By David Rogers. October 12, 2019. WINSTON-SALEM, NC — And just like that, the previously maligned Louisville football team is back in the national conversation. With a 62-59 road victory at Wake Forest, the Scott Satterfield & Co. era as the Cardinals’ head football coach accelerated forward.
COVER IMAGE: Louisville redshirt freshman running back Javian Hawkins takes the handoff for an 8-yard TD run up the middle to score first against Wake Forest. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
The win gives Louisvllle its second Atlantic Coast Conference win in as many weeks, and they did it in historic fashion — even if some of the history was unwanted.
To get the victory, the Cardinals had to survive a furious fourth quarter that saw a 52-31 lead with 9:14 to go in the game all but evaporate into just a three-point edge not once, but twice in the final minutes.
I think we have gotten better each and every week.
Plays were reviewed a total of eight times during the game, including Louisville’s recovery of a Wake Forest onside kick attempt with barely a minute remaining. The Demon Deacons had just marched 92 yards in seven plays for the TD that made it 62-59. The offensive possession took just 1:05 off the clock, leaving 1:10. Had officials ruled that Wake Forest recovered their onside kick, the Demon Deacons would have had a short field to either score a touchdown to win or get within field goal range to potentially tie and send the game into overtime. But instead the officials ruled that the Cardinals’ sophomore wide receiver Tutu Atwell secured the ball at the UL 38. Although Atwell’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back to the Cards’ 23, all the Kentuckians had to do was snap the ball and take a knee.
It was the sixth game of the season for the Cardinals and they have now scored first in all six, on their way to 4-2 overall record, 2-1 in the ACC. During the 2018 season under fired coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville only won two games the whole season, Indiana State (FCS, Missouri Valley Conference) and Western Kentucky (FBS, Conference-USA). The Cardinals were winless in the ACC last season.
According to the Louisville sports information officials, the 62 points are the most ever scored by a Louisville team on the road against a ranked opponent, and the 121 combined points are the most ever in a Louisville game, surpassing the previous record of 111 in a 59-52, double-overtime loss to Army on October 7, 1999 and a 66-45 win vs. Houston on November 23, 2003.
If we don’t win the turnover battle, we don’t win this game.
After the game, Satterfield admitted to reporters that the team had work to do on defense, but when Blowing Rock News observed that despite the defensive woes overall, the edge in turnovers could well have been the difference maker in this nailbiter.
“The turnover ratio was 3:2,” Satterfield agreed. “That’s two weeks in a row that we have won (the turnover battle). If we don’t win that, we would not have won this game. You HAVE to win the turnover (battle) in these tight ball games.”
“What also won the game for us,” he added, “was getting a couple of scores early. We were able to maintain that lead pretty much the whole game until right there at the very end. We know how powerful their offense is.”
To underscore how important those turnovers were, as well as the drive killing sacks (2), tackles for loss (6) and three-and-outs early, by games end Wake Forest had rolled up 668 yards of net total offensive yards, 245 of the ground and a whopping 423 yards passing. By comparison, Louisville recorded 520 total net yards of offense, including 225 rushing and 295 net passing yards. Each team score three TDs on the ground, while Wake Forest tallied more passing TDs (5) than the Cardinals (4).
While Wake Forest had two running backs push for near over a hundred yards rushing, Christian Beal-Smith (123 on 14 carries) and Cade Carney (95 yards on 17 carries, including 1 TD), a lot of the Demon Deacons’ most serious threats were in the form of three big wide receivers: Kendall Hinton (6-0, 195 lbs., 13 catches, 134 yards), Sage Surratt (6-3, 215, 12 catches, 196 yards, 3 TDs), Scotty Washington (6-5, 225, 2 catches, 28 yards, 1 TD. Also central to the Wake Forest aerial attack is tight end Jack Freudenthal (6-3, 235, 5 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD).
“They have some really good players,” Satterfield said later of Wake Forest. “I watched some film and saw their receivers and you are thinking, ‘They’re good.’ But when you see them in person, they are REALLY good. Both of their quarterbacks did a great job of getting them the ball. I tip my hat to those guys. They kept fighting and got back in the game.”
For Wake Forest, starter Jamie Newman was 24-41 for 251 yards and 3 TDs to go against 2 interceptions for a respectable 124.4 passer rating. After Newman was injured in the second half, the Deacs didn’t miss a beat with sophomore backup Sam Hartman, who finished 9-of-15 for 172 yards and 2 TDs for an impressive 200.3 passer rating.
