Louisville players and coach Scott Satterfield are determined to take advantage of early opportunities and finish strong this season.

The Cardinals’ fourth-year coach admitted he reflected on some close losses last fall after leading in the fourth quarter. But Satterfield has also highlighted the positives to overshadow those disappointments. Although Louisville (6-7, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted its second straight losing streak, it improved from 4-7 in a pandemic-marred 2020 to reach its second bowl game in three years.

While Satterfield emphasizes the positives, he hopes the painful lessons of those close losses motivate his players to finish opponents.

“All these things just resonate in our heads, so every day when they come to practice, that’s what they’re thinking about,” Satterfield said earlier this month. “Knowing that we’re close, I think it gave our guys a little bit of confidence to know that we can compete with anybody in this league.”

Louisville’s optimism stems from the return of 17 starters, including 10 from a defense that recorded 33 sacks and broke up 10 passes. The coach wants them to be more stingy with yards and points than they were last fall, especially in the final 15 minutes.

Improvement in those latter areas could mean more opportunities for a Cardinals offense that has shown it can light up the scoreboard and fill the stat sheet.

In fact, dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham believes Louisville is capable of being more explosive. That would be a big challenge for opponents considering the Cardinals rank 21st nationally in total offense (446.4 yards per game) and tied for 41st in scoring (31.6 points).

Of course, Cunningham played a big part in that ability by throwing for 2,841 of his 3,872 yards from scrimmage and rushing for 20 of his 39 touchdowns. The goal for the four-year starter is to have more wins to show for it.

“This season I definitely want 10 wins,” Cunningham said of his goals. “Just being consistent. That’s been the biggest thing Coach Satt has preached to me and all the other coaches.”


Cunningham maintained a 60% completion rate for the third straight season while posting career highs in passing and rushing. His reduction in turnovers also symbolized his improved balance, and he enters this season less inclined to run.

“I feel like I’ve been a lot more patient,” Cunningham added. “It just comes back to the guys up front and having faith in them. They’ve been around me for three years, and we’re going to make it work this year.”


Two of Louisville’s top receivers are back. Marshon Ford, who had a team-high 49 catches for 550 yards with two TDs, and Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (29, 444, 4 TDs.) The transfer portal gave former Miami (Florida) wide receiver Dee Wiggins, who ranked fourth on Hurricanes with 31 catches and 358 three-point yards.

New coaches

Lance Taylor arrived from Notre Dame in the offseason as offensive coordinator, looking to bolster Louisville’s situational game. Wesley McGriff takes over the secondary after stints at Florida and Auburn the past three seasons, while Josh Stepp will handle the tight ends after one season as Georgia State’s OC.


Two key players are back from season-ending knee injuries. Linebacker Monty Montgomery, Louisville’s sack leader in 2019 and ’20, is confident he can get going again along with last year’s top pass rusher, Yasir Abdullah (10 sacks). Freshman receiver Braden Smith, who was third with 27 receptions for 370 yards in 2020, gives Cunningham another target after his promising sophomore season (11 catches, 68 yards, one TD) was cut short.


Louisville opens ACC play early with a Sept. 3 showdown at Syracuse, followed by a non-conference challenge at UCF. The Cardinals also visit Virginia (Oct. 8), which has won its last two against them, and perennial league favorite Clemson (Nov. 12) in search of their first win in the eight-game series. Pitt (Oct. 22) and NC State (Nov. 19) visit key ACC games. Louisville also aims to stop a four-game skid at archrival Kentucky (Nov. 26), a tall task considering the Wildcats have won just the last three meetings by a 153-44 margin.


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