LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Louisville-Notre Dame football game was supposed to be as one-sided as arguing with the NCAA. It wasn’t.
The Louisville-Eastern Kentucky football game had all the flashing lights of a tricky trap game. Louisville won by 42.
Two games into Scott Satterfield’s first season as the Cardinals’ head coach, it’s time to introduce him a signature quality that surrounds Power Five programs:
The Classic Overreaction.
With the Cardinals sitting at 1-1 and primed to upgrade to 2-1 against Western Kentucky Saturday in Nashville, has the time come to revise those pre-season U of L predictions?
The ones that projected Louisville as one of the five worst Power Five teams this season?
Yes, that one is safe to revise.
The unanimous projections that the Cardinals would finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division?
Probably, to that one. Florida State, Syracuse and Miami have played like Moe, Larry and Curly.
The fearless forecasts (like mine) that had Louisville completing Satterfield’s debut with a record of 4-8?
Not yet, to that one. I need more precincts to report.
Satterfield answered questions for about 15 minutes Monday afternoon as the Cardinals continued preparation for Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers also had a solid moment last Saturday, beating Florida International (for the first time since 2016) in Miami.
Satterfield said he was encouraged by his team’s effort and energy. He said that his defense reduced the number of mental mistakes they made against Notre Dame by 50 percent.
He said, repeatedly, that Louisville must improve its passing game — in nearly every way. Receivers must improve the routes they run. Quarterbacks must throw crisper, more accurate balls.
After two weeks, Louisville ranks last in the ACC and 117th in the nation in completion percentage at 52.1 percent. Among Power Five programs, only Oregon State, Auburn and Northwestern have been worse.
Like most coaches, Satterfield will accept nothing less than 60 percent.
Nothing outrageous about that. Of the 130 FBS programs, 90 have completed at least 60 percent of their passes this season. Four more completions over the first two games would have pushed U of L to 60 percent — and there have been more than four balls that were dropped or poorly delivered.
Jawon Pass must come to pass with more accuracy. He must become more confident and efficient throwing deeper routes.
“Teams know that we want to run the football,” Satterfield said. “Teams are going to load the box (play seven or even eight defenders near the line of scrimmage).
“There are going to be some one-on-one matchups (receivers vs. defensive backs). We’ve got to win those.”
Satterfield said that he identified at least four deep incompletions against EKU that should have resulted in long passing plays. The coach said he told his guys that if they’re going to continue struggling throwing deep balls that “we might as well run the ball again.
“I don’t think there is a magical formula,” Satterfield said. “For me, you’ve just got to get better at it.”
Louisville has averaged 7.4 yards per passing attempt. That’s 69th in the nation, roughly average.
But … two years ago, with Lamar Jackson, Louisville ranked 16th at 8.4 yards per attempt. In 2016, Jackson’s Heisman season, Louisville ranked 15th at 8.7 yards.
In 2013, Teddy Bridgewater’s final season, Louisville ranked sixth at 9.3 yards — and completed nearly 71 percent of its throws. It can be done.
Fixing the passing game remains Job One for Satterfield on offense.
There are several encouraging indicator lights flashing. ESPN’s Football Power Index has upgraded Louisville’s projected win total from 4.4 during the preseason to 4.9 this week. The FPI reported that Louisville will be favored against WKU, Boston College and Syracuse.
Jeff Sagarin’s computer formula needs more proof from Satterfield’s team.
His predictor formula has Louisville 16.25 points better than WKU and 0.03 points better than Syracuse.
Sagarin’s numbers continue to slot Louisville as a double-digit underdog against Clemson, Virginia, Miami, North Carolina State and Kentucky.
The Cards are projected as nearly 9-point underdogs against Florida State and Wake Forest (both road games). Sagarin favors Boston College by a point for the game BC and U of L will play at Cardinal Stadium Oct. 5.
That still has the outline of a four-win season — unless Satterfield gets the improved passing game that the coach knows that he needs from his offense.
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