For a year that was supposed to be a little bit more of a rebuild, Louisville (8-5) certainly feels good with how the season ended. The Cardinals finished off the first season under head coach Scott Satterfield with a 38-28 victory over Mississippi State (6-7) of the SEC Monday afternoon in the Music City Bowl.
Louisville went on a run of 31 striaght points to turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs could put another score on the board. Micale Cunningham passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards on the ground. Javian Hawkins rushed for a game-high 100 yards for the Cardinals.
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill got banged up early in the game, needing a cart to be taken off the field for further evaluation. The good news for Mississippi State was Hill returned to the game. The bad news is Louisville never allowed Hill to be a factor. Hill rushed for just three yards on seven rushing attempts. Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Stevens had some rough moments, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Louisville’s Khane Pass to give Louisville a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.
It can sometimes be too easy to react dramatically to what transpires in a bowl game, but Louisville did show some signs of a program that is poised to take a step forward in 2020. The defense took control of Mississippi State after a tough start to the game (Mississippi State led 14-0 and had a 99-yard touchdown drive following a Louisville turnover). We’re not about to throw Louisville into the category of teams that could challenge Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division just yet, but the Cardinals could potentially be the second-best team in the division next season.
Louisville opens the 2020 season with an ACC game, although the ACC schedule has yet to be confirmed for next season. The Cardinals will host Murray State on sept. 19, Western Kentucky on Sept. 26, and Kentucky on Nov. 28. Louisville also makes a road trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 21 to complete the non-conference schedule.
Mississippi State’s 2020 season will begin at home on Sept. 5 against New Mexico.
No. 9 Notre Dame (1-0) spoiled the start of the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville (0-1) by shutting down the Cardinals in the second half Monday night in Louisville. Since being knotted up at 14-14 after the first quarter, the Fighting Irish outscored the home team 21-3 the rest of the way for a 35-17 win to start the new year.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book gave the Irish the lead just before halftime, making up for a lost fumble just a few plays prior to that. Book lost a fumble one play after the Irish recovered a Louisville fumble. But the third fumble in three successive plays gave the ball right back to Notre Dame, and Book capitalized with an 11-yard run with 17 seconds left before the halftime break.
Book then added to the Notre Dame lead with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble midway through the third quarter. With the Irish defense getting a handle on Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass and the Cardinals unable to sustain the energy and momentum they ha din the first quarter, Notre Dame started to pull away. After Louisville resigned to settling for a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Notre Dame lead to 28-17, the Irish delivered what was essentially the knockout blow with Jahmir Smith‘s one-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
There were some glimpses of improved football by Louisville that Satterfield can take into practices for next week. Among the chief areas of concern should be ball control. Louisville lost three fumbles. Last season, Satterfield’s Appalachian State was among the best teams in the nation in handling the football with just 10 fumbles all season long, and just five lost fumbles all year. Louisville was much more of a mess handling the football, ranking 125th in the nation with 23 fumbles and 10 fumbles lost. It may not happen overnight, but Satterfield should be able to find ways to improve how his players hold on to the football relatively quickly. Pass scored both Louisville touchdowns on the ground, but has room to improve with his passing accuracy (10-of-24 for 127 yards).
Notre Dame had some shaky moments early on with the defense as Louisville was showing some new looks with their offense, but the Irish calmed things down a bit and started locking down on the Cardinals offense after the first quarter. The defense in South Bend should once again be pretty solid against most of their opponents. As seems to be the biggest concern in the Brian Kelly era is will the defense be good enough when up against some of the nation’s best programs. We don’t need to worry too much about that just yet, although a road trip to Georgia is approaching pretty quickly (Sept. 21).
Next up for Notre Dame is a home date with New Mexico, coached by former Fighting Irish head coach Bob Davie. Whether Davie coaches his team this weekend remains in question as the former Irish coach recovers from a health scare from over the weekend. Davie coached at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001 after serving three seasons as the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz. This weekend would mark Davie’s first game as a coach back in South Bend if he is able to make the trip and coach for New Mexico. Davie was 35-25 as head coach at Notre Dame, with a 0-3 bowl record.
Louisville will host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS opponent, in Week 2.
