FB: Cards Ready to Take on BC; Face Top 10 Rushing Offense

The University of Louisville football team faces a stiff challenge this weekend, when it will travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on Boston College for a road clash with an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.

Having now moved passed their 42-31 loss to No. 2 Florida State last Thursday, the Cardinals (6-3, 4-3 ACC) are gearing up for a battle with an Eagles team that is much improved since the hiring of head coach Steve Addazio two seasons ago. With wins over USC and North Carolina State under their belt in 2014, the Eagles (6-3, 3-2 ACC) picked up a two-point win on the road at Virginia Tech last Saturday.

 In full-on preparation mode, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and junior defensive back Jermaine Reve took time to speak with the media after Wednesday evening's practice. The pair discussed fielded questions on a number of topics, highlighting their respect for the Eagles along the way.

 The meeting, which will mark the seventh between the schools, is slated for a 7:15 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, with an ESPN2 broadcast set. The series between the Cards and Eagles is tied 3-3 heading into the weekend.


Moving Forward

With the tough loss to the defending national champions now in the rear view mirror, the Cardinals are fully focused on their impending trip to Chestnut Hill. Despite surrendering a season-high for yards (574) and points (42) to the Seminoles, the Cardinals haven't been shaken, and are fully aware of what it takes to keep it from happening again.

 "We (can) keep that from carrying on, it's just motivation," defensive back Jermaine Reve said Wednesday. "We've seen how well we can play. We've seen how good we can be in one half, and we've seen ourselves not play up to our potential in the second half."

 Rather than harping on the negative, Reve and the rest of the Cardinals defense, which ranks sixth in the country in terms of total defense, are using the experience as motivation and an opportunity to learn. 

 "It all comes from dedication. So it's a testament for our defense, to come out and respond and show that we really are the best defense (in the nation.)"

 The head of the unit, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham echoed that sentiment, stating that the team must be able to learn, but move forward.

 "Getting to where we want to go, you have to go through the tough times and you have to be able to handle that and move on," Grantham said.

"It's another week this week, we have a very talented team we are going to face that gives you some challenges with what they do offensively. We understood that we have to turn our focus to them and get ready to play a team that is on a roll right now."


These Eagles Fly on the Ground

Boston College presents a new challenge for the Cardinals this week; a team heavily predicated on running the football. Averaging 274.9 yards per game on the ground this season, the Eagles are the nation's No. 9 rushing offense. What the team is able to do on the ground is responsible for the bulk of 406.6 offensive yards they post per week.

"You have to make sure you all are on the same page, communication is important," Grantham said of preparing for a physical, run-first team like Boston College. 

"You have to be physical up front in the run game, you have to set edges, you have to understand your gap fits and where your help is inside, outside those kind of things."

Lucky for the Cardinals, they've been stout against the run through their nine contests this season. Ranking third in the nation in rushing defense, the Cards are allowing opponents just 78.7 yards per game, and have allowed only three rushing scores all season.

What sets the Eagles apart, though, is their ability to run the ball from the quarterback position. Graduate quarterback, and former Florida Gator, Tyler Murphy is the Eagles' leading rusher in 2014, having racked up 965 yards and nine scores on the ground, all while averaging more than seven yards per rush.

"When the quarterback is a runner, it becomes truly 11-on-11 and if you don't fit it right you can create a seam in your defense," Grantham said. "That is how they have been getting those long runs with the quarterback."

A focus for the Cardinals in their preparation this week has been preventing the big play, which can come naturally to a team that can successfully run the ball.

"One of the main challenges is just keeping your eyes on your man," Reve said of facing a run-first offense.

"If you don't keep your eyes on your man, you could give up a big play. Teams like that, that run the ball every play, they can play-action out of nowhere for a big play. So it's our responsibility to keep our eyes on our responsibility."


Play-Making Secondary Wants Everyone to Feel the Love

Through nine games, it's become quickly apparent that the Cardinals possess one of the most dangerous secondaries in all of college football.  

With 18 interceptions in 2014, only Mississippi has picked off opposing quarterbacks as many times as Louisville. Outside of taking the ball away, the secondary has made its hay being solid on a down-to-down basis. The Cards rank sixth in team passing efficiency defense, and have allowed 201.9 passing yards per game.

