LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville football program might not have started the 2020 season on the right foot, but they have been slowly picking up steam since. Following a season-opening blowout to Ole Miss down in Atlanta, Ga., the Cardinals have now won three straight against Eastern Kentucky, UCF and Florida State.
All of the positive momentum building that Louisville has generated will certainly be put to the test this weekend. The Cardinals will be traveling down to Winston-Salem, N.C. for a battle with No. 24 Wake Forest that won't come easy by any stretch, partially due to the experience on that sideline.
"They have a veteran team with a lot of players that have been around the program for a while," head coach Scott Satterfield said. "It is a lot of the same faces that we have seen over the last two or three years."
He's not wrong. In Wake Forest's most recent game against Virginia, a 37-17 Demon Deacons victory, half of their 22 starters on offense and defense were in at least their fourth year of college football. All of the collective experience has led to Wake Forest playing extremely efficient football.
While the Deacs don't put up gaudy yardage amounts, averaging 430.5 yards per game, they sport the third-best scoring offense in the ACC at 38.8 points per game. This is in large part by how well they take care of the football, surrendering just four turnovers all year.
Of course, their offense is hard to truly scheme against, as Wake Forest runs a read option where the running back and quarterback hold the ball longer than what most coaches are used to seeing. Then having a QB-WR tandem like Sam Hartman and Jaquarii Robinson adds another wrinkle to their offensive attack.
"You have to be fundamentally sound, you have to have an understanding what they're trying to do offensively," Satterfield said. "They do a lot of different things with the gap scheme and zone read, or they'll run Hartman a little bit - then all of a sudden, he'll pull the ball and throw the ball on all these routes, and they got some excellent receivers."
As efficient as Wake plays on offense, it's even more so on the other side of the ball. While they surrender 357.8 yards per game, the are allowed the eighth-fewest points per game in FBS at 14.2, thanks to their ACC-leading 11 turnovers generated.
Seven of these turnovers are interceptions, but a lot of those are generated due to their aggressive nature up front. Six different players have at least 3.0 tackles for loss, and four have at least 2.0 sacks.
They're playing hard up front, "Satterfield said. "Everything starts in the trenches, and their D-line plays hard, they create problems. If you're getting after the quarterback, which they do, they've gotten several sacks, making the quarterback throw the ball when he doesn't want to, when that happens, those turnovers are going to happen."
The cherry on top of the Demon Deacons is the leadership from head coach Dave Clawson, which Satterfield is very aware of. Not only has he faced Clawson during his time at Louisville, but at two previous stops as well.
Clawson was the head coach of the Richmond Spiders in 2007 when they faced Appalachian State - where Satterfield was the QBs coach - in the FCS Semifinals. Two years later, when Satterfield was the quarterbacks coach at Toledo, he faced Clawson again when he was the head coach at Bowling Green.
"I think every year Wake Forest is one of the most well coached teams that we play. Coach Clawson and his staff do a great job," he said. "I have a lot of respect for him and what he does with his program. He always gets a lot out of his players, and they are playing at a high level right now in all three phases."
Kickoff at Wake Forest is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 2 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports)
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