LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the talking points entering the 2021 season for the Louisville football program was how quickly they would have to operate right out of the gates - literally and figuratively. Two of their first three opponents of the season - Ole Miss and UCF - were two of the four fastest teams in all of college football from the previous year.
The Cardinals have taken a 42-23 loss to the Rebels in their season opener down in Atlanta, but that defeat certainly served a purpose as it pertains to game planning for the Knights. Despite Ole Miss not running as fast as they were anticipating, the players and staff still got a taste of what to expect when facing a fast-paced team, and how to prepare for when UCF kicks it up a notch.
"We learned a lot in the Ole Miss game," head coach Scott Satterfield said. "They (Ole Miss) did not go as fast as they probably could have, there were a lot of times in the Ole Miss game, where they would freeze and look back toward the sideline.
"But as you look at Central Florida, they move really fast and are not worried about trying to get the best play like some teams, they run fast plays and hope to catch the defense not lined up. Hopefully we learned some things to do good and correct from the Ole Miss game."
After allowing Ole Miss to put up 569 yards of total offense in 73 plays, Louisville's defense had a 'get right game' against Eastern Kentucky in the home opener, holding them to 235 yard. Sure, the Colonels ran 17 less plays than the Rebels, and are clearly a step down in competition, but that side of the ball at least has some momentum.
The same can't exactly be said on the other side of the ball. In both games so far this season, Louisville's offense has been subjected to extremely slow starts. The Cardinals were held to zero points and 107 yards in the first half against the Rebels, and even looked disheveled against the Colonels despite putting up 20 points.
At least when it comes to the game against Ole Miss, there is some explanation as to why Louisville came out flat: first game jitters for a matchup on the national stage. Admittedly, the Cardinals were a tad sucked in by the pregame hoopla surrounding the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, causing the slow start.
"With Ole Miss game, I feel like we kind of got caught up in the hype of it all a little bit, and kind of got away from playing our football just a little bit," wide receiver Justin Marshall said. "When we came out in the second half, we were putting up scoring drives, whether its three points or six points on the board, we're moving as soon as we come out of halftime."
Getting sucked into the hype could also explain the slow offensive start against EKU considering it was Louisville's home opener. Regardless, Marshall goes on to state, like several other offensive players have said, that the Cardinals need to start their game vs. UCF on the right foot. Staying laser focused on the game itself would certainly help curtail the trend.
"We should start fast, and stay consistent," he said. "No ups and down, we got to be consistent and play Louisville football: hard nosed football, executing the calls, making plays when our numbers are called, and just having fun while doing so."
Kickoff against UCF is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Hassan Hall: Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports)
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