Spotlight on Cards as payback time arrives again vs. Miami

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- With Miami's Hurricanes coming to town this weekend for a high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference showdown, Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield insists he pays no attention to recent history when it comes to rematches with rivals.


"I do not put a lot of stock in last year," Satterfield said this week. "We are a different team this year, they are a different team."


Well, not quite. UofL returned 18 starters from last season and apparently Satterfield hasn't convinced them and the other veterans to ignore the 52-27 drubbing they absorbed from Miami last season in Hard Knocks, er Rock, Stadium.


"You still have that lingering in your mind," center Cole Bentley said. "Last year is really my motivation."


Satterfield may not buy into that approach, but he understands where his players are coming from.


"Just human nature, that's probably going to be the case," he said. "They're going to remember that feeling in the locker room."


Just like 2019. Last year, still smarting from the embarrassing beatdowns suffered the season before, the Cards embarked on what they labeled their "Payback Tour" under the new staff, and it was probably successful beyond their dreams.


In games against Boston College, NC State, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest, UofL went from 0-5 and being outscored by 136 points to 5-0 while outscoring those teams by 48 points. Call this Payback Tour II, with three more opportunities on the schedule, kicking off with Miami and following with Florida State and Notre Dame.


There is also plenty of other motivation for the No. 18 Cards (1-0), who are a 2 1/2-point favorite in the 7:30 p.m. Saturday visit by the No. 17 Hurricanes (1-0) to Cardinal Stadium. Most importantly, a victory would enable the Cards to take a major step in establishing their credentials for a serious run at the ACC championship game.


In the ACC's preseason poll, Louisville was picked to finish fourth, Miami sixth. According to the current AP poll, this will be the Cards' second toughest game, behind only the Oct. 17 trip to No. 9 Notre Dame. UofL has two other ranked teams on its schedule -- No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Pittsburgh -- but doesn't have to face No. 1 Clemson or No. 12 North Carolina.


This is the Game of the Week in college football, the only matchup of Top-25 teams. It will be nationally televised by ABC, and the ESPN GameDay crew will be on hand with its prime-time announcing team of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor. Former UofL coach Lee Corso, GameDay's longtime resident entertainer/quipster, will check in from his home in Orlando.


"It's awesome," Satterfield said. "It's a great spotlight on us, our town, on our city and on our school. The media attention we'll get is awesome. It's a credit to our team, our administration, our league, the way our guys have been playing and preparing to play.


"It's going to be cool, a great atmosphere, albeit not as many fans in the stadium. But the spotlight will be here. That's why kids want to come and play here; they want to be in the spotlight, they want to be relevent on the national scene. All the kids we're recruiting right now know that you can come here and be on the front stage where everybody sees you."


While dismissing last year's game as a factor, Satterfield hopes his players pay little attention to the hype and are more focused on their job than they were in Coral Gables, when he thinks they may have expended too much emotional energy prior to kickoff.


"They were able to do whatever they wanted against us last year," Satterfield said. "Their quarterback had a Heisman kind of day. It was very disappointing. We were never really in that game."


Miami quarterback Jarren Williams threw six touchdown passes. UofL had a season-high 14 penalties for 121 yards and lost three turnovers. The Canes led 35-7 at halftime and Miami finished with 449 yards total offense. A total disaster, in other words. Didn't do anything for Miami though as the Canes went on to score just 41 more points while losing their last three games. Williams is now at Garden City Junior College in Kansas and offensive coordinator Dan Enos was replaced by Rhett Lashlee from SMU.


"That game just kind of ran away from us," Bentley said. "I think we got down there and just kind of got carried away in the moment. I don't really know how to explain it. It was just one of those games that get away from you. It was gone before you realized what was happening. So this year we feel motivated to play better, just have a better game overall."


Louisville opened with a 35-21 win over Western Kentucky, while Miami defeated UAB 31-14, with both games showcasing two of the best quarterbacks in the ACC who will now meet head-to-head.


Operating in Lashlee's new spread offense, dual threat Houston transfer D'Eriq King directed an attack that racked up 495 yards, including 337 rushing for an average of 6.5 per attempt. King had 87 of those yards and a touchdown, in addition to completing 15-of-28 passes for 141 yards and another TD. He now has a string of 16 consecutive weeks with at least one touchdown pass and one touchdown run.


Miami also has three solid running backs in junior Cam'ron Harris and the freshman tandem of Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr. And UofL's defense will be further challenged by Miami's fast-paced offense that sometimes snapped the ball with 28 to 31 seconds still remaining on the play clock against UAB.


"King is a playmaker, hard to contain," Satterfield said. "Then you couple that with their three running backs that are very explosive runners. We have to play hard, fast and smart. You get out of position and King will make you pay."


So will UofL quarterback Micale Cunningham, who passed for a career-high 343 yards, with three touchdowns, against WKU. The Cards averaged 6.8 yards per play while recording four plays over 40 yards.


Topping Satterfield's to-do list against Miami are getting UofL's running attack untracked and eliminating mistakes on special teams.


Last week, running backs Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall combined for only 137 yards on 25 carries, the former a number Satterfield wants from ONE back. On special teams, two botched punts -- a fumble and a block -- set up WKU TDs inside the five, and Hall inadvisably tried to run a kickoff out of the end zone and was tackled on UofL's 8-yard line.


This will be the first matchup of Top-25 teams in Cardinal Stadium since 2017 when No. 24 NC State defeated No. 17 UofL 39-25, the last time the Cards were ranked before this week. In Top-25 collisions since the Fiesta Bowl in 1991, Louisville is 8-12 with a four-game losing streak dating to No. 1 Clemson's 42-36 win over the No. 3 Cards in 2016.


Satterfield is 1-2 against ranked teams, beating No. 17 Wake Forest last year between losses to No. 2 Clemson and No. 9 Notre Dame. Before the victory at Wake, UofL had dropped eight straight games and 14-of-15 against ranked clubs.


COVID-19 UPDATE--Over the past week, UofL Athletics administered 1,050 COVID-19 tests to student-athletes, coaches and staff resulting in five positive results. Over the last four weeks, a total of 2,511 tests have been administered with 15 positives. Since student-athletes began returning to campus for voluntary activities on June 2, a total of 3,544 tests have been given, with 98 positives.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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