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Louisville Looking Forward to Opportunities vs. NC State, in ACC

With a win vs. Boston College putting Louisville back on track, the Cardinals are looking to continue their second half season momentum against NC State, with hopes that they can make some noise in the ACC standings.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Heading into their bye week, the Louisville football program didn't have much momentum. After firing off a three-game win streak, the Cardinals lost back-to-back heartbreaking losses to fall to .500 at the halfway point of the season.

But after a couple weeks to re-evaluate themselves, Louisville was able to get back on the right track with a victory against Boston College. Sporting a great rushing attack and defensive effort, it was a solid way to kick off the latter half of the season.

Now, Louisville has shifted focus to one their bigger games remaining on the 2021 calendar: NC State. The Wolfpack might have fallen out of the AP Top 25 after a 31-30 loss to Miami, but they are still one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 5-2 on the year.

The Cardinals will be traveling to Carter-Finley Stadium, an atmosphere which head coach Scott Satterfield calls "probably the best atmosphere on the road" that he has coached in since arriving at Louisville. Add to the mix that it will be a night game on Halloween Eve, and Satterfield knows what lies ahead.

"NC State always has a live crowd," he said. "Last time we went down there (in 2019), their record wasn't as good, and it was rainy, and the crowd wasn't as good. We anticipate this crowd to be a very good crowd, and Halloween and a lot of things going on with with this one."

Satterfield is also preaching to his team that, even after a rough patch earlier this month, they still have the opportunity to make some noise in the ACC standings. Should Louisville win their next two games against NC State and Clemson, they will vault all the way up to second in the Atlantic Division.

Outright winning the division remains a tall task, with ESPN giving them only a 1.3 percent chance to do so up to this point. Wake Forest remains the clear favorite as the league's only remaining undefeated team at 7-0 and 4-0 in conference play. However, Satterfield and Louisville aren't lacking any motivation to accomplish big things.

"There's a lot of ball left to be played," he said. "They're still playing for a lot of things at this point in the season, and you got to find all those things as a football team where sitting here, where we are right now at this point the season."

That being said, getting a win against NC State won't come easy - crowd raucousness aside. Even after losing several key pieces on defense, such as linebackers Isaiah Moore and Payton Wilson, the Wolfpack still boasts one of the best defenses in all of college football, allowing only 312.6 yards per for game - the 18th-most in FBS.

Part of their overall defensive success is due their abilities in stopping the run. NC State allows just 93.1 rushing yards per game - the 11th-best mark in FBS - and has allowed more than 100 yards only three times (USF, Clemson, Louisiana Tech). Even for a Louisville team who just ran for 331 yards against BC, this will be a challenge.

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“They play extremely hard, all of them do," Satterfield said. They’re a three down team, they'll drop a lot to keep everything in front and their three defensive lineman get out and they really free their linebackers up."

Plus, the Wolfpack has no shortage of weapons on offense. Running back duo Zonovan 'Bam' Knight and Ricky Person combine to average 136.7 rushing yards per game, and NC State's starting receiving corps of Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter account for 1,158 receiving yards.

But the man under center is who Louisville needs to worry about the most. After missing most of last season due to COVID-19, quarterback Devin Leary has established himself as one of the more efficient signal callers in the ACC. Through seven games, he has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,844 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Even with the challenge that the Wolfpack presents, Satterfield is not wanting to shy away from the opportunity that they, and the remainder of the Cardinals' schedule, presents.

"We're excited about this opportunity this week, and looking forward to playing NC State," Satterfield said.

Kickoff at NC State is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. EST.

(Photo of Hassan Hall: Rob Kinnan - USA TODAY Sports)

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