LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Impressive season-opening victories by No. 17 Miami and No. 18 Louisville has the schools ranked — maybe sooner than some expected.
But the recognition has both motivated to sustain the success as they begin Atlantic Coast Conference play Saturday night under the spotlight of a prime-time national television audience. The schools initially weren’t scheduled to meet, but the coronavirus pandemic shook up scheduling nationwide and led to the ACC adopting a 10-game slate that has the Hurricanes and Cardinals playing for the second consecutive season.
For the host Cardinals, it’s a chance to avenge last November’s 52-27 drubbing by the Hurricanes. Very little worked that game for Louisville, and players are eager to show how they’re progressed.
“Last year, the game kind of ran away from us, Cardinals center Cole Bentley said. “This year, we feel motivated to play better and just have a better game overall.”
Louisville comes in confident after last week’s 35-21 win over Western Kentucky that required overcoming a disastrous opening series and 7-0 hole. The Cardinals regrouped to roll up 487 yards on offense and contribute big plays on both sides of the ball.
Miami enters well rested after totaling 492 yards in its 31-14 win over UAB on Sept. 10. The ‘Canes also climbed from an early deficit to rush for 337 yards, led by Cam’Ron Harris’ 134 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Second-year Miami coach Manny Diaz knows Louisville is different from the team his squad pounced on last fall. The ‘Canes have changed as well and aim to prove it on a national stage.
”We executed very well in all three phases,” Diaz said, adding that won’t make a difference this year. “I would imagine that they’ll be highly motivated to show that they’re not the same team they were that day.
“And guess what? We’re highly motivated to show that we’re not the same team we were that day as well.”
Other things to watch as Miami faces Louisville in ACC play:
Miami fifth-year senior D’Eriq King arrived in south Florida with huge expectations after accounting for 6,346 yards of offense (4,925 passing) and 78 touchdowns (50 passing) in 22 games at Houston before transferring last winter. He debuted against UAB with 224 yards on offense and two TDs, including 141 yards and a score on 15-of-23 passing. Louisville counterpart Micale Cunningham is coming off a career-best 343-yard passing performance with three TDs and another score rushing. His 364 total yards of offense lead the ACC.
Miami returns depth from the ACC’s No. 2 defense last season (309.8 yards allowed per game). The Hurricanes also added former Temple defensive standout Quincy Roche, who entered the season as the FBS’ active sacks leader. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound end posted his 27th career sack last against UAB, which mustered just 285 yards of offense.
Louisville place kicker James Turner converted all five point-after attempts in taking over for departed Blanton Creque, somewhat offsetting two punting team miscues that set up short Western Kentucky touchdowns. Punter Logan Lupo fumbled the snap on the first series before a third-quarter attempt was blocked in the third. Satterfield doesn’t plan any personnel changes and is confident of improvement. “It’s nothing that can’t be fixed,” he added.
Junior college transfer Braden Smith had an impressive debut for the Cardinals, starting with a 63-yard catch that set up their first TD. He finished with four receptions for 110 yards to become the first Louisville receiver to debut with 100 yards since Deion Branch had 123 against Kentucky in the 2000 season opener. Smith was named the ACC’s top receiver this week.
Miami leads 10-3-1, including 4-2 in Louisville. The Cardinals have won three of the past four meetings, including their 2014 ACC debut, 31-13.
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