Louisville has perhaps one of the most suitably named quarterback ready to lead the offense in the season opener Monday night against Notre Dame. Jawon Pass has been named the starting quarterback for the Cardinals by new head coach Scott Satterfield.
Pass was the most likely candidate for the starting job, especially after an injury cost Malik Cunningham a shot to win the starting job. Pass was Louisville’s leading passer with 1,960 yards and eight touchdowns last season, mostly serving as the team’s starter. However, Pass and Cunningham split playing time later in the season as Pass proved to have some issues with interceptions (12 picks thrown) and inconsistent pass accuracy. Cunningham was slightly better with accuracy but still had room for improvement as well.
Fortunately for Satterfield, he feels Pass has really come along since the former Appalachian State head coach moved to Louisville.
“There’s times when he looks unbelievable, like really, really good,” Satterfield said. “Obviously, he’s a big, tall and strong quarterback. When he stands in there and really follows through he looks how you are supposed to look. There’s times when his footwork is off and the ball sails on him, but he’s gotten a lot better than that. I think he has an opportunity to really have a good season and play well for us.”
Satterfield also noted Cunningham has returned to practices and is working his way back into the mix, whether that means as a starter or a solid back-up option still to be determined later.
“A lot of it depends on what he does in the next couple of days,” Satterfield said. “You know, he is looking good. I mean he is throwing the ball; he is doing a lot of good things. With Malik his strength is running, and you want to be able to do that 100 percent so well know a lot more of it come the end of the week.”
Pass will get his first test Monday night against a Notre Dame team coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, and the Fighting Irish tend to bring some good defense to the field.
The page has been turned at Louisville with the first spring under new head coach Scott Satterfield now in the books. After 14 spring practices, Louisville brought a close to their spring practice schedule Thursday night with a practice open to the fans. Satterfield had some typical coach things to say afterward, which was to be expected, but hearing the new head coach of the Cardinals say he feels comfortable with the improvement he has seen within the program this spring should be an encouraging sign for Louisville fans.
Because Louisville’s spring practice schedule was able to wrap up earlier than usual, Satterfield now has some extra time to do the things he needs to do to evaluate the team going forward ahead of the summer workouts and his first season on the sidelines with the Cardinals.
“It’s a lot of great film to coach off of,” Satterfield said this week. “We played a lot of guys in places we normally wouldn’t [Thursday night[ because we’re just trying to look at certain guys in scenarios to see how they are going to react and then we’ll coach through that. But overall, I am just very pleased at how the spring went.”
The sentiment seemed to resonate with some players as well.
“The biggest improvement for us is attitude and effort,” Louisville linebacker C.J. Avery said. “We are just focusing on getting to the football with violent intentions, and not worry about making mistakes.”
Louisville is coming off a dreadful 2-10 season, which led to the dismissal of Bobby Petrino as head coach. It should not take much to improve on last season, although it should take a little longer to get Louisville back to the level they appeared to be just a few short years ago with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals one of the top contenders in the ACC along with Clemson and Florida State. A clean slate with a new head coach with an accomplished record coming in may have been just what the doctor ordered for Louisville.
For as many head coaches that change jobs during the annual coaching carousel, the number of assistant coaches that switch jobs far out-paces the head coaching changes in college football. As expected, when a head coach takes on a new job at a school, the odds are pretty good he’ll pull from his previous coaching staff to start building his new staff. Such appears to be the case for Scott Satterfield at Louisville and Mike Houston at East Carolina.
According to a report from Winston-Salem Journal, new Louisville head coach Satterfield will begin forming his Cardinals coaching staff with a few members of his former Appalachian State coaching staff. Appalachian State defensive coordinator Bryan Brown and offensive coordinator Frank Ponce will reportedly head to Louisville to fill roles that have not been clarified, although it would stand to reason they will carry the same roles under Satterfield with the Cardinals if and when they officially join the program.
How soon those additions take place remains to be seen. In the meantime, Appalachian State continues to prepare for a bowl game against Middle Tennessee while the coaching staff is in a transition without Satterfield.
At East Carolina, Houston will start building his coaching staff with members of his coaching staff at James Madison. According to a report from Daily News-Record, offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick and defensive coordinator Bob Trott will join Houston at East Carolina. For Kirkpatrick, this will be familiar territory as he previously coached at East Carolina for 11 seasons.