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2019 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Louisville Cardinals

Lots of experience returns for Louisville, but the experience just isn’t very good.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

What a mess the 2018 Louisville Cardinals were. The season started poorly with a 51-14 blowout by Alabama, and it only went down hill from there. I wish I could say it ended with the Cards firing five-year head coach Bobby Petrino, but Petrino didn’t actually make it through to the end of the season. A 77-16 shellacking by No. 1 Clemson in Week 9 followed by a 54-23 loss to No. 13 Syracuse in Week 10 were enough for Louisville to cut ties mid-season. Unsurprisingly, the Cards lost out the rest of their season to finish 2-10. That’s not very good.

Last Year: 2-10

Who knew it’d be so hard to replace a Heisman quarterback in Lamar Jackson? Answer: Everybody. Redshirt sophomore Jawon Pass picked up the baton and, well, didn’t get very far with it. He threw for 1,960 yards, placing him 84th in the country and among the worst in the ACC. He passed for only 8 touchdowns and racked up 12 interceptions in the process, all the while with just a 54.0% pass completion rate. As a team, they lost 10 fumbles over the course of the season.

So it comes as no surprise that Louisville’s only two wins on the season were against lowly Indiana State and Western Kentucky. In their losses, Louisville gave up an average of 50.5 points and lost by an average of almost 32 points. There’s literally nothing I can type in this paragraph to paint this in any kind of rosy light whatsoever. Maybe the redeeming factor is that Louisville actually had a pretty tough schedule, playing Clemson, Alabama, Syracuse, and Kentucky, all four of which finished the season ranked in the top 15.

Last Time: UVA 27, Louisville 3 (2018)

Add the Virginia Cavaliers to the list of teams that were able to capitalize on a Louisville down year. The Hoos amassed 401 total offensive yards with a balanced approach, picking up 204 yards on the ground and 197 in the air. Charles Snowden did everything he could on defense, with a team high eight tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery, a sack, and two pass break ups. Louisville was only able to get into the redzone once all day. Louisville’s 3 points and 214 total yards were both season lows.

Comings and Goings

First and foremost, there’s a new head coach in town in Scott Satterfield out of Appalachian State—yeah, the one that beat Michigan in 2007, although Satterfield was just the QB coach back then. He amassed a 51-24 record while at App State and was a perfect 3-0 in the offseason.

In terms of comings and goings, this is Louisville’s greatest strength coming into 2019—that they have a remarkable 17 starters returning for the season, seven on offense and 10 on defense.

Pass is back as a junior with a full year under his belt. This experience pairs well with Louisville’s wide receivers, of which four out of the top five are back. Keep your eye on sophomore Chatarius (Tutu) Atwell, who put up 406 yards last year, averaging 16.9 yards per reception) as a true freshman and has plenty of speed to improve on those numbers. Also returning are senior Seth Dawkins (329 yards, 13.2 per reception) Dez Fitzpatrick (422 receiving yards, 13.6 per reception).

On defense, the Cards are looking at a 3-4 defense and get all three starters back on the line. They also get most of their linebackers back—probably their deepest group across the board—including Dorian Etheridge, who recorded 55 tackles in just 10 games (injury). They also welcome TJ Holl, a graduate transfer from Colgate who earned All-American honors with 202 career tackles and 17 tackles for loss at Colgate.

Here’s the TL;DR on defense. Louisville returns a ton of talent, but if we’re being honest, the uphill battle is pretty steep. Even with the experience under their belt, the expectation is that they’re really just looking at spending this year climbing out of the Atlantic cellar, which won’t be easy to do. No one is really expecting a 7-win season, but if Louisville can climb their way back to bowl eligibility, you have to consider Satterfield’s freshman season as head coach a raging success.

2019 X-Factor

The ceiling is pretty low for the 2019 Louisville team, but if there’s one thing that can make or break this Louisville team, it’s turnovers. Over the past five years, Louisville’s turnover margin has been slowly but steadily declining. Last year, they gave up a whopping 25 turnovers, for a -12 turnover margin on the season. That ranks 124th in the country, and in case you forgot, there are only 129 teams. Any level of improvement they can find in this area will pay off in dividends.

This Time: UVA @ Louisville (10/26)

On paper, everything suggests that the Hoos should easily dispatch Louisville. Louisville’s historical success has largely been dependent on their offense, and Virginia’s Bryce Hall and defensive company are surging right now. The home team is 4-1 in this series, but that should change just purely on talent alone this year.