LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville was without nine players for its 42-35 loss against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Three hours before the game, UofL announced all of the following Cardinals would not be available to suit up against the Hokies: defensive lineman Micah Bland, defensive lineman Ja’Darien Boykin, defensive lineman Malik Clark, defensive lineman Yaya Diaby, punter Ryan Harwell, safety Isaiah Hayes, defensive lineman Dayna Kinnaird, linebacker Monty Montgomery and defensive lineman Tabarius Peterson.
Following the game, head coach Scott Satterfield said many of those absences were related to COVID-19. He did not specify who in that group had tested positive for the virus, was being held out for contact tracing purposes or any other details.
"This is the most difficult time really for all us coacheS," Satterfield said. "You're dealing with all these parameters that we have with this and the hand that you're dealt, you’ve got to deal with it and move forward and that's what we did.”
Satterfield said he found out he'd be missing that group on Saturday morning and did not believe this was caused by a party or meeting. Malik Cunningham, Dez Fitzpatrick and Jared Goldwire praised the program's protocols and believe players have been following them closely.
"It's really not anything we can link it back to," Satterfield said. "It just came on to us this morning. We haven't had a ton of great time to investigate but I don't suspect it's anything like you mentioned there as far as parties or any of that kind of thing. Our guys have been outstanding this whole time since they've been back. They understand the ramifications of when you're out and about and what could happen."
"Matt Summers and his staff have done a tremendous job since corona even started," Fitzpatrick said. "It’s probably just a couple of little slip-ups that just happen. I feel like we’ve done everything that we could do to prevent it. Sometimes it just finds people. That just happened to us and so we’re just moving forward.”
"All of our coaches preached that, 'So what, now what,' mentality," Cunningham said. "It’s just next man up. A lot of those young guys stepped up on the defensive side. A lot of the guys who rotate made some good strides today, and we have to grow from it tomorrow in practice.”
Montgomery leads Louisville in sacks with four while also adding seven tackles for loss this season. The team was thin on the defensive front while missing six defensive lineman. That group of unavailable linemen has combined for 28 tackles.
Hayes has also been a starting safety on that side of the ball, racking up 25 tackles and two pass breakups this season.
Harwell has punted the last three games, attempting 11 punts. Before him, Logan Lupo punted for the first three games, punting 12 times. Lupo punted again against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech jumped out to a 21-0 lead early on the Cardinals before Louisville fought back. The Hokies rushed for 283 yards, often taking advantage of that depleted Cardinal defensive front. But the group did battle, as the whole defense held Virginia Tech to convert just one third down out of seven chances.
UofL's offense was able to find its footing with explosive plays again. Javian Hawkins brought the Cards within one touchdown by scoring a buzzer-beating, 90-yard touchdown with just eight seconds left in the first half to make it 21-14. Cunningham passed for a career-high 350 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick was his leading receiver with 158 yards, which included an 82-yard touchdown.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date information.