Take your pick of the examples to use that show how different Louisville’s football team is from last year.
Louisville has three wins this season after winning two games last year. Louisville fought back from a three-touchdown deficit against Florida State instead of folding. The Cardinals won an ACC game last week after going winless in the league last year.
“I think it’s obvious Coach (Scott) Satterfield has done a very good job in a short amount of time,” Coach Dave Clawson said of the former Appalachian State coach. “He has Louisville playing at a very high level.”
Here are five things to know about the Cardinals ahead of Saturday night’s game:
1. Explosive offense
Louisville is coming off a 664-yard outburst against Boston College in a 41-39 win, and the Cardinals piled up yards on explosive plays.
“Their collection of receivers is certainly as good as anybody — or probably better than anybody we’ve faced so far this year,” Clawson said. “They had 12 plays of over 20 yards against BC. Their offensive line is extremely well-coached, they’re physical.”
Louisville’s offensive line is led by left tackle Mekhi Becton, a high school teammate of Greg Dortch. Becton is a 6-7, 369-pounder who’s drawing interest as an early entrant into the NFL draft.
2. Common last opponent
Both Louisville and Wake Forest’s most-recent games have been close wins against Boston College. The Deacons beat Boston College 27-24 on Sept. 28, and they were off last week while the Cardinals beat the Eagles.
It plays a factor in film study, Clawson explained.
“I mean, I’m watching their safety make plays that we didn’t make. I’m watching their guys cover people that we didn’t cover. I’m watching their O-line block guys that we didn’t block as well,” Clawson said. “So, yeah, it’s — you make the comparison. We made the plays we had to at BC and we found a way to win.
“But in terms of their offensive execution, they had over — they had 200 more yards than we did.”
3. Looks like Cunningham (and Conley)
Louisville deployed something of a quarterback rotation against Boston College, with both Micale Cunningham and Evan Conley proving effective.
Cunningham, a redshirt sophomore, completed 13 of 18 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown, while adding six carries for 43 yards and another touchdown, against Boston College. Conley, a freshman, was 10 for 16 for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.
Neither of them was the Cardinals’ starter to begin the season. That was redshirt junior Jawon Pass, who ran for both of the team’s touchdowns in the opener against Notre Dame but sustained a foot injury during a four-touchdown performance in a blowout of Eastern Kentucky.
4. Defenders to know
Wake Forest has carved up Louisville’s defense for the past two seasons, but the Cardinals have a few more playmakers in that unit.
Redshirt senior safety Khane Pass' 39 tackles lead Louisville with 30 of those being solo tackles.
“He has a nose for the football, he had some great tackles last week against AJ Dillon in space,” Clawson said of Pass. “And they were physical, wrap-you-up — he just has a knack of kind of, in his run fits, figuring out where the seam is going to be, and he’s just a very good, very instinctive player.”
Clawson also remarked on how impressed he was with outside linebacker Rodjay Burns, who’s also the Cardinals’ punt returner.
“There’s not too many times you see your outside linebacker also be your punt returner. And it just gives you an idea of what his skillset is,” Clawson said.
5. No more Wakeyleaks ties
The house-cleaning of Bobby Petrino and his coaching staff was extensive, and it means there aren’t really remnants of the staff that was given inside information about Wake Forest by former broadcaster Tommy Elrod.
For the past two seasons, this game has presented a bevy of storylines, with the hash-tagged tale of back-channel exchanges of the Deacons’ playbook casting a large shadow.
Wake Forest obviously is without the services of Matt Colburn II, the running back who was verbally committed to Louisville until the weekend before Signing Day in 2015, when the Cardinals pulled his offer and instead wanted him to gray shirt. Colburn ran for 377 yards against Louisville in the last two seasons, 243 of those coming last season.