Redshirt freshman Will Gardner was named the starter on Sunday night by head coach Bobby Petrino. After tearing his ACL as a freshman, it meant a lot to Gardner to be named the starter for opening night.
"It's exciting, I'm very blessed," Gardner said. "The confidence coach Petrino and coach McGee showed in me to name me the starter, it's a very exciting feeling but it's also gives you a lot of confidence know that they're behind you."
In the 36-9 win over Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season, the Cardinals held Miami to just 14 yards on the ground. However, the Hurricanes were missing one piece, Duke Johnson, who rushed for 950 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.
"He's a really good player," said Petrino. "He's somebody that we have to contain. We've got to do a good job of setting edges with our outside linebackers and defensive ends. Our safeties are going to have a to do a good job coming downhill and tackling, and we've got to get 11 guys to the ball. I think that's the biggest thing when you watch him is that we're going to have to run full speed to the ball because he's a guy that can take it the distance."
The Cardinals will open the season with a conference game when they take on Miami in the ACC opener. It will be the first time since they opened with Memphis State in the 1973 Missouri Valley Conference opener. Head coach Bobby Petrino likes the idea of opening the year with such an important game.
"I like to have an opening game that means something," said Petrino. "I've always enjoyed that, I think that it really helps you throughout the offseason, helps you through summer, it's a real motivating factor in camp. You condition for it, you get ready for it, so I've always enjoyed that. As far as the conference goes, I don't know. This will be the first time I ever had to open with a conference game, but I think some of the thoughts throughout, when you look at some of the people throughout the country too, that some of the thoughts are if you're going to lose a game, you'd rather lose it early when you have a chance to get back late in the season and find a way to get into the playoffs."
The Cardinals will play on Monday night for just the sixth time in school history when they face Miami on ESPN. It will be the first appearance on Monday since the Cardinals lost the Gator Bowl to Virginia Tech in 2006 under head coach Bobby Petrino.
Senior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin is ready to play. After sitting out the spring because of injury, Mauldin can't wait to take the field.
"I don't think impatient is the word, because now that we have our minds on Miami, we get to actually play them in our heads before we go out and play them physically," said Mauldin. "We need to learn how their offensive schemes are as a defense and learn how their offensive schemes are as an offense. Just learning their schemes is pretty much where we are about right now."