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Satterfield, Cardinals look to rebound from 1-3 start

| Friday, October 16, 2020

Even though it’s only been about a month, it’s already been a long season for Louisville.

The Cardinals are 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the ACC, sitting in last place in the conference courtesy of a three-game losing streak. After a 35-21 out-of-conference win against Western Kentucky to open up play, Louisville dropped three-straight with a sizable 47-34 loss No. 17 Miami, a close-call 23-20 defeat from No. 21 Pittsburgh and a 46-27 rout by unranked Georgia Tech. The season’s start is the program’s worst since 2015.

Despite a disappointing first few weeks, head coach Scott Satterfield is optimistic about what’s to come.

“We are still young in the program with this coaching staff. It’s an everyday process that we’re going through, and it’s really just talking about literally going through the process of becoming a championship-caliber team,” he said. “It’s about habits, it’s about commitment, it’s about what you’re doing on a daily basis, and you just can’t show up — any of us can’t just show up all of a sudden when it’s time to shine and think you’re going be really good. It doesn’t work that way. We are constantly reiterating the fact that we have to show up every day … we’re still growing.”

Satterfield is in his second year at the helm of the program, having recorded a record of 8-5 (5-3 ACC) in his first. Across the two seasons, there’s been consistency at the quarterback position, with the offensive reins residing in the hands of Malik Cunningham. Despite setting the school record for pass efficiency in 2019 with a rating of 194.45, Cunningham has struggled across the first month of play. In four games, he has recorded as many interceptions as he did over the course of the entire season last year — five. Satterfield expressed his frustration with the senior but asserted that more players than just his quarterback have a hand in the team’s offensive struggles.

“Malik’s overthrown a few of them, but it seems like there’s been something different [as the source of each offensive struggle], whether it be Malik not throwing the proper ball or the receiver not running the proper route or the O-line or tight ends not protecting,” Satterfield said. “In the course of the season, it’s been a little bit of everybody, I think, that have attributed to some of those shots not being there. But I think Malik’s got to be able to hit some of those balls.”

He went on to express that the biggest differences between this season and the last are two issues of no small importance.

“I think the turnovers and big plays are the two biggest differences on offense that I think we’ve had,” he said. “We have to take care of the football and we have to get down the field. If we hit those big plays, we’re going to score points … that’s how we will be able to win football games.”

The Cardinals have allowed 14 sacks for 80 yards and recorded nine fumbles, six of which were lost to contribute to a total of 11 turnovers on the season. Satterfield acknowledged, however, that the picture isn’t much brighter defensively despite losing just three starters in the offseason.

“It’s not been good tackling, and it’s still not. I mean, you can teach tackling and you can work on it, and we do,” he said. “We work on it all the time. But when you’re playing the game of football, there’s so many variables involved with it: It’s angles, it’s the point wherever I’m hitting the guy, am I trying to wrap up or am I just trying to go in with the shoulder? Also, what kind of makeup am I as a player? … All those things are involved with that, and we’re not where we need to be obviously in regards to that. So, there’s a lot we got to get better at with that,” he said. “But we’ve got to be more aggressive with it.”

The problems of the Cardinals extend beyond tackling, as Louisville is ranked 12/14 in the ACC defensively having given up an average of 34.4 points in their first four games. But, with struggles on both sides of the ball, Satterfield expressed the importance of getting better as an entire team unit.

“We’re all in this thing together. Our staff understands that … our guys have always been that way,” he said. “Part of what I think makes a great program is when you have great chemistry on the staff and guys work well together. You put your ego to the side and we all know that we’re in this thing together as one. … We’re in here trying to do everything we can to find any way to help on each side of the ball and on special teams to find ways to win or some advantage against whoever we’re playing.”

Looking ahead to his team’s road trip to South Bend this weekend, Satterfield cited the importance of using a matchup against fifth-ranked Notre Dame as a learning experience.

“I think for us, it’s not about Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s about us in this building, and how well we can go out and prepare this week to play this game and then go out and actually execute and play the game the way we prepared. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Whether we win or whether we lose, whatever the score is to me, what’s going to help make this season for us is that we are coming out and we’re planning the way we need to be playing and taking care of the football. … They’re obviously an outstanding football team, top-five team every year it seems like in the country. It is a big challenge, but to me and for our guys and our staff and our team is more about us and how we can go execute and just play at a much better level.”

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