When Scott Satterfield arrived on campus as the new head coach of UofL Football his first job was to win over the players. If he couldn’t do that, it was going to be very hard for him to truly begin the job of rebuilding a program shattered by the ineptitude of one Bobby Petrino. While some players chose to transfer away, many others received Coach Satterfield’s message positively.
With the vast majority of the players giving his message a warm reception, the next step was getting them to fully buy into it. Some more players decided to transfer after giving the message a chance, but most chose to continue on the path the new head coach had laid before them.
Finally, once the roster was, for the most part, settled, it was time to get the players to believe in themselves. Coach Satterfield had to get this team to believe that it was good enough, to believe that it could win after such a horrendous season the year prior. This was something that the coaches could gauge on the practice field. Fans, however, would not be able to truly tell if the team started believing in the coach and themselves until game one rolled around.
We were given clues and hints from both players and coaches during media day and during post practice press conferences. The coaches seemed to believe the team was buying into their philosophy and style. The players said that they were. However, we all remembered last year. We remember Bobby Petrino constantly stating in the off season that the team was going to be unbelievable offensively. He made us believe we would run the ball like the days of Bobby 1.0. His absolute belief that his team could beat a loaded Alabama squad was something we fans fell for hook, line, and sinker.
It was totally understandable then that fans were apprehensive about believing in this year’s team and believing in this new coach and what he was selling. When you’ve been burned as badly as the fan base had been last year, trust has to be earned. What is wonderful about UofL fans is that we love our team so much that we were going to show up in droves to watch this season’s first game…no matter what. Deep down, we do love watching these young men perform and rooting them on. We wanted to see if this new coaching staff was the real deal. We wanted to see the real University of Louisville Cardinals Football team that we believed we had all along, not the team left despairing due to their callous and cold former coach.
In every fan’s mind, we believed that the lack of effort and the total lack of care was a trait last year’s team had inherited from Bobby Petrino. That team that took the field and went 2-10 was just a leaderless mob because their coach had, for whatever reason, given up and left them to fend for themselves. He did not trust his players and the feeling was obviously reciprocated. As a human being, you can only take so many beatdowns physically and mentally. These poor players seemed to be getting destroyed mentally in the locker room and physically on the field.
So, could Scott Satterfield get the team to believe in him, believe in each other, and, most importantly, believe in themselves individually? This was the ultimate question. Finally, game day came and we fans would get our answer. Labor Day night, prime time under the lights, the Cards would take the field to battle the 9th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish were heavily favored and most believed that Louisville would not be able to hang with them even if they had bought in and were playing with a fire and passion they lacked last year. The Cards lost 35-17. However, the score was not indicative of how much the Cards had improved. They played all out for all 4 quarters. They made plays and they ran the ball with running backs like they haven’t done since the days of Bilal Powell. The defense flew around the field, swarmed to make tackles, and played with unbelievable vigor.
It was obvious that the players had truly accepted what Scott Satterfield had preached. Through effort and grit, they hung in with a college football semifinalist and a top 10 team. Despite turnovers and some missed opportunities, they kept coming at the Irish and made them have to earn every point. It was a performance the players could be proud of, the coaches could be proud of, and the fans could be proud of.
After the clock had ticked off its final seconds, fans saw that Scott Satterfield’s plan and his philosophies were something we could believe in. We saw the UofL Football team that, despite the results of last year, we always believed deep down we had. The effort was amazing, big plays were made by both sides of the ball, and UofL actually had a realistic chance to win for most of the game.
There was a belief among the fan base that this team would truly be better and shock some teams this season. Our belief was simply because Scott Satterfield was persuasive and consistent with his message, he hired a staff of proven coaches, and we believed in the talent this team has. With that one performance on a national stage, Scott Satterfield got a fan base reeling from a 2-10 season to believe in the team again and to believe in him.
Last year, the hopelessness of the team was palpable. So much so, that it seeped into the fan base. We had no faith the Cards would win any game they participated in. Sure, for a while we kept hope alive; believing that a light switch would be flicked and suddenly the team would start to click and stack up victories. Eventually, reality dimmed the light of this hope. We could see that UofL Football was the Titanic, that it had crashed into an iceberg named Bobby Petrino, and that there were no life boats to save them.
Hope and belief have been restored thanks to Scott Satterfield and thanks to the players. Satterfield brought with him a confidence and a belief in himself and his way of doing things. The players that elected to stay with the program went all in with him. Satterfield and the team churned away in the off season working on rebuilding everything from the ground up; damaged psyches, poor discipline, poor effort, and bad habits. On that field Monday night, the fans finally got to see the fruits of an arduous off season. We got to scream at the top of our lungs for our team. That is all any one of us ever wanted to do. All last year, we just wanted to believe in our team every time they stepped on the field. We just wanted to embrace them with applause and raucous roars.
Scott Satterfield, his staff, and the players allowed us to be fans again. They allowed us to unleash our love for the program with one of the loudest environments I have ever been a part of at Cardinal Stadium. Hope was renewed and belief restored with that performance on Monday night. I, and the rest of the fan base, now believe that this team is truly talented and can be very good. I have hope that they can actually make a bowl. The future no longer seems bleak. I believe in the Louisville Football Cardinals. I have hope that the program is about to find its way back to a national prominence it has flirted with for so many years. The brightest days lie ahead and I believe there will be more than expected this season.