With safety Gerod Holliman's nation-leading ten interceptions, and the three a piece that linebacker James Burgess and safety James Sample have chipped in, it'd be easy for the Cardinals to get greedy. But as Reve stated Wednesday, that's not the case.

"We're kind of chatty and play around with each other about it, but that's not our main priority," Reve said. "Our main priority is to do your job in this defense. If everyone does their job, we all look good. That's something that we all care about. We want everyone to look good."

"We just motivate each other. We all want to look good on defense. We play for each other, and that's how we do it."

FB: Petrino Transcript from Oct. 27

Coach Bobby Petrino

(Opening Statement)

"We're excited about the game. I'm happy with the way our players are preparing for it. We've had a couple of good practices this week. We did a good job Saturday morning when we came in and worked. So obviously they're excited about the game. It's something we're looking forward to, going out and performing and playing hard."

(On what Will Gardner's focus should be going into the Florida State game)"He just needs to focus on executing the offense, you know. I think he's done a real nice job in practice and in the meeting room, understanding what looks we expect to see. You know, you're always going to see something new as a quarterback, but we're working hard on the looks we're expecting to see. And he just needs to go in focused and go through his progressions and execute the offense. And he's very capable of doing that. He's got to do it consistently with all 11 guys, really."

 (On if Gardner seems more consistent)
"Yeah. He's had a good week at practice. He's snapping the ball and throwing well, so he's done a good job. You know, I think he's looked sharp here in the last couple of weeks...obviously it's fun to have DeVante [Parker] back out there. You know, I felt like coming out of the last game against North Carolina State, that was the closest we've looked to our do the things we like to do on our offense."

 (On how the bye week has helped Parker)
"Yeah, he's looked really good yesterday and today...two weeks ago...going into the North Carolina State game, you saw glimpses of it and [thought], 'Okay, how much is he going to be able to go out there and how well is he going to perform?' Obviously he went way above our expectations in that game. But the last couple of days, he's really looked back to himself and really exploded after the catches, you know. It feels a lot better for him. You can see that, and he's also said that."

 (On having James Quick and Lorenzo Mauldin back healthy)
"They've all practiced the last two games, so we feel good about them both being out there ready to go."

  (On the game plan for Florida State)
"Well, you know, when you look at their offense, they're very balanced. They can run the ball, throw it, throw it deep. So obviously you first have to stop the run. The most important part of the defense is to stop the run and try to make them get behind the sticks. And then we're going to have to be able to tight coverage and rush the quarterback. He's a different guy to tackle and bring down, so we have to have discipline in our lanes [and] mix things up. That's our thing. We've been good at doing that. We've got to just go play our defense. That's the biggest thing."

 (On who Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston reminds Petrino of )
"I mean, they're all different. You know, real good players. [Winston] has a real quick release. He makes good decisions. He's very decisive with his decision making. So it's going to be important for us to really be good with the coverage and be tight on the coverage. Put pressure on him. Not let him have the good passing lanes."

 (On who will be starting in the backfield)
"Oh, you know, we've got another day of practice, so we'll worry about that after our Thursday practice which actually is, what, Tuesday this week. So, yeah, we'll just go practice and see how they all do."

 (On the health of the Louisville players)
"Yeah, [Brandon] Radcliff is back going full speed, which is great to see. He's had an issue with his toe that's bothered him on and off. He's back there competing hard. Dom [Brown] looks good. Michael[lee Harris] looks even better than he did before the North Carolina State game. L.J.'s [Scott] ankle is better, so we're getting back healthy where we need to be."

 (On how he's approaching the game)
"Yeah, I mean, they all understand what the stakes are, but what I really want them to do is enjoy it, you know. Enjoy the experience of having the No. 2 team in the country coming in here. How you go through preparing for it. How you get ready. When we go to the hotel and just enjoy the whole experience. But all our routines and everything we go through are the same, you know. We're not changing anything. We're not trying to do anything extra. We just go through our preparation and get ready for kickoff. I think that's the number one thing we've got to do, is calm down and understand, you know, we need to be ready when we kick the ball off. Not tomorrow. Not Wednesday. When kickoff's here. And I think with the experience and opening the season with Miami, all those things help us."

 (On controlling the excitement of the players)
"I think they're pretty good about it. I think with the experienced team that we have, and the fact that they've played in big games. The opening game of the year was a big game for us, so you just kind of go back and go through your routine. You learn how to relax and get yourself ready for kickoff."  

