We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. This week we’re chatting with John aka CardinaIStrong, a staff editor over at Card Chronicle, SBN’s blog for the Louisville Cardinals. You can also find him on Twitter here. We chatted about Louisville’s Jekyll and Hyde routine, former Louisville quarterback Jordan Travis, how great Louisville the city is, and how one bowl of sugar was particularly sweet for both fanbases.
TN: What’s the status of Malik Cunningham? He took quite a beating vs Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and was carted off the field. He looked erratic passing the following week against Georgia Tech, and I thought I saw him getting looked at on the sideline last week vs Notre Dame. Is he fully healthy, and if he is, what else would you attribute his recent struggles in the passing game to?
CC (Card Chronicle): All reports coming out of the football facility are that he is back to 100%, but I agree that he is not the Cunningham we saw in 2019. Without digging too deep into it the quick answer is that his offensive line play has been sketchy, his accuracy has been sketchy, and his decision making has been sketchy. We got a modern day Van Gogh situation, and the chatter about his play is getting loud enough he may want to cut off an ear as well.
I think preseason expectations (Heisman odds) were a bit inflated but I bought into the hype as well and thought we would see similar numbers to what we saw in 2019. Replacing a Top 15 offensive lineman (Becton) and another guy who made an NFL roster (Haycraft) is not easy and we likely downplayed that bit too much. Outside of the offensive line play when Cunningham does have time, he’s just not hitting guys like he did last year. The Pitt game and Georgia Tech game were some great examples of overthrows, underthrows, balls about 3 yards behind receivers, things that rarely happened last year. While UofL has played some really solid defenses this year he has to get better for the offense to look like what we saw in 2019.
TN: Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield earned a pretty good reputation for flipping a 2-10 (0-8 ACC) Cards team in Bobby Petrino’s last season into a remarkable 8-5 (5-3 ACC) team last year. But now UL is 1-4 this season, which is quite a three-season-swing. Even within this season, the Cards got beat badly by Georgia Tech and then played Notre Dame really close. Will the real Louisville please stand up? I know turnover issues have played a large role this season and there’s plenty of time to turn it around. But what is going on with this team? Is it regression, just some really bad luck, or something else?
CC: Satterfield built up a pretty good pile of second chances last season taking that team to eight wins, and he’s having to cash in a few of those already in 2020. While one could overlook the Miami game and the Notre Dame loss, they should never have lost to Pitt and they should have been embarrassed the way they lost to Georgia Tech. Some of it’s bad luck with turnovers from normally reliable guys, some of it’s not executing properly due to personnel issues, and some of it, in my opinion, is play calling. I know it’s easy for “blog boy” to holler about plays but we do some head scratching stuff at certain downs/distances and at it appears at times Satterfield loves the run more than Steve Spurrier loves himself. First and ten? Run it! Second and 30? Run it! 3 and 15…Run it!
Some of that is obviously exaggeration as his run/pass split this year is actually tending more towards the pass than previous years but some of that is situational and having to play from behind. I still think Satterfield is the guy to get things going again, but if we close out 2020 with only a couple wins there will undoubtedly be some changes on staff.
TN: Does anything about this season so far give you pause in regards to Satterfield and his staff’s ability to coach, or does it raise more questions about the players?
CC: I wouldn’t say I question his coaching ability but as I alluded to before he makes some calls that leave me a bit bewildered. Running heavy sets or sweeps to the boundary, running dives on second and twenty…I just don’t understand sometimes what he sees. Some of it is absolutely them still getting good personnel in the right spots but on offense we’ve seen this movie before, and we know the actors can crank out some Academy Award type performances, but right now they’d be lucky to get an invite to the MTV Awards. Defense is improving but they need more depth and some guys that can get back to the basics in tackling, coverage, and getting pressure up front. Honestly, I just hope we don’t have another defender get jumped over for a touchdown this week. Pretty sure we have to shut down the program if it happens again.
TN: Quarterback and former UL commit Jordan Travis is going to take snaps at Cardinal Stadium, but he won’t be suited up for Louisville. You know his athleticism and skill set. If you were Travis and this FSU read-option offense, how would you attack the Cardinal defense? Is there any unit or player on the Cardinal defense, or something they do schematically, that could give FSU problems?
