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Louisville Cardinals still learning, looking to make progress after rocky 2018 season

| Monday, September 2, 2019

After opening the 2016 season ranked No. 19 in the country, the Louisville Cardinals, behind the play of eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, rose to No. 3 in the polls before losing their final three games of the season and finishing 9-4. Despite faltering late, Louisville was still considered a solid program and entered the 2017 season ranked No. 16 before going 8-5.

EMMA FARNAN | The Observer

Former Irish kicker Kyle Brindza misses a 32-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation Saturday during Notre Dame’s 31-28 loss to Louisville in 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium.

One year later, the 2018 college football season took an unsuspecting turn for the Cardinals. After going 2-8 through ten games, head coach Bobby Petrino was fired and, after being scorned by Louisville alum and current Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, the Cardinals replaced him with Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield.

Satterfield, an Appalachian State alum who in six seasons led the Mountaineers to a 38-10 record in conference and 51-24 overall, along with a 3-0 record in bowl games, is now tasked with rebuilding the Cardinals program.

It has been a rapid and severe fall for the Lamar Jackson-less Cardinals, and Satterfield has a task in front of him. However, he realizes he has to train his team to have success, and it all begins in the way they prepare.

“We talk about how hard they gotta practice, and I don’t [like] how they’ve practiced in the past here, and so we’ve had a ways to go with that,” Satterfield said in a press conference Monday. “So, in the middle of last week we’re like, ‘listen, this is not good enough the way we’re practicing.’ … I mean, that’s where you win and lose games is throughout the week and the preparation, it’s not that day, it’s not that Monday night. It’s all the other stuff leading up to that, and we gotta get there, and that’s still a work in progress, how we prepare each and every week. … We’re growing, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Whatever approach the team took led to them giving up an average of 57 points over their final seven games. Satterfield has already taken steps to change the culture and attitude of the team by pushing the players to work their way into contributing roles.

“Our chase teams — which we call them ‘chase teams,’ which are scout teams — are chase teams because they’re chasing the depth chart,” Satterfield said. “We’re always trying to develop those guys. I want them to go extremely hard on our chase teams, offense, defense and our special teams there, trying to give a great look.”

Satterfield is also willing to let his players be more intense in practice than is typically seen.

“That’s how you win football games, it’s the preparation,” he said. “The speed of the game, that’s the one thing that’s hard to simulate, and so that’s why we’ve got to go fast and hard. I know sometimes teams, [they’re like], ‘Don’t hurt our starters, don’t hurt these guys; give us a look, but don’t really hurt those guys.’ Well I want our chase teams to go hard, wide open. And sometimes, if you’re hitting our guys, that’s fine, that’s football, right?”

Satterfield is no stranger to being the underdog, having been the quarterbacks coach at Appalachian State when they upset No. 5 Michigan in the 2007 season opener while still an FCS program. However, he says himself that he doesn’t see many parallels between that team and this one.

“I think it was completely different scenarios in that we were a team back then that had just come off two national championships and we were rolling, and a really good football team,” Satterfield said. “But they were accustomed to winning and playing hard and all the things. … The fact that, yeah, we’re a big underdog and we’re playing a well-known team that’s coming in here, I think that’s the correlation, but it may stop right there. We have not seen our guys play a game yet. We don’t know how they’re going to go out and react in a game situation. All our preparation that we’ve put in, we’ve got a good idea, but we don’t know fully until we put the ball down and let’s snap the ball and see what happens.”

With a game against No. 9 Notre Dame on the horizon, Satterfield said his team has numerous things to learn.

“I think for us [this week]’s just about preparing the right way. This is our first game so we’re going through everything that we’re going to do leading up to that first game,” Satterfield said. “I mean we gotta go over pre-game warmup, where everybody stands, how we’re going to warm up, when you come to the locker room, what you’re going to do when you come to the locker room, halftime. I mean there’s just so many things you gotta go over. We’re trying to prepare for everything, and it’s the first game. The new staff that we’ve brought in, they don’t really understand what we’re doing yet, of course all the players haven’t done it yet. So, those are the things that as a coach you just want to be fully prepared for.”

While trying to give his team a crash-course before the season opener, Satterfield recognized the challenge before them, and had praise for his opponent on the opposite sideline.

“[Head] coach [Brian] Kelly and his staff have done an outstanding job and they‘ve built great depth,” he said. “I think he’s one of the longest-tenured guys there and that’s a tough job there, you’re scrutinized [in] everything that you do. He’s withstood those naysayers in the middle [of his career] there and done an outstanding job. … I mean, these guys are where they’re supposed to be, and then they play hard and they’re coached well. They’ve played in huge games, big games, obviously just came off the final four last year, and [they’re] a team that was outstanding all year.”

Despite the struggles plaguing Louisville, Satterfield believes everyone is relieved to have weathered the storm and be ready to begin a new campaign.

“I think anytime you go through a camp like this and all season,” Satterfield said, “particularly with all the change that we’ve had with the coaching staff and then the kind of year that Louisville had last year, everybody’s ready to step up and play a new season.”

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