 (On if the excitement of the players regarding playing a top five team is different now than in the past)
"Yeah, it's different. You now, obviously the intensity, the focus, practice, is better. Guys are excited about it, they're all working hard out there. But again, it's just getting into your routine and working and knowing how to prepare for a game."

 (On if the atmosphere will be the "craziest" it's been all season)
"I was going to say it would be hard to be hard to be crazier, but I once said it would be hard to be louder, and I don't want to get into any of that. So let's just say it's going to be real, real crazy."

 (On FSU's defense)
"They're very physical up front. They've got two big guys inside and they do a good job in their secondary with their coverage. They don't do a lot but they do it real well. On third down, they do a lot. The biggest thing for us is to be able to execute and be able to convert third downs. If we're doing that, I feel like we'll have some success."

 (On the focus of the defense)
"To play one play at a time. That's a great point. You've got to be able to play one play at a time. The whole team does. We have to understand that when you're in games like this, the momentum swings back and forth. They've got great players, they're going to make plays. We're going to make plays. The most important play is the next one. To be able to focus and to be able to concentrate on doing your job on the next play."

 (On the offensive line)
"We've gotten better. We've been more consistent with our assignment. We're using our technique better. We've been finishing better. We've had two good weeks of practice."

 (On FSU's ability to win close games)
"There's not a big difference between winning and losing, and they know how to win. They've got guys in the program who have got confidence in coming from behind. So you have to learn how to win. Obviously they know how to do that. We have to be in the game in the fourth quarter, and have an opportunity to win it in the fourth quarter. I believe our guys will be confident in the fact we'll get it done then."

 (On if the injuries the team experienced made for a scramble)
"Most definitely. It was kind of a scramble mode. We had guys dropping and different guys in there. I think our guys handled it well. I thought when we had to have a change at quarterback that everyone rallied around Reggie (Bonnafon) and he handled it very maturely and we were able to win a couple games with him as the starting quarterback. He did a nice job for us. We've had different running backs in there, and without DeVante (Parker). So it's nice to have all our weapons back. Hopefully we'll go out and show that we know how to execute with them."

 (On DeVante Parker's return)
"You know, he's amazing, really. Most guys would have been down right away and real disappointed. He had a good attitude from the start. He showed really good maturity, worked extremely hard with our medical staff and hit the target dates that they had set for when you get to run, when you get to do this, when you get to that, and just stayed with a great mental attitude the whole time. He had a little setback when he first came back and thought we might get him ready for the Clemson game, I guess. But after that he just stayed at it. It's amazing how positive a person he is."

 (On what a win over FSU, the defending national champions, would mean)
"These are the games we want to play in and compete in. We'd like to be in the top rankings and have the No. 1 team come in here and play us. That's where we're aspiring to go. So we'll look at our program and get one step closer to where we want to get to."

FB: Cards Home For NC State; Focus Has Been on Defense

Cards Focus on Defense
Seven games into the 2014 season, the conversation surrounding the University of Louisville football is slightly different from what most may have expected. With offensive-minded head coach Bobby Petrino returning to the helm of the program, the consensus was that the Cardinals would be a team loaded with offensive firepower, lighting up the scoreboard at a rapid clip and filling box scores with eye-popping numbers.

Instead, the conversation has revolved around the Cards' dominant defense. Each week, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's unit is giving more validity to the argument that the 2014 edition of the Cardinals defense might be the best in program history. With a record of 5-2, the Cards are first in the nation in total defense, allowing opponents an average on 230.7 yards of offense per game, and in rushing defense, yielding opponents an average of 60.3 yards on the ground each time out. Against the pass, the pass, the Cardinals are second in the nation in pass efficiency defense, first in passes intercepted (14), and eleventh in pass defense.

 In full preparation mode for their upcoming meeting with N.C. State this weekend, a few Cardinals took time after Wednesday afternoon's practice to speak with the media. Grantham, along with defensive backs Charles Gaines and Jermaine Reve chatted about their performance thus far and a host of other topics.

With so much talk about the dominance the defensive unit has displayed throughout the first half of the season, it would be easy for Grantham and his players to get complacent. According to the man himself, though, that has not been the case.

"We've got room to improve. We've got a lot of ball games left," Grantham said.

