Satterfield expects chemistry, a band of brothers to lift Cards

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- In 2019, Scott Satterfield's first season as Louisville's head football coach, nobody expected the program to reach the heights it did after a 2018 season in the trash bin of a 2-10 catastrophe under Bobby Petrino.


Then, after posting an 8-5 record capped by a bowl victory, no one anticipated a dropoff the Cardinals  endured during pandemic-marred 2020 when they finished a disappointing 4-7, taking a huge step backward despite having 18 returning starters.


So what can UofL fans expect in 2021? At the ACC Kickoff event for the league's media in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Satterfield at one point ticked off the reasons he believes 2021 will look more like 2019 than 2020.


"A lot of positives going into this year," Satterfield said. "Defense is continuing to get better. Offensively, guys have a great grasp of what we're doing. We have a lot of talented players that are going to be able to play. Offensive line I think is the most depth we've had since we've been here -- at least eight guys who can go in and play at a high level. I'm excited about what we're able to come out with this year and what we'll be able to play in this league."


The area most in need of improvement is obvious -- turnovers on both sides of the ball. The Cards surrendered the football to opponents 24 times, ranking them No. 124 of 127 FBS teams. And, because the defense wasn't efficient in generating takeaways, they were 119th in turnover margin at minus 1.09.


Still, with a break here or there, UofL could have reversed its record. The Cards lost four games by a touchdown or less and were blown out just once, 48-16 by Florida State. Those narrow defeats are another factor feeding into Satterfield's optimism about the coming season.


"We lost four games by single digits last season," Satterfield said. "In 2019, we won them. I think part of that is in the offseason, creating that chemistry, and playing for each other. We didn't have that (last year). This year we've been able to get that. I just think it gives you an opportunity to win those close games.


"We've got to win the turnover battle, we all know that. But there are certain plays throughout a game that come up, that if you care about your brother beside you, you give everything you have and end up making that play. I think that's what we lacked last year, and I think we'll have it this year, and I'm excited to see them get out there and do that."


One major difference this season is that with the departure of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford to the Atlanta Falcons Satterfield will take over play-calling duties, although not until after he gets plenty of feedback from his assistants.


"We sit down as a staff and go over the game plan," he said. "Everybody's on board with everything we're doing. I'll be calling the plays on Saturday, but utilizing a lot of help from our coaching staff."


And nobody is likely to notice any difference from the past two seasons.


"We'll be a similar offense as we've been in the past," Satterfield said. "We're going to run the football, do a lot of play-action, be able to utilize the running ability of (Malik) Cunningham at the quarterback position. Dynamic player."


Satterfield also mentioned tight end Marshon Ford, who he said will have an expanded role in the offense. Ford, a former walk-on from Ballard High School, was second on the team in touchdown receptions with six, which ranked second for tight ends in the ACC.


Ford, who joined Cunningham and linebacker CJ Avery at Media Day, expressed confidence in Satterfield's play-calling. Last year the Cards were ninth in scoring offense (29.55 ppg) and fifth in total offense (444.2) in the ACC.


"(Satterfield) knows what's best," Ford said. "He knows his personnel. He's a great coach, a great guy. I think he called the plays at App State. We're looking forward to it."


The Cards are taking some time off before reporting back to campus on Aug. 7, with practice set to begin the next day.


"And then it won't be long before we are in Atlanta," Satterfield said, referring to the season-opener against Ole Miss on Sept. 6 in Mercedes Benz Stadium. "Media Day is kind of always the start of it for us. The coaches are back and we get going. It's good the guys will get a little break."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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