LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If you asked a majority of Louisville fans and local media what the Cardinals' identity on offense is, you might get an answer similar to what Sandra Bullock proclaimed in 'The Blind Side'.
Since the start of the 2019 season, when Scott Satterfield took over as the head coach, the Cardinals have ran the ball an astounding 1,066 times - the 17th-most in FBS and sixth-most among Power Five programs. That's a lot of, as Bullock would have said, 'running the dang ball'.
While this offensive approach is not inherently bad, the way that it has been carried out has certainly has generated some criticism. During the 2020 season, many questioned not only the seemingly vanilla play calling, but the over-reliance on the run game - even in almost clear cut passing situation.
Through the first two games of the 2021 season, this approach doesn't seem to have deviated much from that of last year's, as Louisville has 77 rushing attempts to 64 passing attempts.
Again, running that much isn't necessarily bad, but some of the situations in which Louisville is consistently running aren't exactly ideal. For example, in their home opener this past Saturday vs. EKU, the Cardinals ran on 11 of their 14 instances of 2nd & 6 or longer.
At face value, you question why Louisville is opting to the run that much in a situation where many would think they should favor the pass. But, in his weekly press conference ahead of their upcoming matchup with UCF, Satterfield defended the approach.
“I think, some of it is we're just trying to get half of that yardage back to make it third and medium or third and short," he said. "There’s just a lot that goes into it. It's not just second and long, let’s throw the football. That's not what we do, and I've never have done it that way."
Expanding on his rationale, Satterfield added that if "sometimes if they're thinking pass, then you can get a good run", and that in the instance of the EKU game plan, they wanted to "work on some things" as it pertained to the run game.
To be fair, the 2nd & 6+ runs did average 4.5 yards per carry, but the execution on third down runs was abysmal. Not only did Louisville not convert on any of the four times they ran on third down against EKU, but they averaged just 1.8 yards per third down carry.
A lot of this is not necessarily on the shoulders of the ball carriers. Satterfield has acknowledged that blocking needs to improve across the board, from the offense line to the wide receivers and tight ends.
"On the first one that we didn't get, on third and two, we had two tight ends that should have hit it more front side, and we ended up banging it back, but the linebackers were playing off. We hit it front side, and we get a first down," Satterfield said. "Some of that is just experience I think in the backfield with our guys and some of it is it is the blocking up front."
While he is committed to trying maintain balance as it pertains to pass vs. run, Satterfield is not about to abandon his bread and butter of running the football.
"Play calling, it's always funny to me, because everybody's a critic after the play. The play works, it's a great call. If it didn't work, why do we call that? Even my mom questions that," he quipped.
"We are trying to design all these plays to work, and we wanted to get big plays and first downs and touchdowns. It doesn't always happen that way.”
Kickoff against UCF is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Scott Satterfield: Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports)
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