 "The thing of it is, we've got to take each week because each week's a new challenge. Each week's a new week from the standpoint of the team you're playing is a little different in what they do. So you've got to understand the nuances of that offense and how you've got to stop them. We just have to take it week by week and work to play our best every Saturday"

 According to senior defensive end/outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, the team has not only continued to work, but has stayed on an upward trajectory.

 "I feel like we get better each week," Mauldin said Wednesday. "We face different teams that run different things, so we just adjust to what they give us. Being able to go out on the field and excel even more than we did in practice, I feel that we get way better."

 As far as rankings, Grantham is simply concerned with what his team does on the field weekly, and this week, the Cardinals face an N.C. State team with an offense that has 40 points four times in thus far in 2014.

 "Honestly, I just want to win another game," Grantham said. "We have a conference game at home. It's really about wins and we want to make sure that we can do our part and play to our potential and help our team win. That's been our focus, executing the game plan to win the game."

Gaines in Shutdown Mode

His statistics may be a bit misleading, but junior defensive back Charles Gaines has been the definition of a shutdown cornerback this season.

 Through seven games, the third-year man out of Miami, Fla. has totaled just ten tackles. For those watching, though, this is not due to a lack of aggressiveness on the part of Gaines. Instead, it can be attributed to the fear he's placed into the minds of opposing quarterbacks, who haven't dared to throw the ball in his direction.

 "No. I just stay humble. I do my job," Gaines said Wednesday, when asked if it's frustrating not having the ball thrown to his man. "If a team is not looking to throw at me, that means the other players can make plays."

 Gaines looks at the job he's done blanketing receivers as freeing factor for others on the unit. In no small part, Gaines' lockdown job has helped the Cards grab a nation-leading 14 interceptions, and 24 sacks, the third-highest total in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

 "It's a blessing that I have an opportunity to shut down one side of the field. It gives our safeties, our linebackers, and most of all our D-line an opportunity to make plays and get to the quarterback."

 When he has been thrown at, though, Gaines has quickly reinforced the poor quality of that decision. After leading the team in interceptions last season five, Gaines has snagged one pick this season (in the team's 66-21 win over Murray State), and has been credited for seven passes defensed.


Reve Back for Defense
The Louisville defense received great news before last week's trip to Clemson, when it was informed that junior defensive back Jermaine Reve would be available for action. In his first action since rehabbing a torn ACL, Reve provided the Cardinals defense with a big boost in the 23-17 loss to the Tigers, totaling five tackles, two tackles for a loss, and a sack.

"It's exciting just to be back out there with my brothers," Reve said. "It's just a blessing to be back. When you go through all the hard work to be back out there. When your teammates are playing well, you want to get out there and join them, just contribute to the team. I'm excited to be back."

 Since his redshirt freshman season in 2012, Reve has been a steady contributor for the Cards. As a redshirt freshman, the Miami, Fla. native totaled 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a sack for the 11-2 Allsate Sugar Bowl champions. Last season, Reve started five games, and notched a season-high four tackles in a win over Connecticut.

 "We didn't have him because he got hurt early in the spring, but it's a great example of a guy very determined about getting back on the field," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

 "He did everything from a rehab standpoint to be ready early. He was always in the meetings studying, so he knew our system, he knew what to do. He was a big part of us being able to make the switch with putting (defensive back, Terell) Floyd back outside. You can credit him with helping us play well last week."

 While the production he's provided since his return has been apparent, fellow defensive back Charles Gaines has pointed to Reve's leadership as a major help.

 "Reve, he's a communicator. He likes to read body language," Gaines said of his teammate. "So if I come out there and have a sluggish practice, he's going to let me know about myself. I feel like he's a big brother to the defense. He's going to keep me hungry. When I see his energy and I see him trying to make a play, it just makes me want to make more plays."

FB: Reve Returns to Lineup; Cards Hold Top Spot

Jermaine Reve Returns to Action
Junior safety Jermaine Reve returned to the field this past Saturday after sitting out the first six games of the season due to injury. Reve, who tore his ACL this past winter, returned after six months of rehab and recover

"He is even ahead of schedule from what we thought," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "All through the rehab Kyle kept telling me Jermaine is working so hard, doing so well and we might have him this year for the second half of the season. We check in on him a couple weeks later and he said that he has progressed and he is actually further ahead than he was."

