By David Rogers. September 3, 2019. LOUISVILLE, KY — Probably best not to ask Louisville’s new head coach, Scott Satterfield, what the positives were to take away from Monday night’s loss to top 10-ranked Notre Dame, 35-17. He all but bristled when a reporter opened the press conference Q&A by asking that very question.
COVER IMAGE: Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield patiently listens to a reporter’s question. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
True, it was Satterfield’s Power 5 and ACC coaching debut. Plus, given the program he inherited, the bar has been set pretty low by the Cardinals’ fan base and media types. Not many gave Louisville a chance. Las Vegas had the Cardinals a 20-point underdog.
But then, those skeptics don’t know Scott Satterfield.
“We are not looking for moral victories,” Satterfield declared in response to the question. “We were here to win. Everything we have prepared for through the spring and in the weight room during the summer and the work in fall camp…all of it was pointed at winning (football games).
“THOSE guys,” he added, pointing emphatically toward the team’s locker room on the other side of the wall, “wanted to win that game.”
And they almost did. Eliminate three fumbles and a couple of mis-thrown passes, and the Cardinals might well be celebrating a major upset. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as big of an upset as Satterfield was a part of in App State’s 2007 surprise at Michigan, but for most of THIS game, Louisville went toe-to-toe with the Fighting Irish.
For the first quarter, the Labor Day gridiron encounter felt like a Louisville upset was in the making. Notre Dame won the coin flip and elected to receive. Thanks in large part to a 37-yard opening run by Irish QB Ian Book and chunks of real estate picked up by three different ND running backs, the visitors from South Bend scored with relative ease and it looked like it would be a long night for the Louisville faithful, as well as the players, coaches and staff.
But in what has become almost a Satterfield & Co. trademark, the Cardinals’ offense marched right back downfield and answered the opening challenge with a TD of their own, highlighted by redshirt junior quarterback Juwan Pass’ keepers for 11 and 13 yards, some nifty running and pass receiving by redshirt freshman running back Javian Hawkins (Titusville, FL), and finally a rollout around the right side by Pass for eight yards and into the end zone for a TD.
It was reminiscent in many ways of a Satterfield-led App State offensive possession the past six years: the 12-play drive covered 88 yards and kept the potent Notre Dame offense off the field for five minutes and 12 seconds.
The offensive unit’s effectiveness proved contagious. The Cardinal defense held the Irish to a 3-and-out on their next possession. The Pass-led offense seemed to feed off their early success, as well as the defensive stop — and the Cardinal-crazy, jam-packed stadium crowd — requiring just six plays and 2:14 to zip down the field for their second touchdown. The crisp drive was highlighted by a 44-yard rush by Hawkins and capped off by a 17-yard weave by Pass through the Irish on the left side and across the goal line.
Notre Dame responded with a TD drive of their own, the series featuring senior running back Tony Jones, Jr. The 5-11, 224 RB carried the ball six of the nine plays in the drive, capped off by an 11-yard dash. At the end of the first quarter, the score was tied, 14-14.
To many people’s surprise, Louisville was in the game until late. There were some impressive fourth down stops by the defense, even in the second half. There were big runs and big passes, even in the fourth quarter.
But This Is About The Start of the Satterfield Era of Louisville Football, Not Just THIS Game
But this story is not so much about the game as it is about Satterfield’s Power 5 debut and the reception he is receiving in Louisville for his coaching staff’s brand of football — and how they conduct the business of college football.
Taking an informal survey before the game, walking around among all of the tailgaters was an interesting exercise in perception, and how to win over CardinalNation — or any college football fan base.
It is appropriate that Cardinal Stadium where Satterfield & Co. plies their gridiron trade is only a couple of blocks away from Churchill Downs, one of horse racing’s most iconic venues. In almost every way imaginable, Louisville football under Satterfield is perceived as “off to the races” and Monday night’s performance by the team did nothing to diminish that.
“Stan,” a retail store owner from nearby Shively, KY told Blowing Rock News, “Everything about Scott Satterfield so far has been extremely positive. He seems humble. He seems approachable. And, based on what he accomplished at Appalachian State, he seems to know what he is doing in building or rebuilding a winning football culture.”
- “Harry” is retired, but his son is a high school football coach in northern Kentucky. “What Satterfield did for high school football coaches in this region is absolutely unheard of, at least in these parts,” he shared. “Not only did he invite my son and about 200 other high school coaches to campus to tour the facilities, but he let them attend practice, he fed them, and then he gave every one of them access to his position- or role-specific assistant coaches. That is a far cry from what we experienced here under the previous coaching staff.”
“John” is a UofL alum with a real blue collar attitude toward football. “Satterfield will have won me over if his athletes play hard, and if they don’t quit.”
- “Sally” works downtown, but has been a diehard fan of Cardinal football for many years after attending school at Louisville over three decades ago. “We have had some good coaches and we have had some pretty ineffective coaches, too. Right now, the bar is set pretty low for Satterfield because of what he came into, but I have to tell you that I am impressed so far. And that goes for his assistants coaches, too. I heard Dale Jones (linebackers coach) speak recently and I would run through a wall for that guy. He is very motivational.”
Very much to his credit, Satterfield has embraced not just the opportunity to coach at the Power 5 level — and in the Atlantic Coast Conference, to boot — but he has also embraced everything about the fan base and its traditions. In his post game press conference, the North Carolina native was quick to tell reporters in his opening remarks that his team fed off the fans’ collective enthusiasm and energy. He reported that the game day experience, from the “Card March” — which, he said, “I have seen nothing like it!” — to the Goodyear blimp, the marching band, cheerleaders, dance team and the whole contest-inspired atmosphere was “incredible.”
Leaving the stadium, Blowing Rock News met and talked with a few of the fans, many of whom lingered, reluctant to leave what they had just witnessed. One man, who described himself as a Louisville-based, long-haul truck driver with, thankfully, the night off summed up the majority of Cardinal fans’ reactions to the game performance.
“If this is the opening chapter of the Scott Satterfield story in Louisville,” he smiled, “I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. Even when they got down, this team didn’t quit. They played well against a team that was in the battle for the national championship last year until near the end and they are ranked among the Top 10 this year. Nobody expected this, except perhaps Satterfield and his assistant coaches and the players. Everything they have done up to this point in preparation for this season and for the future of Louisville football was just validated.”
Louisville next hosts Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, September 7 (7:00 pm kickoff). EKU, which defeated Valparaiso on Aug. 31, 53-7, is a member of the FCS-level Ohio Valley Conference. On September 14, the Cardinals will return to FBS play to face Western Kentucky (a member of Conference-USA) in Nashville, TN’s Nissan Stadium. WKU lost its season opener on August 29th, 28-35, to Central Arkansas.