Bowl prep keeping rust off Cardinals

University of Louisville sophomore center Eric Wood talks about preparing for the Cardinals upcoming Orange Bowl contest against ACC Champion Wake Forest.

By the time the fifth-ranked University of Louisville takes the field at the Orange Bowl on January 2 against No. 15 Wake Forest, the Cardinals will have spent a month preparing for the school's first Bowl Championship Series bowl game. The lengthy lay-off hasn't disrupted the typical Bobby Petrino practice. Each two hour practice session remained fast-paced and energetic.

"We are preparing for this game like we prepared for Kentucky," said sophomore center Eric Wood.

Due to the semester break, the Cardinals have spent the majority of their time studying their Orange Bowl opponent and Wood admits that the Demon Deacon defense has been impressive on film.

"They do a lot of stuff up front that can be technically tough, so we are getting a lot work for that," he said. "You usually don't have three or four weeks to prepare for a game, but we are using all this time to prepare for it."

"Upfront they have a good front four and they move really well," continued Wood. "Their linebackers are big and tough - everyone in the country knows that. They do a lot of stuff scheme-wise that's a little different that really makes you need to prepare for."

Allowing just over 14 points per game, the Wake Forest ranks tenth in the nation in scoring defense.

"With the way their defense plays they don't allow a bunch of big plays, so we are probably going to have to sustain drives, which we didn't really do well at the beginning of the year," said Wood. "We've really been working on the 12 to 13 play type drives, putting it in the end zone and not letting Art (Carmody) score all the points for us."

While the added time to prepare allows the U of L coaching staff extra time to dissect Wake Forest, it is also brings the concern of possible rust.

"You can look at it two ways," Wood said of the extra month of practice time. "It can take you out of some of your momentum and you might get a little rust, but if you practice like we do, I don't think we will build up any rust. It gives us more time to prepare and with the offensive masterminds that we have and the great defensive coaches, (the extra time) allows us time to put in some extra stuff and execute more."

The Cardinals are currently a 10-point favorite and Wood says the team views the opportunity to defeat the champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference as one that could continue to cement the strength of the Big East Conference.

"People talk about how the ACC is a far superior conference then the Big East and we are out to prove that it's not. The ACC champs versus the Big East champs should be a great game and it's going to allow to gain some respect."

The 5th-ranked U of L Cardinals will begin practicing at Barry University in Miami Heights, Florida on Wednesday.

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