CC: I thought Notre Dame would run Louisville ragged last week with the studs they have at running back and then they came out throwing, and throwing some more. They must have seen something they liked last week but honestly it never materialized. Even when they did throw they seemed to target who I think is Louisville’s best corner in Kei’Trel Clark more than others. What happened with that game plan was that it was a one score game until the clock hit zero. I think Norvell lets Travis get loose a bit more than normal in hopes to open up some lanes 10-15 downfield. Louisville proved last week they have the dudes to get pressure up front but oftentimes that leads to blown coverages or missed assignments and huge gains. At the time of me writing this Louisville has given up 12 plays of 20 yards or more, only eleven teams (including FSU) have given up more this year. I’d be shocked if they don’t try and use the outside with the ground game.
TN: I know there’s covid still going on, but let’s assume everything is normal. I’ve heard Louisville is a great city. If fans were coming to Louisville for the first time, what and where would you recommend people do and go to get the most out of the non-covid hot spots the city has to offer?
CC: Louisville is pretty awesome. If you’ve never been I would absolutely recommend a trip even if it’s during the offseason. If you enjoy sporting events (Churchill Downs, Louisville FC, Louisville Bats, UofL athletics), bourbon (literally 20 plus distilleries within 30 miles off the city), museums (Louisville Slugger, Muhammed Ali, Speed Art Museum), or food (sneakily one of the best food cities in the country) we got something here to offer you. If you hate all those things we also have some great parks in the city and just outside the city limits. Well worth a weekend trip if you get tired of all the gators and sun.
TN: Believe me, I’m always tired of the gators. What is your favorite UL tradition?
CC: Full disclosure for your readers, it’s after midnight when I’m typing this so I’ll likely get roasted by Cards fans for forgetting something major, but personally I loved when the Cards played weekday football games back in the early 2000’s. The former AD, Tom Jurich, famously said “we’ll play anyone, anywhere” because he knew getting on the same field with some of the big boys would not only allow for an opportunity to get your name out there but give them a chance to spring an upset. Louisville was one of the early adopters of Thursday night college football on ESPN, where they were the only show in town nationally that night and we got some absolute classics out of the deal, including this one I’m sure many of your readers remember. ESPN loved it because they could get eyes on the TV Thursday and Louisville wasn’t too big to feel like they deserved a Saturday spot every week. Those games changed the program and likely helped get it into the ACC a decade or so later.
TN: In your Q&A you gave us a trick or treat question, so I’ll throw one back to you. What’s Louisville’s worst loss in program history (trick) and what’s the Card’s best win in program history (treat)?
CC: Another “You’re an idiot for not saying this game” type question, but if I had a nickel for for every time I got called an idiot I could buy out Papa (we don’t call our stadium that anymore) John tomorrow.
Worst Loss: Revisionist history a bit, but losing to Georgia Tech by what felt like 60 a couple years ago didn’t make me angry, it made me realize the ride was officially over. Petrino 2.0 was done and were looking at a rebuild for probably 3-5 years. It’s a game I can remember vividly that sucked the emotion out of me to a point where I wondered why I kept watching. More disappointing losses, yes, more frustrating losses, yes…but that one made me question my fandom.
Best Win: Sugar Bowl against Florida in 2013. I’m pandering a bit here but that was one of if not my favorite team all-time led by Teddy Bridgewater at QB, DeVante Parker at wideout and some absolute studs on a Charlie Strong led defense. No one gave them a shot against a Florida team who was a couple plays away from playing a National Championship that year. First offensive play from Florida was a pick six and it was three and a half hours of excitement from there on out. Never been happier about a single win in my life.
TN: You describing that loss feels like the 30-0 FSU loss to Wake Forest in 2006. Also, I loved that Bridgewater team, was rooting hard for them in that game. Alright, so the Cards are five-point favorites in this weekend’s high noon showdown. How do you see this one playing out? Give us a score prediction. Does Louisville break the losing streak against the ‘Noles?
CC: Me predicting this correctly is about as likely as Bobby Bowden removing “dad-gum” from his vocabulary. I know fans throw around hyperbole all the time about their team but I’m staring at a schedule that has Louisville sitting at 1-4 when I figured at absolute worst they would be 3-2. Before the season I predicted a Louisville win in this game but FSU played inspired last week against UNC and that makes me nervous. If the offense can start clicking again I think we see a bit of a shootout and it comes down to the last couple drives to decide it. I’ll say Tutu Atwell finally gets loose on one late and then the defense holds one good time to decide it late. Cards 38, ’Noles 30. Wish y’all the best the rest of the season, and thanks again for the Heisman.
A big thank you to John for taking the time to chat with us! Click here to read our answers to CardinaIStrong’s questions. Don’t forget to check out Card Chronicle for your Cardinal coverage needs. FSU plays Louisville at noon tomorrow.