The Virginia Football team has a chance to improve their chances at winning the ACC Coastal crown as they head to Louisville on Saturday. Louisville picked up a huge win over previously undefeated Wake Forest two weeks ago (they lost to Clemson last weekend), but they’re a team on the rise after new head coach Scott Satterfield took over.
In order to get the down low on Louisville, we chatted with Cardinal Strong (@CardinaIStrong) from our sister site Card Chronicle.
You can check out my answers to his questions here.
Streaking the Lawn: This is a brand new Louisville team in terms of enthusiasm and drive to play for a new coach. How has this season exceeded your expectations to this point?
Card Chronicle: You like ice cream, Caroline? Actually, don’t answer that. If you don’t we can no longer be friends and I’d have to end this Q&A joyride after one question. Nobody wants that. Where I was going with that point was prior to this season fans were promised ‘ice cream’ with this new staff. They were happy, had a good attitude, brought a real family-friendly vibe to the program. People were excited about it, similar to how you get excited about sitting down to enjoy a nice bowl of ice cream before bed. For most, we weren’t expecting much year one, expectations of 4-8 or 5-7 had us enjoying a classic bowl of vanilla with maybe a drop or two of hot fudge with a win over Kentucky or a solid ACC team we weren’t expected to beat. Seven games in and I’m eyeing the triple scoop of cookies and cream. Satterfield has to be in the running for ACC Coach of the Year having already reached four wins and has….I’m being serious….at least four more winnable games left on the schedule. While I think Virginia is a notch above right now, it’s not unheard of to think they could knock off the Hoos this week either (+3.5). I’m not saying they will, or should, but the opportunity to win out is on the table. We see 8 or 9 wins this year and I’m just straight up buying a Baskin-Robbins.
STL: There has been an adventure at the QB position. What can you tell Virginia fans about Micale Cunningham? What are his strengths/weaknesses?
CC: This season has been an “adventure” without question at the QB position. Chapter 1 was the highly touted prospect (Jawon Pass) looking to get his confidence back and lead the Cards new offense to heights we had yet to see from him in two years. After a respectable start a foot injury forces him out two games into the season and Satterfield has a decision to make…
Turn to Page 24 if you want to roll with dual-threat Malik (now I go by Micale) Cunningham
Turn to Page 37 if you want to see what true freshman Even Conley can do against the ACC
Satterfield went with athletic Cunningham to play QB2, and he excelled in certain areas (running) while struggling to get the passing game going. An injury to Cunningham forced Conley into a trial by fire situation and his arm helped spark the passing attack and light a fire in the offense. Both are now healthy and outside of the Clemson game, have progressed each week in building the air attack into something that can balance the reliable ground game Satterfield views as his bread and butter.
Three weeks in a row (@FSU, BC, @Wake) the Cards threw for 286, 428, and 295. Those same three games they also had 124, 236, and 225 on the ground. Either can hurt you if he has time in the pocket. Micale is more likely to hit you with deep balls and break an ankle or two in open space while Conley is going to rely on shorter, higher percentage passes to pick you apart. Micale will likely start on Saturday but don’t be surprised if Conley gets some reps as well as we’ve seen both QBs take significant snaps the last three weeks.
STL: Virginia’s defense is considered top-15 this season, holding opponents to under 20 points per game. Where do you think the Louisville offense holds an advantage over the UVA defense?
CC: Virginia’s front seven rivals that of anyone in the ACC. While I rarely have time to throw on my tie and press my khakis before flipping over the channel, I have still had the opportunity to enjoy a UVA game or two this season as the peasants do in shorts and a t-shirt. Those guys up front are no joke. Jordan Mack and Zane Zandier pretty much take away the middle of the field on most running downs and make me nervous about the Cards getting something going early on the ground.
I do think Louisville has an advantage on the outside with our wideouts. Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins, and Tutu Atwell are all three guys I think can play at the next level. The last few weeks the O-line has given Cunningham and Conley a pocket and some time to make a read. That has translated to big numbers for the receiver’s group, including two guys being Top 5 in the ACC in yards/rec (Dawkins/Fitz) and Tutu “dang that dude’s fast” Atwell already with 6 touchdowns. Virginia is down a couple guys in the secondary, including a heck of a corner in Bryce Hall, and I think UofL can take advantage in that area.
STL: The Cardinals are coming off of two shootouts the past two weeks against Wake and Boston College. What, if anything, concerns you about the Louisville defense slowing down the Virginia offense?
CC: The Louisville defense has been a concern BUT the red Kool-Aid drinker in me does have an excuse for some of the recent misfires. One, Wake ran like 738 plays in that game and the defense, which is not deep, was just exhausted. You could see it in their posture, in their play, and in their aggressiveness. Last week, Clemson gonna Clemson. Cards gave up an absolute joke of a hail mary TD right before half or else we’re going to the locker room at 10-3. The second half once again wore down the defense and they gave up some big plays that made the score a bit lopsided.
Common theme? Depth. Can Louisville make plays in the 4th quarter when the first-string guys are sucking air. Quick stat to share with your buddies around the water cooler: Louisville has given up 5 TDs or more against every Power 5 opponent they have played this year. Of the 32 total TDs they have allowed, 12 (38%) have come in the 4th quarter.
STL: Who is someone fans should know about on the defense?
CC: Khane Pass (S), the fifth year Senior is having a really good year and flying all over the field making plays in open space, he actually leads the team in tackles right now with 56. The problem of course is, one of your safeties leads the team in tackles. I still love our inside linebackers (Dorian Etheridge and CJ Avery) but I’d like to see some more from the in terms of ‘havoc’ and disrupting the offense.
Sleeper pick: Monty Montgomery, a Sophomore linebacker who is making a name for himself in the limited reps he gets behind more experienced guys.
STL: Ok, who wins it and why?
CC: I think this game is a tossup. I picked Virginia before the season started because I really like Bryce Perkins and the defense was starting to look like a unit that Bronco could put his stamp of approval on. I pegged them to be around 14 points better than Louisville at the time. BUT the landscape has shifted some. Because I’m an adult, similar to my underwear, I’m allowed to change my opinion as often as I like. That odor you smell is me riding a three week wave of funk straight down “bowl game avenue” with my bar for success being raised slightly each week. The problem is that eventually your olfactory says enough is enough and you hit a wall. That’s this week for me. Projections of 2-3 inches of rain on Saturday here in Louisville mean the ground game will be the focus, and UVA has an edge in that area that will be tough to overcome. I think things are sloppy, unorganized, and at times troubling, but enough about my underwear metaphor.
Satterfield losses some of his speed advantage on the edge, the ground game with Hawkins struggles against a solid front seven and the Cards take a step back in their quest towards six wins. Cavs 27- Cards 20.
Huge thanks to Cardinal Strong and Card Chronicle for their help! Check out their site for tons of great pregame content.