Experienced Cards preparing as the underdog

As the University of Louisville prepares to face Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford explains that they must to do so with an underdog mindset.

Corey Goodlett Cardinal Authority The University of Louisville football team is in full preparation mode as they await their meeting with the University of Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28.

The No. 18-ranked Cardinals feature a handful of key players from last year's team- a group that went 11-2 and pulled one of the 2012 bowl season's biggest upsets by dismantling Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, whose defensive unit starts eight players who also started against Florida, says that experience has been crucial to the team's success on defense, and will definitely be a factor against the Hurricanes.

"Any time you can have guys that have started three or four years for you, it makes a huge difference," Bedford told Cardinal Authority. "You talk about continuity, consistency, that's why you have success."

Bedford noted that the experience and leadership starts with the Cards' two first team All-American Athletic Conference safeties: Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor.

Smith, a four-year starter who will make his school-record 51st career start in the bowl game, often receives the most recognition for his seniority, but Pryor is also no newcomer. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound junior has appeared in all but one game since arriving as a freshman, and was selected All-Big East as a sophomore in 2012, when he finished second on the team with 100 tackles.

"Those guys have been the staple of our defense," Bedford said of Smith and Pryor. "Those guys have started a lot of ballgames for us. When you have that you're going to have a chance to win a lot of ballgames."

Aside from their two bookend safeties, the team also benefits from the experience of seniors Preston Brown and Marcus Smith. Each three-year starters, Brown was named All-American Athletic Conference at linebacker last week, while Smith got an All-American nod from his defensive end spot.

With so much the same in terms of personnel from last year's Sugar Bowl win, it is important to note one new challenge the Cardinals face.

"Last year no one gave us a chance to win that ballgame, so those guys went out there saying ‘We're going to prove everybody wrong,'" Bedford said of last January's meeting with Florida. "These guys have to prepare the same, and prepare as if (they're) the underdog. If you do that, you always have a chance to be successful."

"Right now we're playing as if we're the underdog, and so far we've had an outstanding few days of practice."

That approach resulted in a trademark win for the program last season, and certainly has the potential to land them another in two weeks.

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