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Louisville football players ‘ready to go’ for Saturday night’s opener against Western Kentucky

By Rocco Gasparro
University of Louisville

The wait is almost over. The University of Louisville is just hours away from playing its long-awaited opener against visiting Western Kentucky. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at Cardinal Stadium.

Like all of his teammates, Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham might have a little more juice, making his first season-opening start on Saturday night.

Micale Cunningham

“It’s overwhelming just to get the chance to go back out there and play with my teammates, and getting a chance to play against another team,” Cunningham said. “We’ve been hitting on each other all since the summer and just going against each other. It’s good for us to get out there and play against a different team. We’re ready, on both sides of the ball.”

Cardinal Stadium, however, won’t have the same type of excitement with a limited capacity of approximately 12,000, which head coach Scott Satterfield knows will be a little different.

“If you think about a stadium that’s usually going to be packed, but now this year that there may not be any or just a few thousand, that’s going to be really different,” Satterfield said. “So there’s still maybe going to be a little bit of a home-field advantage. That remains to be seen. I certainly think not having as big of crowds will certainly affect the game. No question about that. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out this year.”

“We need to bring our own juice,” Cunningham said, adding that “we have to cheer each other on from the sidelines. When we’re not in, we’ve got to be dialed in to the game. Offense cheering on defense and defense cheering the offense so we can execute the game plan and come out with a victory.”

Louisville posted an 8-5 record last season, including a 38-28 win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. Satterfield sees Cunningham growing a little differently thus far during this long stretch of practices.

“You can look at how much he grew throughout the whole season last year and by the end of the year, how much better his confidence level was about what we were trying to do,” Satterfield said. “If you start with that as your base, and then you kind of build off of that, then I think that we are in a much better place. We are not starting from square zero. We are already advanced in what we are doing, and we have good idea what we are doing here.”

Louisville running back Javian Hawkins rushed for more than 1,000 yards a year ago. (UofL photo)

The native of Montgomery, Ala., is just one of nine key returnees on the offensive side of the football, which is highlighted by a 1,000-yard rusher in Javian Hawkins and a 1,000-yard receiver in Tutu Atwell.

“We have a lot of weapons on offense,” Cunningham said. “We have Tutu, Hawk and Hall in the backfield, and of course, Dez Fitzpatrick, Justin Marshall, Marshon Ford, and Ean Pfeifer. We have a lot of talent there. It’s going to be fun.”

The offense will be tested right out of the gate against an experienced Western Kentucky defense, which returns 10 starters. WKU, which finished 9-4 a year ago, welcomes back the bulk of a defense that ranked among the top 25 nationally.

The Hilltoppers also return Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year DeAngelo Malone. A year ago, Malone frustrated the Louisville offensive line with 10 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. The Cardinals, though, posted a 38-21 win over WKU in a game that was played at Nashville.

“They’re very experienced,” Cunningham said. “They got 10 starters coming back. I actually know DeAngelo, I know him pretty well. He’s a very good kid. We really have to find out where he is. We just need to execute our game plan and we’ll have a pretty good chance for a victory.”

After hearing for months that the football season might be in jeopardy, the players are excited that the opener is right around the corner.

“It’s been crazy,” Cunningham said. “All the players are up and happy. We’re ready to go.”

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