Louisville also had to employ a backup quarterback on the evening when starter Micale Cunningham was shaken up after completing 5-of-6 passes for 99 yards and 2 TDs (a 331.9 passer rating). After the redshirt sophomore was injured, the Cardinals turned to true freshman Evan Conley, who had committed to Appalachian State before Satterfield and his coaching staff departed for Louisville within a couple of days of the Mountaineers’ winning the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Conley did more than “fill in.” Going 12-of-18 for 196 yards and 2 TDs against 1 INT for a 183.7 passer rating, the Marietta, GA native also rushed 7 times for 79 yards, some of them for first downs to move the chains but none bigger than the Cardinals’ last score of the game.
When you see (those Wake Forest wide receivers) in person, they are REALLY good.
With barely three and a half minutes remaining in the game, Wake Forest had shrunk the point deficit from its widest, 21-point margin, 52-31, when Conley connected for a 50-yard TD bomb to wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick with 9:14 remainng in the game.
Wake Forest countered with a 9-play, 59-yard TD-scoring drive that featured Newman passes to three different receivers, then the Demon Deacons’ defense held Louisville to a field goal.
With Newman shaken up, Hartman came on with 5:35 left in the game to direct a 7-play, 69-yard TD drive and the deficit was just 10 points, 55-45. Freudenthal recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving Wake Forest a short field. Hartman made short work of it, finding Freudenthal over the middle in the end zone on the third play of the series. The score was now just 55-52.
The Demon Deacons’ next onside kick attempt failed, recovered by Louisville at midfield.
Trying to take as much time off the clock as possible while still not giving the ball back to Wake Forest, the Conley-directed Louisville offense stalled. On third-and-11, Conley scrambled forward on the left side perimeter, reaching for the first down marker as he was taken to the ground. The game officials initially ruled that he had made the first down, but the subsequent booth review of the spot overturned the call and left the Cardinals a yard short of the line to gain.
So on 4th-and-one from the Wake Forest 41-yard-line, with barely two minutes remaining in the game and nursing an increasingly nervous 3-point lead, Satterfield and his offensive gurus had a decision to make. Their choices: [a] Go for the first down and make it to get a new series and take even more time off the clock, [b] try what would be close to a 59-yard field goal that seemed beyond their kicker’s range (and would give the Deacs good field position if it failed), or [c] punt and try to pin WFU back, inside their own 20.
Satterfield admitted to reporters later that they pulled an old App State favorite out of the playbook to go for it, only Conley did them one better. On a quarterback draw play that Mountaineer fans are familiar with, the 6-2, 207 lb. QB began to roll right but saw that the seas had part, leaving a big hole up the middle. He dashed into space, maneuvered past one defender and angled around another, racing into the end zone untouched for Louisville’s final TD to restore the visitors’ 10-point advantage, 62-52.
“It was the very same play that we (App State) won the Sun Belt Championship with against Louisiana Lafayette last year,” Satterfield recalled. “It really is a play where you can hand the ball off, run it, or throw it. A triple read type of play. (Wake Forest) covered it good. Evan had to turn on the wheels and make the play. There were many big plays tonight, but that was one of the biggest.”
During the press conference, Blowing Rock News pointed out that much has been made about Louisville’s improvement over last year’s Cardinal team, but asked Satterfield about the growth and progress the team has made just since his ACC and Power 5 debut against Notre Dame on Labor Day, September 2, 2019.
“That is a good point,” he replied. “I think we have gotten better each and every week. The Notre Dame game we played well, but made too many mistakes that caused some turnovers. Offensively, (in recent games) we have been clicking pretty good, and the last too weeks REALLY good. We have put a lot of points on the board. We know we have to do better defensively.”
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson was understandably disappointed in his team’s performance when speaking to reporters afterward.
“We went into this game saying that the three things we COULDN’T do was turn the football over, not let the ball get over our heads, and we could not allow (the opponent) explosive plays. We didn’t accomplish any of those things.
“…We had two weeks to get ready for this game,” he reminded the press. “We had two weeks to prepare for it. We knew they were good. We knew they were improved. We knew they were explosive and we just showed up a laid a dud in the first quarter.”
Now with victories over an FCS opponent (Eastern Kentucky) and three FBS opponents (Western Kentucky, Boston College and Wake Forest), things don’t get easier for the Cardinals. On October 19th they will host Clemson at Cardinal Stadium and on Oct. 26th, Virginia, also at home. Then after a bye week, they go on the road to Miami (Nov 9) and North Carolina State (Nov. 16) before returning to Louisville to face Syracuse (Nov. 23). They close the regular season at Kentucky on Nov. 30th.
Clemson defeated Florida State, 45-14, on Saturday, in Clemson, SC. The Tigers remain atop the ACC Atlantic Division with a 4-0 conference record, 6-0 overall. Although only having played three conference games, Louisville’s 0.667 record (2-1) puts them alone in second place in the Atlantic Division. Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina are tied atop the ACC Coastal Division with identical 2-1 records.