This week, the Q&A returns as we chat with CardinalStrong of Louisville’s SB Nation site, Card Chronicle. John gives us some insight into how things have changed since Scott Satterfield took over and how things might be on the upswing for the Cardinals after a disappointing start to the season. He also joined us in missing what Lamar Jackson did at the college level. You can read my answers to their questions here.
1) I’m jealous of the Satterfield hire and can’t believe Tech didn’t even interview him after Johnson retired. After cratering at the end of the Petrino tenure, what can you point to from Satterfield and his staff for the quick turnaround? The Cards look like an entirely different and new team in such a short period of time.
It’s amazing what actually “giving a crap” can do for your program. While it’s tough to completely disparage Petrino 2.0 at Louisville (thanks for the Heisman and Lamar) the more and more information that leaked out after his departure made it mildly infuriating how he let the program and his energy fade into oblivion. From players not knowing where his office was located in the football complex, to local high school coaches never hearing from the guy, to players saying they felt like he didn’t really care about them….it was embarrassing. Satterfield came in, made it a family first environment, showed the guys he was invested in them on and off the field, and got them excited to play football again. That buy-in led to players with a newfound energy and players who were getting their first real shot to perform under the new staff.
The cupboard wasn’t bare when Satt came in, especially on offense, but the roster was completely mismanaged and this staff is just now starting to see some balance in the trenches and getting some young guys reps. I kind of expected a dip this year from a wins-losses standpoint as they got a bit lucky in one score games last season but last week was the first sniff of “the honeymoon is over” I’ve heard from the fanbase. He’s got plenty of equity built up in a short time period but he needs a win this week.
2) I have to admit to not watching much of Louisville so far this season - Cunmingham seems serviceable as a QB stat-wise, so what does he need to improve on in order to win close games like the Pitt loss?
He’s got to settle down and be consistent. He was pretty amazing last year and his expectations coming into 2020 were at a “I’m getting pre-season Heisman odds” level. He dropped over 300 yards and 3 TDs on both Western Kentucky and Miami but struggled against a really good Pittsburgh front who got lots of pressure. While I don’t blame Cunningham for the O-line struggles he did miss some wide open guys last week with both the deep ball and intermediate routes. He looked rattled frankly and hitting those was the difference between winning and losing that game. He barely cracked 100 yards in the air and had 3 interceptions. That can’t happen again. Also, while Cunningham is no Lamar, he can hurt you with his legs and that helped open up passing lanes last season. He only had four games in 2019 where he finished with 25 rushing yards or less, this season he already has three of those. He needs to keep that front seven honest when they bring the pressure.
3) What does the Cards’ defense look like under the new regime? Who should we look out for on that side of the ball?
Ahhh….so many not safe for work adjectives come to mind. In all seriousness, the defense has improved? this year in a few key areas, and stayed equally as bad in some others. Last season they wanted so bad to get pressure on the QB but couldn’t do it no matter what they tried. This year Louisville already has seven sacks and 27 tackles for loss, good enough for 8th in the nation. Also, at the time of this post linebacker Dorian Etheridge is leading the nation in tackles for loss (8.5). He, along with CJ Avery help lock up the middle of the field and Monty Montgomery is a backer on the outside who can be a real problem for offenses getting pressure in the backfield. The front seven in general, in my opinion, has played relatively well but the secondary has had some struggles. They still give up the big play way too much (5 plays over 40yd, 3 over 50yd, 2 over 70yd) and have reached a “Falcons in the 4th quarter” level of frustration for many of us at times. They have some good players, but assignments and consistency has to improve.
4) Not really a question, but I miss watching Lamar Jackson terrorize college football.
Me too, brother. Me too.
5) After a rough start to the season (we know all about that also), what’s the ceiling for this Cards team this year?
I thought they would steal one from Pitt (probably should have) but looking at their remaining schedule I still think they can win six of their last eight. They’ll likely be favored in at least those six I have circled and beyond Virginia Tech and Notre Dame they have the talent to beat everyone else. A seven win season would be fine…nothing incredible, but another good season for a staff still trying to put the pieces together. At some point I’d like to get back to a seven win season being disappointing, but this aint that year.
6) And finally, who wins this game and how? Will this game be worth watching for the casual fan?
Friday night ACC football on national television? Heck yeah folks need to be watching. What else you got going on, some TGIF ‘Family Matters’ and ‘Step By Step’ marathons? While it’s no Pastner-Mack type battle it should be a fun evening nonetheless.
For the Cards to win they need to get things going again on the ground to open up the pass and let Cunningham eat on a secondary that has some holes. Look for the coaches to get Tutu Atwell (WR) involved some more as well as he is too big a weapon to be held in check a couple weeks in a row. I think we still got a ballgame into the fourth but the Cards punch one in late to socially distance the point differential and then head over to ‘Magic City’ for the Lou Williams special. Cards 38-27.
Well, I hope things better go better than that. If not, we can just make our way over to Magic City and drown our sorrows in wings!
Thanks again to CardinalStrong for answering my questions! Be sure to head over to Card Chronicle to read my end of the Q&A and maybe also remind them of the last time these two teams met on a Friday night.
Kick is at 7:00 p.m.