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BSD Across the Aisle: Louisville Edition

Louisville, when Wake is ranked. I’ve seen this movie

UCF v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s Louisville week and shoutout to CardinalStrong over at Card Chronicle. If you want to check out my answers to his questions, you can check them out here. Let’s dive in:

BSD: Louisville has seemingly come a long way from that first half against Ole Miss in Atlanta, what’s been instrumental in turning things around and now the team finds itself at 3-1 with a real chance to compete for an Atlantic Division title?

CC: After the first couple games this year I actually went over to historic ‘Cave Hill Cemetery’ here in Louisville to see if I could find the plot for Satterfield, because he was getting absolutely buried in town for the play calling in Weeks 1 and 2, and frankly that is something you open yourself up to when don’t hire an offensive coordinator in the offseason. Looking back now, what appears to have happened is that Satterfield fell behind early in week one, saw Ole Miss was superior (potential CFB caliber team) and held it close to the vest in the second half. Week two he also didn’t show his hand and ran outside zone runs with such repetition I believe the EKU defense was in some type of hypnotized state. Weeks three and four Satterfield busted out the ‘Cheesecake Factory’ 12 page menu playcard and we’re getting back to see an offense that doesn’t quite score at will, but makes defenses nervous enough they can hit them in both the run and pass and see some success. It also helps that Malik appears to have settled down some and is getting back into his 2019 rhythm.

BSD: Malik Cunningham: We know what makes him so good, but if you’re the DC how do you draw up a game plan to limit him(because stopping him is downright impossible)

CC: I’m glad you asked this, and the fact that during my Q&A when I gave you the choice to pick a UofL player off our roster you also picked Malik. The reason being is that many fans (hesitantly raise hand) are still fighting through a Lamar-sized hangover that bloody marys and Pedialyte can’t touch. We saw a generational talent come through here and freakin’ win a Heisman trophy, and now the poor guy that follows him is being held to some unrealistic standards. Malik 100% had ball security issues last year and was missing open guys and just didn’t look great. When he started slow in ‘21 we had folks peeking at the depth chart to see what options were on the table, but the last couple games he’s back to the QB we fell in love with in 2019. He’s not perfect but he’s a top-tier QB in the ACC and will likely go down as a Top 10 QB in the history of the program (steps off soapbox).

What was the question, again? Oh yeah, guarding him. Good luck?!? When they run the RPO stuff or get him the flats he’s tough to bring down, and when they have designed draw plays he’s good for 4-5 yards almost every time just due to his elusiveness. He can be contained with putting 6-7 guys in the box but then you open up opportunities for him to take the top off to Huggins-Bruce, Watkins, or Harrell (see FSU). If they can get Jalen Mitchell going in the run game I think Cunningham becomes an even bigger weapon, but we’ve yet to see that materialize this year outside of a few drives against UCF. I still think the best bet is forcing him to sit in the pocket, drop 5 or 6 and keep 2 deep at all times. Death by a thousand 4 yard gains is tough to watch but not as bad as letting him loose for 20-25 runs.

BSD: Even without Monty Montgomery, this defense still has a bunch of dogs around, how do you think they come to play against one of the best offenses in the country?

CC: Defense is getting better each week per the eye test, but the stats alone don’t paint a great picture. To the credit of the defense, they have been put in a position to play the #1 offense in the nation (Mississippi) and the #3 offense in the nation (UCF) as we sit today in the first four weeks of the season, so a bit of grace needs to be given. Without question, the secondary has improved and Kei’Trel Clark is showing why he is an All-ACC caliber player locking up guys on the outside and both safeties have made some incredible TD-saving plays the last couple weeks. If the plan is to test the secondary it will be tough. If the plan is to pound the ground game Louisville has a couple of guys up front in Yaya Diaby and Ashton Gillotte that are getting good penetration and creating disruption in the trenches. I don’t think UofL has the personnel to shut down Wake or anything like that, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they keep them under their season average of 38pts’g.

BSD: Turnovers were a huge part of Louisville’s demise last year, and they’ve largely been cleaned up this year. Is this sustainable and what are they doing differently?

CC: Holding onto the ball. Sometimes Cam, life is just that simple. Last season they were dropping the ball in the open field, not catching it on sweeps or tosses...silly stuff. While the offense has cleaned that up for the most part (4 TO through 4 games in ‘21, they had 24 total last year) the flip side is that the defense has done a better job at creating them as well. They only had 12 total turnovers last season and they already have five this year, including four interceptions from that improved secondary I noted above. There were major concerns about this topic heading into the season and now it’s just a footnote on the list of things to discuss. Huge change.

BSD: Seemed like Satterfield has been on the hot seat for the last... while. How has the fan base’s perception of him changed the last few weeks?

CC: I touched on it briefly above but I think we went from a Danny Manning situation to a Dave Clawson-like situation. For those who don’t stay on top of Louisville athletics (it’s a full-time job), Satterfield had a tough 2020 (4-7) and got busted flirting with the South Carolina job towards the end of the season. The entire 25-foot retractable dog leash he earned with the fan base in 2019 got reeled back in faster than a Corgi on ice in just a two-month span, and then we sat here for eight months in the offseason and just stewed in our frustration of job searches, poor play, poor discipline, poor recruiting, etc, etc, etc. After week one he could have had 1,000 volunteers show up at his home to help him load the moving van, but the last few weeks fans have come back to reality a bit and can see that the offensive firepower in his brain didn’t leak out one night while he was sleeping and he can still put up some numbers and field a good football team. It also helps that Ole Miss looks really good. While he doesn’t have the whole fan base back in his good graces, the percentage has likely surpassed 50% approval, and that’s pretty good in the world of college football.

BSD: What happens on Saturday on a 12:30 kickoff between a 4-0 team and a 3-1 team that’s not being nationally televised?

CC: If two Top ACC teams play but nobody can watch it, did it really happen? I know most folks in your neck of the woods may not have to deal with the frustration of “regional sports network” broadcasts as I think Jefferson Pilot was as much part of the ACC as Bojangles chicken, but around here folks are diggin on the dark web and ESPN ‘The Ocho’ to try and find an ACC football game. So stupid.

With that said, I think we’ll have a good one this week. Cards are playing well, Wake is starting to get cozy in the Top 25, and somebody is going to take a step backwards this week in regards to just how good the season can hopefully play out. If UofL had gotten blasted by UCF I’d probably write off the defense as another rebuild, but they didn’t, and therefore I have some hope they can contain Wake to a mid-30’s point total and give the offense a shot to win the game. While I trust Malik, I still think they are missing another big weapon on offense to consistently put up big numbers weekly. Maybe it’s Jalen Mitchell, maybe it’s Jordan Watkins, but I feel like they just need another piece to be a real threat. While I would not be surprised if the Cards steal one, I think they come up a bit short on the road, but still cover. Wake 35, Cards 31.