Reve came back with a bang against Clemson, recording five solo tackles. Two of his tackles were for a loss, one of which was a sack. He added to a Louisville defense that is currently No. 1 in the nation.

"His attitude and work ethic are the reasons he is back at this time, he is ahead of where we thought he would be," Petrino explained.

Last season, Reve played in all 13 games, recording a total of 23 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss.

Cardinals Continue Season with Two Quarterback
Redshirt sophomore Will Gardner and freshman Reggie Bonnafon have both started games this season and at the moment will both continue to play for the remainder of the season.

Both quarterbacks saw playing time during the Clemson game this past weekend. Bonnafon, who started the game, went 5-13, while Gardner finished out the game, going 10-16 and tossing one touchdown.

"(Clemson) did some really good things as far as stopping our run, with their line movements and jamming the inside, gave Reggie some good looks in the option game that he had done a great job of against Syracuse," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "They kind of took it away with the things they did. When they do that, you've got to be able to throw the ball. That was one of the reasons we made the change."

Petrino explained that he made sure to discuss the switch with his offensive coaching staff during the game.

"We talked about it at halftime and we felt that coming out of halftime that we should get (Bonnafon) moving around, run some of our play-action, some of our movement game and let him run the ball a little bit," he said. "Sometimes with a quarterback that has great instincts to run the ball, once you get his blood flowing and he runs and makes some plays running then that helps him in the passing game."

Petrino has not yet announced who will start on Saturday against NC State, but he has confidence in whoever is on the field.

Cards' Defense Best in the Nation

The University of Louisville defense, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, has not allowed an opponent to score an offensive touchdown over the past 17 quarters. The Cards' defense has recorded 24.0 sacks for 196 yards lost and 14 interceptions for 153 yards and a touchdown.

"We put in hard work and sacrifices on the off season to get to where we're at," sophomore linebacker Keith Kelsey said. We believe in what coach (Todd) Grantham installed in us, and we just want to execute it."

Grantham, who came to Louisville after working for four years as Georgia's defensive coordinator, has a large influence on both how the defense plays and thinks about the game.

"No one really expected us to be where we are right now, so it really just gave us more motivation to go out there and prove a lot of people wrong," Kelsey said. "We're just surprising a lot of people and there's still a lot of work to be done."

Despite the No.1 ranking and the fact that they haven't given up a touchdown since the loss at Virginia, the defensive players are staying humble.

"We don't really pay attention to [the touchdown drought]," he explained. "Coach Grantham might mention it to us after a game or something. Right now I think it's 17 quarters, and we're just trying to keep that streak alive and just play hard."  

Penalties Plaguing Louisville Offense

The Cardinals' offense was penalized multiple times for false starts in the loss at Clemson. A major factor in that was the crowd noise, however it is something that Louisville must adjust to as a new member of the ACC.

 It was a loud place but again it comes down to everybody else plays in the loud stadiums," coach Petrino explained. "We have to focus and concentrate and be able to not have the same person continually get us those penalties."

 Quarterback Will Gardner also weighed in on the conversation of the multiple offensive penalties.

 "I know a lot of it had to do with me coming in, and he was doing things different with the cadence, so I had to come over and we had to get that thing situated," he said. "A lot of that had to do with the quarterback's fault, so I'll take blame for that in there at the end."

 Gardner also understands that large crowds will be a norm in the Cardinals' upcoming games.

 "Each and every game is going to count right here," he said. "We go to Notre Dame and different places, we're going to get a chance to play in big crowds and play in front of big atmospheres and different things like that. So I think guys are excited about that."

Gaines Major Focus for Opposing Offenses
Redshirt junior cornerback Charles Gaines is a major defensive threat for the Cardinals, something Louisville's opponents have noticed since last season. In 2013, Gaines led the team with five interceptions and 106 return yards. This year, Gaines only has one interception.

 "(Gaines) does a really nice job in the tight coverage, and the best thing about when he has tight coverage is that pass rush doesn't give him a lot of time to get the ball on that side," Petrino explained. "He has done a great job, he is a good player and he almost had a nice pick the other night, a couple of them. So he is right there and he has great hands."

 Coach Petrino made the observation that Gaines hasn't recorded as many interceptions because opposing quarterbacks haven't thrown the ball in his direction.

 "The more he can get his hands on the ball, the more picks he is going to get," Petrino said.


