LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following a season-opening blowout at the hands of Ole Miss down in Atlanta, Louisville didn't have to wait much longer for another opportunity to crack the win column. Five days later, while it was far from a complete effort, the Cardinals did just that against in-state FCS foe Eastern Kentucky last Saturday.
Now, just six days after that, Louisville will have another big test when UCF comes to town on Friday, as the Knights are riding a wave of momentum. They overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat Boise State, 36-31, in their season opener, then followed that up with a 63-14 dismantling of Bethune-Cookman.
"We are playing an outstanding team in Central Florida," head coach Scott Satterfield said. "They have had two big wins, they played well throughout the whole game last week (vs. Bethune Cookman), played really well the second half of the Boise State game. They pretty much shut Boise down in the second half defensively, and then got some things going offensively."
Like Ole Miss, UCF operates a high tempo spread offense. So far this season, they have ran a total of 171 plays for an average of 85.5 per game. For context, Ole Miss ran 73 plays against the Cardinals. Satterfield knows to expect a much, much faster game, but it also presents opportunity on defense for Louisville.
"They move really fast and are not worried about trying to get the best play like some teams," he said. "They run fast plays and hope to catch the defense not lined up. Hopefully we learned some things to do good and correct for the Ole Miss game."
But like with the Rebels, the Knights also have solid personnel running the offense. Louisville will once again be facing a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate in Dillon Gabriel, as he has completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 630 yards and six touchdowns. UCF also has a good rushing attack, spearheaded by running back Isaiah Bowser's 231 yards and five touchdowns.
"They are a fast tempo offense with a veteran quarterback that makes a lot of plays," Satterfield said. "They have a strong running game and passing game, so they certainly put pressure on defenses."
Speaking of defense, UCF is performing much better on that side of the ball in Gus Malzahn's first year as the head coach. A year after surrendering 491.8 yards per game, the Knights have held both Boise State and Bethune-Cookman to under 300 yards of offense.
Most of their newfound defensive success comes as a result of the play from the front seven. The Knights are only surrendering 22 rushing yards per game up to this point, thanks mainly to defensive linemen Kalia Davis and Big Kat Bryant - who have a combined 4.5 tackles for loss and five QB hurries.
"The defense is based out of a four-down technique, very aggressive defensive plan, man on the back end, a lot of man free coverage," Satterfield said. "Their defensive line is impressive, two transfers there up front that are that are really good players."
Facing yet another short week, Louisville is tasked with balancing both rest and the need to squeeze in a game plan on one less available day. They will have a light day of practice won Monday, then follow that up with a packed day on Tuesday.
"We know it will be a big challenge for us and another short week for us, our guys have to get fresh and ready to go for this game," Satterfield said.
Kickoff against UCF is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Samuel Jackson, Jaylon Robinson: Mike Watters - USA TODAY Sports
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