Louisville finished off a remarkable 2019 season on Monday night in the Music City Bowl with a 38-28 win over Mississippi State at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, and the youngsters were the stars of the show.
Sophomore quarterback Micale Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries and the Cardinals racked up a whopping 511 total yards to finish off an 8-5 season in Scott Satterfield's first year at the helm. Freshman running back Javian Hawkins was the workhorse for the Cardinals, rushing for 105 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Sophomore Chatarius Atwell provided balance through the air with nine receptions for 147 yards.
The Louisville defense -- which entered the game next-to-last in the ACC in rushing defense -- held the stout Bulldogs rushing attack to just 145 yards after star Kylin Hill was knocked out of the game with an injury.
It was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround for Satterfield, who took over a broken program following a 2-10 season under former coach Bobby Petrino. In one short season, Louisville transformed itself from the punchline of a very bad ACC joke into a program that looks more like the one that was a threat to Clemson and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic when Petrino had things cooking with quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The college football world is begging another team in the ACC to become a threat to knock Clemson off of its pedestal. Why not Louisville? The Cardinals are the second team in conference history to go from 0-8 in conference play to 5-3, and Satterfield just orchestrated the biggest turnaround in Power Five football in 2019. The school has made a major investment in the football program since joining the ACC earlier this decade, is in a fertile recruiting ground and has momentum on its side.
Is Louisville the next Clemson? No. It's way too soon for that. But in the crowded mess that is the ACC, it has the best chance to become the primary threat in 2020 and beyond.