Louisville football's Kei'Trel Clark knew he was destined for a breakout game. Here's why

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman, playing with Wake Forest last season, was sacked six times and intercepted by U of L's defense four times in a 48-21 loss to the Cardinals on Oct. 29, 2022.

Louisville defensive back Kei’Trel Clark found a moment of solitude on Friday, less than 24 hours before the Cardinals were set to host then-No. 10 Wake Forest.

While sitting in his hotel room, the Virginia native took a moment to grab a pen and his notebook then begin to write. Journaling has been a hobby, but recently, he hadn’t done it as much as he knew he needed to or should have.

On Friday, Clark made the time for it and used the opportunity to manifest what he wanted to see from himself and his teammates against the Demon Deacons. First, he said he was going to have the best game of his career. Next, he wanted the Cardinals to create turnovers. The last thing he wanted manifest was for him to get a pick-six. Clark had just scored a touchdown the week before against Pitt after recovering a fumble. While reaching the end zone in back-to-back weeks as a defensive player isn’t unusual, it’s not something that happens all the time rare.

“This is honest to God truth,” Clark told the Courier Journal. “I put that down and I truly believed in it. I had no ounce of doubt in my heart about it. And, it happened.”

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Louisville forced eight turnovers, which created 21 points as the Cardinals trounced Wake, 48-21. Clark also had a strong outing with six tackles, two for loss, his first career sack, a pass breakup and a 46-yard pick-six.

Where Louisville created turnovers and wreaked havoc on Wake’s offensive line from the start, Clark’s personal goals took a little longer to appear. In the second quarter, he was flagged for pass interference twice: once while defending wide receiver A.T. Perry and another while in coverage against Jahmal Banks. Six plays after the PI call on Banks, the Demon Deacon scored on Clark, corraling in a 16-yard pass from quarterback Sam Hartman.

The play was initially ruled a touchdown but went to a review. There wasn’t enough definitive evidence to overturn the call, so Wake took a 14-13 lead over U of L with 5:45 left in the first half. On the next drive, Clark sacked Hartman for a three-and-out series, but the Demon Deacons hung onto the lead going into the intermission.

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That’s when “that little voice” crept into Clark’s mind. The voice was familiar but unwelcome, one full of doubt and insecurity. It’s the voice that suggested he wasn’t good enough, especially while having to help defend arguably the best group of wide receivers in the ACC.

Where he may have given into the negativity in the past, Clark countered with a louder voice of affirmations.

“I am a force of nature,” he recited to himself. “I’m powerful.”

Soon, the little voice became smaller. The less he listened to the negative voice, the louder his grew. A 46-yard pick-six while defending Perry less than a minute into the second half to put the Cardinals up 20-14 shut the voice up for good.

“That ain't nothing but God,” he thought while running down the field. “As soon as I caught it, I said, ‘God.’”

From there, Clark and the Cardinals’ defense dominated and only gave up one more touchdown in the waning seconds of the contest.

“Kei’Trel Clark, I thought he played a really nice game tonight,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “Really, all those DB’s did because that is a tough draw to cover those receivers with what they have been able to do this year. They still got a few plays on us but our guys hung in there and battled all night and for those corners to step in front there, (Kei’Trel) Clark, Quincy Riley had two tonight, tremendous job by those guys.”

After the game, Clark posted a part of the journal entry, dated October 28, 2022 to his Instagram story. The left margin of the notebook showed where he’d written down his manifestation of a breakthrough and playing the best game of his career. On the other side of the margin, Clark’s thoughts were more inspirational and affirming.

“You have to believe in yourself. Any amount of doubt can alter your plan,” it read, in part. “Who are you when your back is against the wall(?) Will you stand firm on your beliefs or fold? I have to truly believe that I am (a) walking inspiration; A spirit full of joy and talent.”

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For as much as the Clark and the Cardinals celebrated the team’s first top 10 overall win since 2016 and the first one achieved as an unranked team since 2002, there’s more work to be done. Where it didn’t look possible after the first half of the season, Louisville (5-3, 3-3 ACC) is one win away from bowl eligibility this week when James Madison comes to town.

JMU, too, has one of the better offenses in the country and will be another opportunity for Louisville’s defense to show its ability. Whatever happens, Clark will know how to respond.

“For myself, I just (have to keep) the mentality that I had tonight was just not blinking,” he said Saturday after the game. “You give up a play, it's okay. Don't get down on yourself. It's football, things happen. … So, the main thing is just, as a DB, having short term memory and just leaving it all out on the line.”

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville's Kei'Trel Clark did this while prepping for Wake Forest