MIAMI, Fla. (WDRB) — For eight games, the University of Louisville football team overachieved as consistently as any team in the country.
The Cardinals beat an unbeaten Wake Forest team that they were not supposed to beat. Beat a division-leading Virginia team they were not supposed to beat.
Played Notre Dame and Clemson tighter than they were supposed to play them, certainly for a half.
Won five of their first eight in a stretch when reasonable minds projected the Cardinals would win three or four all season. Looked the part of the second- or maybe third-best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium, Scott Satterfield’s team, finally threw in a colossal clunker — on offense, defense and special teams. Against surging Miami, the Cardinals’ across-the-board ineptitude got Louisville flattened in a way they had not been flattened by an unranked team since last season, 52-27.
"I haven't felt like this since last year," U of L defensive lineman G.G. Robinson said.
"It was ugly," Satterfield said. "If you turn the ball over and you have all the penalties we had, you're not going to beat anyone."
Penalties. Sloppy tackling. Missed blocks. Botched coverages.
More penalties. An interception in the end zone. A partially blocked punt. Mass confusion in the secondary. A dropped punt. A missed extra point.
Injuries to offensive tackle Mekhi Becton (who exited for good in the first quarter with a lower leg injury but told Satterfield after the game that he expected to play next week), receiver Tutu Atwell and quarterback Micale Cunningham.
The Cardinals were so careless with the football — two interceptions and the fumble — that Miami spent most of the afternoon dancing along its sideline with that flashy 305 turnover chain.
There goes another flag.
"We had a lot of things go wrong today," Satterfield said.
The Cardinals earned 14 penalties for 121 yards, more than double their per-game average of 53. Halfback Javian Hawkins got within a dozen yards of becoming U of L's first 1,000-yard rusher in nine seasons — and then lost 10 yards (to finish with 91 on 15 carries) over the remainder of the game.
At 5-4, Louisville has three opportunities to become bowl eligible, starting with a game at North Carolina State next Saturday night. The Cards then finish with their home finale against Syracuse and a trip to Kentucky.
They're likely to play better -- or at least cleaner -- than they did against the Hurricanes.
In one stretch on Miami's first drive, Louisville was called for face mask penalties on back-to-back plays.
In another, Miami scored on three consecutive offensive snaps — a 5-yard touchdown run followed by a 67-yard touchdown pass followed by a 14-yard touchdown pass.
"Way too many big plays," Satterfield said. "We were busting in the back end but we weren't getting any pressure either."
The Cardinals checked every box on the checklist of things you cannot do to win on the road against a team like Miami (6-4), which has considerable talent at skill positions as well as on its defensive front.
Let’s start there. The Cards could not block Miami, at least not on a consistent basis.
Cunningham started the game scrambling for room to breath and he remained on the run for the next three hours. That’s not an indictment of the Louisville offensive linemen or the Cards’ offensive scheme. Plenty of teams have struggled or failed trying to block the Hurricanes this season.
"Just a lack of focus," said Louisville halfback Javian Hawkins. "We've got to ock in better."
But didn't the Cards have an extra week to prepare after delivering one of their best performances of the season against Virginia?
"I'm very surprised," Hawkins said.
"All week we said we had the best week of practices that we had all year," Robinson said. "But that doesn't mean anything if you go out and lay an egg on the field and that's what we did."
Miami defensive end Greg Rousseau started the day ranked second in the nation in sacks, and NFL scouts say that, as usual, the Hurricanes have two and probably three interior defensive linemen who will play professional football.
There were similar issues for the Louisville defense — issues that percolated with this team in the second halves against Notre Dame and Clemson and for 60 minutes against Wake Forest.
The U of L defense was whistled for two face mask penalties and a personal foul in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
For Miami, Jarren Williams played quarterback like a guy who would have put Terry Wilson on the bench at Kentucky, the program Williams orally committed to twice as a high school player in Georgia.
Williams struggled to throw an accurate deep ball in the first half of the season. Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos fixed the way Williams set his hips on his delivery several weeks ago. Williams torched Florida State with a career best 313 yards and two touchdown passes last week.
He was even better against Louisville.
How much better?
Williams achieved something that Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta failed to do during the glory days when Miami chased national championships:
He threw six touchdowns passes — the distances were 67, 14, 10, 17, 31 and 28 yards. In other words, not many cheapies. Williams rested for most of the fourth quarter, finishing 15 of 22 for 253 yards.
"Fifteen completions for six touchdown passes," Satterfield said. "That's an unbelievable ratio."
The Hurricanes were dominant Saturday, looking like the best team in the ACC Coastal Division.
And the Cards were at their worst — or at least at the worst that Scott Satterfield’s team has played this season.
"We're a work in progress still," Satterfield said. "If you go through something like this and you don't learn something, all you did is go through a bad thing."
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