LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Even though Louisville's football team is in the grip of a four-game losing streak that is the program's second-longest in 11 seasons, coach Scott Satterfield thinks he can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't an oncoming train.
It is, however, a resurgent Florida State (2-3, 1-3 ACC) team that will roll into Cardinal Stadium Saturday for the noon matchup flying high from its 31-28 upset of then-No. 5, now No. 14 North Carolina in Tallahassee. It will be the Cardinals' first home game in a month after three straight road losses.
A trio of games over the weekend -- the Seminoles' win, Duke's 31-20 victory at NC State and Wake Forest's 40-23 win over Virginia -- left Louisville as the only team winless in ACC play as the league approaches the halftime point.
After back-to-back disappointing defeats they feel should have been victories -- not to mention the goose egg in the ACC win column -- Satterfield believes his players got a much-needed morale boost from their surprising performance in Saturday's unexpectedly close 12-7 loss to No. 4 Notre Dame that could provide the impetus for success the rest of the way.
He is convinced that the Cards aren't far from turning the corner and finishing strong, and he can draw on past experience for that optimism. The last time Satterfield lost so many in a row was in 2014 when his second Appalachian State team also dropped four straight, then won its last six.
"Obviously, you can get discouraged if you're not coming out on the winning side of things on Saturdays," Satterfield said during his weekly media teleconference Monday. "But you've got to focus on where your feet are right now on that day. You can't worry about the past or the future. You have to focus on right now. That's the process we go through any day, win or lose, and that's what we've really tried to harp on. It's like Sunday, we came out and after losing four in a row you could be real discouraged, but our guys had a really good practice Sunday."
"We thought going into the game last week that we had a really good week of preparation and accountability-type stuff. The full buy-in on everything we're trying to do, we thought that happened. And the great thing was it translated to the field. You're in that game. It's such a fine line between winning and losing, and it always will be. You have to do the little things correctly in order to give yourselves the chance to win.
"You go back to last year, how many games were so close that we could have won or lost those games and we won most of them. This year, we've been on the short end of the stick. The last three weeks, we've been in every one of those games, very easily could have won them. So we're really close. We've just got to continue doing the little things correctly, finding ways to make plays offensively and defensively, continuing to get better."
Satterfield was especially encouraged by the improvement of the Cards' battered defense. The Irish's points were the fewest they had scored in a regular season contest since losing 41-8 to Miami on Nov. 11, 2017, a string of 43 games. It was also their fewest at home since a 17-10 defeat against Stanford on Oct. 16, 2016.
"We sort of brought that swagger back," cornerback Tre Clark said.
UofL recorded a season-best four sacks and limited Notre Dame to 339 yards, which was 136 under its average, but couldn't overcome what amounted to a football version of basketball's four corners. The Irish used a ball control offense to hog the football for over 36 minutes while limiting the Cards to only 45 plays. Still, that was progress for a defense that had been assaulted for 46 points and 450 yards the week before.
"It was an outstanding effort by our guys on that side of the ball, particularly in the red zone, holding them out of the end zone multipe times (three)," Satterfield said. "The negative was third downs; we gave up too many third down conversions and we weren't able to get off the field, particularly on the last drive. Notre Dame got the ball back with a little less than eight minutes on the clock and was able to melt the whole time away."
The defensive standouts for UofL were junior linebacker Monty Montgomery, who had a career-high 13 tackles with a pair of sacks, and a Cardinal secondary that suffocated Irish receivers most of the day, preventing Irish quarterback Ian Book from finding open targets for big plays.
HALL, DIABY COULD BE OUT
Louisville may not be at full strength for Florida State. Running back and kick returner Hassan Hall suffered a shoulder injury against Notre Dame on a kick return in the first half and didn't return. Starting defensive end Yaya Diaby limped off the field in the first half and also didn't return. Both players missed practice Sunday and are listed day to day.
Hall backs up starter Javian Hawkins at running back and has rushed for 111 yards on 26 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per carry. If Hall can't play, Hawkins will shoulder more of the load, of which he is certainly capable. He has had 20 or more carries eight times as a starter and is fourth in the FBS with 519 rushing yards. Freshman Jordan Watkins would take over Hall's kick return duties. He has returned six kicks, averaging 15 yards per return.
Diaby, a junior college transfer, has started every game and has 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. Redshirt freshman Ramon Puryear is listed as his backup.
OBSCURE RULE FOILED ONSIDE KICK
Satterfield rolled the dice, calling for an onside kick after UofL had grabbed the momentum on its touchdown drive at the start of the second half. The ploy looked to be successful until an obscure rule came into play.
Wide receiver Braden Smith fell on the ball, but after a review, referees determined that linebacker K.J. Cloyd had blocked a Notre Dame player before the ball had gone 10 yards. UofL was penalized five yards, rekicked, with Notre Dame taking over on its 34-yard line and driving for what proved to be the winning touchdown on Book's 13-yard run.
"I feel like that was, I wouldn't say a killer, but we were like 'Dang,' we were ready to go back out there," UofL quarterback Malik Cunningham said. "That hurt us on the offensive side. We didn't dwell on it, though, we tried to do what we had to do to get a win, but we came up short."
Although it's rarely called, Satterfield said he and his staff were familiar with the rule.
"It's one of those things where you're going to take a chance," Satterfield said. "We just took the lead, we were kicking into the wind and we thought we probably weren't going to get a deep kick anyway. Maybe you take it in for another score. You are just trying to catch their up guys not paying attention. I was willing to take the risk and we were very close to getting it. The ball stopped at about eight yards and kind of went sideways. Then it ended up going 10, but by that time we had already hit the guy. So once I saw the replay, I thought, 'Well, we're going to lose this.'
"With rules that don't come into play very often, the public doesn't understand them," Satterfield added. "I can't really recall if I have seen that happen, but I think predominately, we understand most everything that's getting called out there. Sometimes we don't agree with them. . ."
VIRGINIA TECH KICKOFF SET--Louisville's game against No. 19/20 Virginia Tech on Halloween, Oct. 31, in Cardinal Stadium will kick off at 4 p.m. and will be televised by the ACC Network.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.