FB: Cardinals Travel to Clemson to Face High-Powered Offense

The University of Louisville football team is in the midst of preparing for what will be their stiffest test of the season, as the team will travel to Death Valley to take on No. 25 Clemson at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The trip to Clemson will mark the Cardinals' second-consecutive road game, and their fourth in five weeks. The Cardinals traveled to Syracuse last Friday to claim a 28-6 win over the Orange and improve their record to 5-1 (3-1 ACC). Before the knocking of Syracuse in the dome, the Cards notched a victory over Wake Forest at home after splitting contests at Virginia and FIU.

 Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin took time after Wednesday evening's practice to speak with the media about the challenge of hitting the road once again, the task of facing one of the nation's hottest dual-threat quarterbacks, and their ranking as the nation's best defense.


Memorial Stadium, otherwise affectionately know as "Death Valley" by Tiger fans, has been one of the nation's most feared stadiums for some time. The Cardinals will make their first trip to the venue as a conference foe for the team on Saturday afternoon.

 When speaking with the media Wednesday evening, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin shared the sentiment that the famous stadium epitomizes college football, and that the looming trip has been a point of excitement for the players.

 We relish in the road games. We love crowds like that," Mauldin stated. "This is what we come to college to play football for, for crowds like Clemson. We got a bit of a taste of it last week."

 Having coached in the stadium before, Grantham was able to offer uniquely informed insight. While holding the defensive coordinator capacity at Georgia, Grantham's Bulldogs dropped a close 38-35 decision at Clemson to kickoff the season last year.

 "It's a great place. I think their fans are very passionate about their football," Grantham said.

 "They're loud, they're very supportive of their team. It's why you come to college, it's why you play. It's our chance to be in front of a very vocal, hostile crowd. I think it's fun. It's why you work. It's why you prepare. They've certainly done a great job of representing their school and what they do. It gives us a chance to go play in that type of environment."

 For Grantham, per the usual, success on Saturday comes down to execution, whether on the road or at home.

 "First of all, you've got to go play the game. The game is played between the white lines, and we understand that. That's what really affects the game. The atmosphere creates an excitement in pre-game, but at the end of the day, the players are what affect the game." 


 For the second-straight week, the Cardinals will be facing a quarterback who not only has shown the ability to light it up through the air, but make plays on the ground as well. Since being inserted as the starter against Florida State on Sept. 20, Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson has been nothing short of explosive. The Gainesville, Ga.-native has, in just three full games, 1,181 yards passing, with 12 touchdown passes and a 68.9 completion percentage. In the Tigers' 41-0 rout of North Carolina State last week, Watson showed his mobility by rushing for 62 yards and a pair of scores.

When asked about the instant success Watson has had, Grantham had high praise. Having formerly held the defensive coordinator position at the University of Georgia before coming to Louisville, Grantham is very familiar with Watson, a player whom the Bulldogs recruited heavily.

  "I do know Watson a little, being from the state of Georgia. I think he's an awesome young man. He's got all the characteristics that you look for in a quarterback. The intangible things, obviously I know about him. I've got a lot of respect for him," Grantham said.

"I think Watson's done a great job with their offense," he continued. "When you look at their offensive staff, they know what he does well and they're doing those things. He's getting the ball to playmakers."

 The Cardinals are fortunate to have already been exposed to quarterbacks similar to Watson. Just last week, the unit faced Syracuse's Terrell Hunt, who has rushed for 307 yards and five scores already this season. Additionally, the Cardinals have worked against their own dual-threat quarterback, freshman Reggie Bonnafon, in practice throughout the season; a fact that has allowed the defense a basis for comparison.

 "I think on the field they're pretty similar from the standpoint of they both have very good arms and can throw the ball down the field, they can throw the deep ball," Grantham said of Bonnafon and Watson.

 "They can both make a play with their feet, and make a bad play into a positive play, which is something that creates issues for defenses."


After back-to-back displays of smothering defense in wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse, the Louisville defense has returned to the top of nation's total defense ranking. Allowing opponents just 230.2 yards per game, the Cardinals are yielding opponents just 3.75 yards per play.

 As a junior on last year's squad, Lorenzo Mauldin totaled 9.5 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss, helping the Cardinals earn the title of the nation's best defense in 2013.

 Returning to the top, Mauldin said, is a point of pride.

