didn’t help, and Slovis accounted for three, throwing two interceptions along with fumbles as he tried to pass.

Israel Abanikanda ran 28 times for 129 yards, including a 12-yard TD run, after hitting a school-record 320 yards last time out against Virginia Tech. Most of his mileage came in the first half, and he also had a 37-yard catch-and-run to set up Pitt’s first touchdown.

His 36-yard run in the fourth put the Panthers on the Louisville 39, but they turned him over on downs. Louisville turned that opportunity into Turner’s field goal.

“We didn’t make enough moves offensively,” said Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. “If you put the ball on the ground, that must not happen. We have to protect the ball better. I’m not going to win many ball games minus-3 (turnover margin) again.”

Brock Domann relieved Cunningham late in the second quarter, started the third and came back in the fourth to score an insurance field goal with a 28-yard sideline completion against Tyler Hudson.

He was only 2-of-5 passes for 35 yards but provided another big lift for Louisville after passing 275 yards and one of his two TDs while leading a 34-17 win in Virginia, with Cunningham paused.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers beat Louisville 326-312 but couldn’t avoid each other with turnovers. The defense stopped Cunningham for much of the game but was caught off guard by the receiver pass to Cunningham. This was accompanied by the chance of a second win in a row.

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Louisville: The Cardinals are finally on a winning streak and can boast a defense that has overcome giving Abanikanda room to limit him and the Panthers’ ground play. Those four turnovers made the obvious difference. The offensive was initially unable to take advantage of these chances due to sluggish play, but woke up in the fourth quarter and even converted a trick play to prepare the decisive score.

“Stats … I knew they weren’t going to be pretty in this game when you think about it,” said coach Scott Satterfield. “There were two stats I thought we needed to win. Number one was sales margin, and we won that. And that was obviously the difference in the game. And number two were the explosive moves.”

Pittsburgh: The Panthers visit No. 22 in North Carolina on Saturday.

Louisville: The Cardinals host Wake Forest No. 13 on Saturday.

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