LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The scoreboard was optional Monday night. It won’t always be that way. In fact, it won’t be that way for long — just as it wasn’t that way when Louisville football was about Heisman Trophies and the national rankings.
Notre Dame defeated Louisville, 35-17, at Cardinal Stadium. Now that I’ve got the score out of the way, let’s focus on what matters:
The Louisville players ran, tackled, soared, dove, scrambled, twisted and pounded like the proud program that beat Florida State, Florida, Miami, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Notre Dame and so many others not that long ago.
"The fight, the energy they had was awesome to see," said Scott Satterfield, the Cards' Can-Do new coach.
They took a punch — and punched back.
"We had the attitude and effort part we've been preaching since Day One," Louisville linebacker C.J. Avery said.
They lined up where they were supposed to line up — and did it with energy for enthusiasm for 60 minutes.
The coaches coached as if they had a plan (on offense and defense) and the players performed as if they believed in that plan.
They ran the ball with grit and toughness for 249 yards against a Notre Dame defensive front that was supposed to be the strength of Brian Kelly's team. You know how many times Louisville ran for 249 yards last season?
Once, against North Carolina State.
"That's winning football right there," Satterfield said. "That is what we hoped for. We wanted to establish the run ... I'm fired up for the guys up front. They held their own."
The Cardinals made mistakes (five fumbles, losing three of them) but refused to pout about them.
The crowd, a rousing Cardinal Stadium record of 58,187, turned out like a crowd eager to forget the 2-10 manure from last season.
They sounded eager to believe and support everything Satterfield and his coaching staff have promised to bring to a program that had it and lost it faster than any program that I can remember.
"It probably doesn't get any better than that unless you're in the national championship game," Satterfield said.
If you’re giving the Cardinals a grade, I’d make mine a “B-plus.”
If you’re handing out stars, I’d say 4 on a 5-star scale.
If you were looking for reasons to believe this season will more interesting and productive than everybody in the college football world forecast for the Cardinals, you can make a long list, too.
Start with the start. Notre Dame went 75 yards in six easy plays and jumped on the Cards less than 2 1/2 minutes into the season.
You know how that turned out last season. It turned into 56-35, 77-16, 52-10 and all the other junk we saw from a team that didn’t want to play for Bobby Petrino.
That’s not how it turned out Monday night. Louisville answered Notre Dame’s 75-yard drive with a more impressive 88-yard drive with quarterback Jawon Pass running and passing the football with more confidence than he showed in two previous seasons.
The next time the Cardinals had the ball they went another 75 yards for a touchdown and led, 14-7. The game was tied after an entire quarter.
That’s right. Louisville 14, Notre Dame 7. Snap a picture of the scoreboard.
Yes, big deal. Not even the biggest Notre Dame haters or Paul Finebaum predicted that.
Notre Dame played in the national college playoff last season and entered this season ranked No. 9. The Irish were favored by 20 points.
Louisville was not tied or ahead of anybody after the first quarter in the Cardinals’ final five games last season.
Under Petrino last season, the first quarter was when these guys pretended to care. The second quarter was when they quit pretending. Louisville gave up a combined 82 points in the second quarter of its final four games against Clemson, Syracuse, North Carolina State and Kentucky.
Against Notre Dame, and its veteran quarterback Ian Book, the Cardinals allowed 14 points in the first quarter and only seven more in the second.
At that point, the Cardinals were trending toward an “A,” and 5-stars. But the rest of the game was not that wonderful.
It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t wonderful. The rest of the game showed that this group has legitimate work to do.
No more Louisville touchdowns. The offense wobbled to only a field goal in the Cardinals’ final 12 drives. Eight of those drives were not really drives. They resulted in less than 20 yards.
Javian Hawkins, the starting halfback, flashed to 71 yards in the first half but finished with only 122.
I mentioned the five fumbles, three of them lost by Pass. That can’t happen, even with all productive things Pass did running the football for 67 yards and those two scores.
The passing game also needs a quick and substantial upgrade. Satterfield talked before the season about wanting a completion percentage of at least 60 percent from his quarterback.
He did not get that. Pass finished 12 of 27 for 134 yards without a touchdown.
Too many throws were too high or too wide or too something. There’s work to do in the passing game. Only one catch by Seth Dawkins and one for Dez Fitzpatrick. Those are two of the best players on the team. They need more balls thrown in their direction.
"I did all right," Pass said. "But we didn't win. I didn't do enough to help us win."
But, remember, Satterfield and his guys came to town last winter coaching effort, determination and enthusiasm. They got that. The rest they’ll have to work on, starting Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.
"I just left the locker room," Satterfield said. "Those guys were ready to play right now."
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