clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Monday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

New, 81 comments

Joseph Clark and Chris Mack are both yearning for the tailgating days of yesteryear.

—The Omaha Herald says Louisville is one of the baseball squads that will always be wondering “what if” when it comes to the canceled 2020 season.

—Clemson site Rubbing the Rock ranks Louisville as one of the four toughest opponents on the Tigers’ 2020 football schedule.

—The Athletic goes inside the story of how the Louisville-Cincinnati rivalry was revived.

It turned out to be a bit of a misdirect. Even when they weren’t dancing as if no one was watching, Mack and Brannen — whose friendship stretches more than two decades — did not discuss renewing the rivalry during their joint quarantine. In fact, the closest they got to the subject was when one or both would retreat to opposite sides of the house, less for social distancing, more to avoid eavesdropping on recruiting calls. It wasn’t until a few weeks after the Florida trip that a deal came together.

Regardless, fans will finally get their wish when Louisville travels to face Cincinnati on Nov. 13 at Fifth Third Arena in what will be the 100th meeting between the two teams. And although the rivalry’s return wasn’t ultimately rekindled over fruity drinks on the beach, it’s something Brannen and Mack have tried to accomplish since Cincinnati hired Brannen in the spring of 2019. (The teams will meet again in Louisville in 2021-22.)

“We couldn’t make it happen last year and it didn’t look like we were going to be able to make it happen this year because their schedule was solidified,” Brannen says. “Then something opened up with the pandemic going on and we had already talked about it, so it was an easy transition. You can cut through the BS because of our relationship, so there was really no posturing.”

“The proximity, the history and the friendship I had with John made it a no-brainer,” Mack says.

—Louisville softball signee Taryn Weddle has earned the Johnny Bench Award for the state of Indiana.

—The Kentucky Rivals site has a way too early preview of Louisville football.

—Despite Oklahoma State being hit with a postseason ban, Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 recruit in the country, is sticking with the Cowboys.

—Cardinal Authority has a Q&A with new Louisville commit TJ Quinn.

—U of L Associate AD for Student Athlete Health and Performance Pat Ivey is the guest on the latest episode of the Power Mizzou podcast.

—Charlie Strong is reportedly the subject of an ongoing NCAA inquiry into the South Florida football program.

—ESPN college football writer Bill Connelly previews the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Head coach: Scott Satterfield (8-5, second year)

2019: 8-5 (5-3 in ACC), 63rd in SP+

2020 projection: 6-6 (4-4), 41st

Five best returning players: WR Tutu Atwell, LB Rodjay Burns, QB Micale Cunningham, LB Dorian Etheridge, CB Chandler Jones

Scott Satterfield’s first season at Louisville was a study in contrasts. On offense, everything he and coordinator Dwayne Ledford touched turned to gold. They installed a run-heavy offense quite different from that of departed head coach Bobby Petrino, and it ignited. Freshman running back Javian Hawkins rushed for 1,525 yards, sophomore receiver Tutu Atwell caught 70 balls for 1,276 yards and the Cardinals leaped from 102nd to 29th in offensive SP+. Despite a pretty low tempo, they scored at least 34 points in seven games and won all seven.

Defensively, things remained in Petrinoland. The Cardinals were 99th in defensive SP+ in his last season and ranked 100th in 2019. Corners Chandler Jones and Anthony Johnson held their own, and outside linebacker Rodjay Burns was a missile in run defense. But the spine of the attack — defensive tackle, inside linebacker, safety — was ineffective. The Cardinals ranked 88th in success rate allowed; while they were dangerous on passing downs, they couldn’t force many. They gave up at least 20 points to every FBS opponent on the schedule.

The Cardinals went 8-1 against teams that finished outside of the SP+ top 40, often winning in prolific fashion — 41-39, 62-59, 56-34, etc. Louisville played four top-40 teams, however, and went 0-4 with an average score of 44-17. (It’s fitting that the Cardinals start 2020 projected 41st.) The defense was overwhelmed, and the offense, forced to prove it could pass, couldn’t always do so.

That makes Year 2’s stakes pretty clear. The offense returns Hawkins, Atwell and quarterback Micale Cunningham. First-round tackle Mekhi Becton is gone up front, but the line still features five players with starting experience. The run game is innovative and consistent, and if you sneak an eighth man into the box, either the passing game will light you up, or a runner will torch you on the edge. (Against eight-man boxes, Louisville was fourth in FBS in success rate and first in big-play rate.) Whether it’s more effective in obvious pass situations remains to be seen.

Most of last year’s defensive playmakers — Jones, Burns, Johnson, linebacker Dorian Etheridge, pass rush specialist Monty Montgomery — return, but the two most disruptive linemen are gone, and safety play has to improve without starting free safety Khane Pass. The experience level alone should produce a little bit of improvement, as should a pretty low bar, but it’s hard to assign too high a ceiling here.

The schedule is friendly. Even if the Cards can’t solve their top-40 issues, there are only four on the slate, along with six opponents projected 57th or worse. They are projected favorites in five of their first six games and could create quite a bit of buzz even if they get thumped by Clemson in Week 2. To one-up last year’s results, they’ll need to improve quite a bit defensively, and while there’s no reason to simply assume that will happen, it’s still true that Satterfield immediately made Louisville fun and interesting again, and that should remain the case this fall.

—U of L RB commit Trevion Cooley talks about his recent surge in the recruiting rankings.

—Can Deke Van bring the Seattle SuperSonics back to glory?

—The fight between Kansas and the NCAA is definitely on.

—It’s always so great to see stuff like this.

—U of L swimming has received a commitment from Junior National Finalist Ryan Hogan.

—ACCSports.com wonders if TuTu Atwell and Javian Hawkins are good enough to make Louisville a national sleeper in 2020.

—In 2019, Micale Cunningham was at his best when the plays were the most crucial.

—Jody Demling’s latest Louisville football notebook is here.

—And finally, Vavel looks at how former Cardinal basketball walk-on Chris Brickley built a hoops empire from scratch.