Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino believes that the Bearcats simplified aspects of their schemes, as well as utilizing their running attack more often.
"Well their effort picked up and they reduced some of the things that they were doing," said Petrino on Monday. "They went back to really running the ball...defensively I think they just started playing faster and with more effort."
Cincinnati running back Richard Hall, who needs 112 yards in Saturday's game to become the 13th Bearcat to reach the 1,000-yard mark, has become the perfect compliment to senior Bearcat quarterback Gino Guidugli.
"They run the ball very well," continued Petrino. "They're offensive front is playing extremely well."
Not only has the UC offensive line helped produce a running attack that ranks 28th in the country with an average 188 yards per outing, but it has also given Guidugli ample time to find his receivers.
"He's playing real well," said Petrino. "He's in a real good comfort zone. He understands what they're asking him to do. He's making good decisions...they're protecting him really well which is a concern of mine. We've got to be able to get some pressure on him and disrupt some of their routes. Right now he's just real comfortable out there."
Guidugli, who ranks 17th in the NCAA in passing efficiency, rarely gets sacked or even hurried. Through ten games, the native of Fort Thomas, Kentucky has only been brought down seven times.
During UC's impressive four game winning streak, Guidugli has been nearly as effective as U of L quarterback Stefan LeFors. During the stretch he has completed 71% of his attempts for 1,022 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, Petrino realizes that for the Cardinals to stay undefeated in Conference USA play that the U of L offense will have to find success against a strong Bearcat defense.
"Defensively they're very fast. They probably have the best two defensive ends in the conference. Both of them are really good players...they're very quick and very active. They get off the ball really well. They're playing really good defense...and they don't make many mistakes. We're going to have to be able to move the ball and run it at them...we have to be able to protect long enough were we can get the ball off down the field to make some plays."
In a rivalry game such as this, where the winner gets to keep the Keg of Nails in their trophy case for another year, statistics often can be thrown out the window. This year however, it's more than just a rivalry game, it's a meeting between two teams that both have their sights set on the C-USA crown.
"This is our championship," Petrino explained. "We've got to do a great job preparing for it. I think our players will be excited. Physically we've got to do a good job in practice this week. This is the kind of game you want to prepare for and the kind of game you want to play in. It's sold out, it will be loud and it's a lot of the line and it's two good football teams. So it should be a lot of fun."
The Keg of Nails
The winner of Saturday's game gets the Keg of Nails, one of the more unique rivalry trophies with a somewhat vague origin. The trophy is a replica of a keg used to ship nails. The exchange is believed to have been initiated by fraternity chapters on the UC of UofL campuses, signifying that the winning players in the game were "tough as nails." The present keg is actually a replacement for the original award, which was misplaced by Louisville, ironically lost during some construction of office facilities. It is adorned with the logos of both schools and the scores of the series games.