NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WDRB) – Among the stats that might get lost in the shuffle as the University of Louisville prepares to face Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl on Monday is this one: Scott Satterfield is unbeaten in bowl games, coming into this year’s unlikely postseason appearance at 3-0.
The key? According to Satterfield, most of the time it comes down to having the team that wants to be there more.
“You try to keep it fun,” Satterfield said. “We do different competitions within practice to make guys have a good time with it. And we’re not going to be out there a long time either. You want to make this experience fun and enjoyable, something these guys want to get back to every, single year. When you get to this part of the season, so much of it is mental. The ones that want to be there, want to put the work in, want to play the game, those are usually the ones that are successful.”
That’s why before the Cardinals actually went bowling, they went bowling as a team at a local alley. But there’s been a little bit more going on than the actual team activities during the weeks of bowl preparation this season.
Instead of small groups of people hanging out together, the team seems to be hanging out en masse.
“This is as close as we’ve gotten since I’ve been here. It’s been fun,” junior linebacker C.J Avery said. “This team has really bonded and is getting closer day by day. All of us love each other. This is genuinely a team.”
Senior lineman Tyler Haycraft said, “We’ve all grown together. Hanging out with every, single guy, that makes it more fun, instead of hanging out with the same five or six.”
Not that there isn’t time for seriousness. Louisville practiced Saturday without pads at a Nashville high school. And wideout Dez Fitzpatrick said that focus has been good. The Cardinals have gone in pads on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and generally followed their regular schedule.
“One thing this staff does is still stick to the same schedule,” Fitzpatrick said. “The last game doesn’t mean we do anything different. It’s very professional of our staff doing that.”
It’s not an entirely different approach from past years, except that players are given a little more leeway on curfews.
“In past years, we’ve had fun obviously, but it was a little more serious,” Fitzpatrick said. “So to have a little more leash, you know, kind of, I feel like the staff trusts us.”
If morale means anything, this Louisville team appears to be in a good mindset heading into Monday’s matchup. But in the end, football remains a game of size and speed. Satterfield is 3-0 in bowl games, and it isn’t just because of pizza parties.
“They love bowl games,” Fitzpatrick said of Louisville’s staff. “They love the travel and having a good time. I’d say a key for them is to make sure it’s fun, but they also can put together a great game plan. They get two or three weeks to focus on a single team, so they get to focus more in depth in on one team ... We know when it’s time to be serious, and we know we’ve got a challenge in this game.”
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