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What UVA Football fans need to know about Louisville

LouisvilleLouisville wasn’t expected to do much under first-year coach Scott Satterfield, who inherited a dumpster fire from predecessor Bobby Petrino.

Credit to Satterfield, his staff and UL players: they’re doing a good job getting things turned around already.

The Cardinals are 4-3, and already have a win over a Top 25 team (a 62-59 win over Wake Forest two weeks ago).

The 45-10 loss to Clemson last week wasn’t nearly as bad as the score makes it look. The defending national champs were up 17-3 late in the third quarter before breaking the game open from there.

“Obviously, Clemson is a great opponent, but offensively we left a lot of plays out there that we have been making throughout the season. Particularly on some big plays, and we just didn’t come through with those big plays. Looking at the film, I think with around three to four minutes left in the third quarter it’s still 17-3. There were a couple of times that we still had opportunities to score. Obviously, it would have been a different kind of game,” Satterfield said at his weekly presser on Monday.

So, a win over a Top 25, a decent fight put up against Clemson.

Notre Dame in the opener was a tie game just before halftime before the Irish pulled away for a 35-17 win, which, sound familiar, UVA fans?

The Cardinals also had a lead on Florida State in the fourth quarter before losing 35-24.

Convinced yet?

UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall is.

“Very dynamic offensively, and I would certainly capable and active defensively, and right now they’re probably more known for their offense explosion and firepower and that side seems to be performing a little in their first year at a higher level. That doesn’t mean their defense isn’t capable and won’t catch up. When that happens, whatever week it happens, then they become a powerful football team. They’re already winning and doing a nice job,” Mendenhall said on Monday.

Louisville is fourth in the ACC in total offense (456.7 yards per game), and this is in spite of breaking the old football rule about using two quarterbacks, which is, if you think you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.

Well, then there’s this: Louisville’s QBs as a unit have the best pass-efficiency rating in the ACC (161.4).

Satterfield has been using redshirt sophomore Micale Cunningham (879 yards, 61.8% completion rate, 7 TDs/2 INTs) and true freshman Evan Conley (466 yards, 58.3% completion rate, 4 TDs/2 INTs) at QB the past three weeks, and it’s working.

Louisville racked up 445 yards of total offense in a 41-39 win over Boston College on Oct. 5 and 520 yards in the 62-59 win over Wake on Oct. 12.

The offense stagnated a bit in the loss to Clemson, gaining just 263 yards and turning the ball over three times, but the use of two quarterbacks presents a unique challenge to Virginia schematically, as Mendenhall acknowledged.

“You try to make two guys one. Otherwise you don’t have enough time, and the plan becomes too diluted,” Mendenhall said. “I wouldn’t see them altering anything significantly because they’re having so much success offensively anyway. And so, I would think both quarterbacks will play, and we’ll do our best to say they’re both a single quarterback. One might be a little bit better thrower, and one a better runner, and try to tilt it slightly that way. But in the extreme measures, it just doesn’t allow you to be prepared enough to play or to execute at a high enough level.”

Mendenhall and defensive coordinator Nick Howell have done a solid job game-planning against opponent passing games. UVA’s D ranks second in the ACC in passing yards allowed (174.3 yards per game), second in sacks (4.0 per game) and fourth in pass-defense efficiency (115.0).

Louisville is also third in the ACC in rushing offense (217.4 yards per game), which puts another strength against a UVA strength, defending the run.

The ‘Hoos are tied for second in the conference in rush defense (96.0 yards per game).

The feature back for Louisville is 5’9”, 182-pound redshirt freshman Javian Hawkins, who is averaging 107.3 yards per game, fourth in the ACC, gaining 5.5 yards per carry.

Hassan Hall, a 6’0”, 198-pound sophomore, is the changeup back, averaging 10 carries per game and 4.1 yards per attempt.

Cunningham, at QB, is a threat in the run game, averaging 8.3 attempts per game, and gaining 4.3 yards per tote.

The top targets in the passing game are 5’9” sophomore Chatarius Atwell (34 catches, 15.9 yards/catch, 6 TDs), 6’2” redshirt junior Dez Fitzpatrick (24 catches, 19.6 yards/catch, 5 TDs) and 6’3” senior Seth Dawkins (24 catches, 20.2 yards/catch, 2 TDs).

The yards-per-catch numbers should suggest to you the big-play capabilities that Louisville brings to the table.

“Yeah, playmaking and space. Speed and ability, and there’s big play potential. Louisville is dynamic,” Mendenhall said. “They’re dynamic at quarterback. They’re dynamic at running back. They’re dynamic at receiver. So much like Louisville seems to always be, since at least I’ve been in this league. They are exceptional athletes that there’s a big play threat that’s just kind of always hanging over your head of, this play could go the whole way. And the amount of points they’re scoring again reflects that they can and they have done that already.”

The weakness for Louisville is clearly on the defensive side. The Cardinals are 14th (i.e. last) in the ACC in scoring defense (33.4 points per game), 12th in total defense (455.0 yards per game), 13th in rushing defense (191.9 yards per game), 11th in pass defense (263.1 yards per game) and 12th in pass-defense efficiency (144.5).

That much should be obvious when you look at the scores: 62-59, 41-39, 35-24, 35-17, 45-10.

The Satterfield 1.0 version of Louisville football is built to win track meets, not defensive slogs.

Thing is, they’re pretty good at making football games resemble track meets. Avoid that, you should be OK, but if a track meet breaks out, you could be in big trouble.

Story by Chris Graham



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