The Virginia Cavaliers will face the Louisville Cardinals at Scott Stadium in their sixth game of the 2022 campaign. The Cardinals are coming off a losing season in which they suffered blowout losses in their season opener and the Governor’s Cup and allowed Air Force, who threw just 8.6 passes per game last year, to pick up 252 air yards and knock off Louisville in their bowl game. Head coach Scott Satterfield is understandably on the hot seat, but there’s reason to believe the Cardinals will be on the upswing in 2022.
Postseason: Lost First Responder Bowl 31-28 vs. Air Force
On paper, Louisville’s 2021 season wasn’t too bad. They built an efficient offensive attack behind dual threat quarterback Malik Cunningham that ranked 25th nationally in EPA and dominated their weaker opponents, winning three games by more than three scores. Their good offense and not-so-good defense balanced out to a .500 record entering bowl season — perfectly reasonable for a team still in the midst of a rebuild.
However, the context of their results meant that fans were calling for head coach Scott Satterfield to be canned by season’s end. Louisville didn’t suffer losses; they suffered embarrassments.
In the season opener, they allowed Ole Miss to take a 26-0 lead into halftime and were absolutely torched by Matt Corral en route to a 43-24 defeat. In the Governor’s Cup, Louisville lost at home 52-21 to in-state rival Kentucky; they allowed the Wildcats to run for 362 yards and 7 touchdowns. They wrapped up their season by losing 31-28 to Air Force; despite throwing zero passes in their previous game, the famously triple-option-heavy Falcons lit up Louisville’s secondary for 252 yards (a season high) on just 10 pass attempts.
And don’t forget their matchup with Virginia: Louisville led 30-13 at the end of the third quarter before allowing the Hoos to miraculously take a 34-33 lead with 22 seconds remaining, then still managed to get in range for a potential game-winning field goal from the Virginia 31, which kicker James Turner promptly shanked left. It was the second straight game Louisville lost on a go-ahead score with under 30 seconds left.
There were bright spots: productive QB play from Malik Cunningham, All-ACC talents Caleb Chandler and Marshon Ford contributing on offense, and high-level defensive playmakers Kei’Trel Clark and Yasir Abdullah. But they were outshone by the seemingly-constant indignities the program suffered on the gridiron. For Satterfield to retain his job, Louisville will need to take a step forward this year.
Key returners: QB Malik Cunningham, RB Jalen Mitchell, TE Marshon Ford, OL Caleb Chandler, LB Yasir Abdullah, LB Monty Montgomery, DB Kei’Trel Clark
Key departures: WR Jordan Watkins, WR Justin Marshall, WR coach Gunter Brewer, LB C.J. Avery, C Cole Bentley, RB Hassan Hall, CB Greedy Vance
Key new faces: RB Tiyon Evans, WR Tyler Hudson, WR Dee Wiggins, DB Quincy Riley, DT Jermayne Lole
Louisville’s in a pretty good position for 2022, all things considered — especially for a team whose head coach is so obviously on the hot seat. They return most of their talent at their strongest position groups from last season: quarterback Malik Cunningham will be back, and four members of the offensive line will return, including stud guard Caleb Chandler.
They lost two top receivers as well as their wide receiver coach in the offseason, but bolstered the position with impact transfers Tyler Hudson and Dee Wiggins. Hudson is the stud in that pairing; the Central Arkansas transfer was the Atlantic Sun’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 and holds UCA’s records for most receiving yards in a game, season, and career.
Louisville also brought in Tiyon Evans, a talented running back transfer from Tennessee, to bolster their backfield. He’ll compete with Jalen Mitchell for the starting job, and the duo will likely end up splitting carries.
The questions on defense will persist, though. Louisville brought in Quincy Riley and Jermayne Lole to improve that unit, and will benefit from a healthy Kei’Trel Clark at defensive back. However, their defense will need to prove its improvement on the field; it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a unit that ranked 84th in the FBS in defensive EPA/play last season.
UVA’s all-time record vs. Louisville: 5-5
Last meeting: October 9, 2021 — Virginia 34, Louisville 33
The last meeting between the ‘Hoos and the Cardinals was one to remember for Virginia, and one to forget for Louisville. UVA trailed 30-13 late in the third quarter and had a win probability below 3 percent, according to ESPN’s win probability tracker. They proceeded to reel off a 21-3 run in the fourth quarter before Louisville’s shanked field goal at the horn locked in a 34-33 Virginia victory.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong led the offensive attack for the ‘Hoos. He completed 40 of his 60 passes for 487 yards, and tossed three touchdowns and two interceptions. Louisville QB Malik Cunningham tossed a 92-yard touchdown on the team’s first play from scrimmage and finished with 270 passing yards. Hassan Hall added 162 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground for the Cardinals, his best game of the season.