The University of Louisville football team hit the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, continuing their preparation for their impending home meeting with ACC foe Wake Forest on Saturday. The game will mark the first home game for the Cardinals since their 66-21 win over Murray State three weeks ago, on Sept. 6. 

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and senior defensive back Terell Floyd spoke with the media after practice, previewing Wake Forest, and taking the time to answer questions about the team's preparation and a handful of other topics.



Wake Forest will mark the Cardinals' third ACC game of the season. The Cardinals opened with a 31-13 victory over Miami on Sept. 1, and dropped a 23-21 decision to Virginia two weeks ago. As does every opponent on the schedule, the Demon Deacons (2-2 overall; 0-0 ACC) will pose a new task for the Louisville defense- namely a fast-paced offense that features a dual-threat quarterback, something the Cards have yet to see.

  "Like with most college teams, they're a tempo team," Grantham said of Wake's offense. "With the read zone stuff, you've got a quarterback who can run it a well as hand it off, so you've got to be disciplined there."   For third time this season, the Cardinals will face a true freshman quarterback, in the Deacons' Wolford. Wolford has both struggled and excelled in spots this season, passing for 883 yard and six scores through four games, but also tossing seven interceptions.


Preparing for a quarterback with only four games of film creates a limited sample size for opposing defenses. But it's a challenge that Grantham says the team has adjusted to through the early part of the season.

 "You don't have as much tape to watch guys and that kind of thing," Grantham said of facing a newcomer. "And generally speaking, those guys are really trying to build as the season goes with what they're doing so you always see things added each week, whereas a guy who's a little bit older, you can go back on some tape and see things."

 For Grantham, though, the success or failure of the Cardinals in this familiar situation rides on the team's execution.

 "So again, really, it kind of goes back to us and how we play and what we do. That needs to be the focus- us doing our job and taking care of our business."


Grantham also took time to talk about two Cardinals who have helped the defense thrive through the first four games: defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin and safety Gerod Holliman.

 In his first year in Grantham's 3-4 defense, Mauldin has transitioned seamlessly from his traditional role as a pass-rusher to his new duty as an outside linebacker. Through four games, Mauldin has collected 18 tackles, the team's second-highest total. The senior wrecked havoc in last weekend's 34-3 victory at Florida International, making a season-high three tackles for loss.

 Grantham attributed Mauldin's early-season success to his physical ability, and also noted that Lozo's impact has stretched far beyond the stat-sheet.

 "I think first of all, he's made the play [as] outside linebacker in our system. When you look at a guy with his length, his burst off the ball, his athletic ability, he can do a lot of things. Not only rush, but he can drop. He can also attract blockers to free other people up," Grantham said.

 "In the game Saturday, he didn't necessarily have a sack but he (caused) two penalties that really were negative 10 yards (that) if they hadn't held him, he would've gotten the sack. And he really forced a couple other guys to get sacks, so he's affected the game. When you've got a guy like that, people are always going to try to find ways to take him out of the game."

 As for Holliman, who currently holds a nation-leading five interceptions on the season, Grantham had much praise, especially for his ability to do everything required of a complete safety.

 "He does a good job of route reading, anticipating plays on the routes. He can make plays on the ball. You know, being a safety, you've got to be able to tackle. He's done a good job of tackling. And he's a physical player. Sometimes on his route reads, he may not have been able to get there to make the pick, but he slides the ball from the receiver and forces it to be an incomplete pass or a fumble."

 With back-to-back games with two interceptions, it's apparent that Holliman is a natural playmaker- a rare attribute that Grantham says he won't detract from. Luckily for the Cards, Holliman will continue to have the green light to go get the football.

 "I don't like to coach robots at any position. It's kind of like parenting. You've kind of got to give them the boundaries, but then they've got to make the decision," Grantham said.

 "My coaching philosophy has always been to try to give guys the freedom to make the plays within the framework of the defense, understand the boundaries, and as long as guys continue to make good choices, then you continue with those guidelines."


Alongside Holliman, Terell Floyd and the team's stable of defensive backs have helped the Cardinals once again establish themselves as one of the nation's stingiest defenses. The duo, along with cornerbacks Charles Gaines and Andrew Johnson and safety James Sample, have led a Louisville secondary that has allowed opponents to pass for just 178.2 yards per game and has snagged seven interceptions.

 "I'm not surprised at all at how well we're playing," Floyd said Wednesday. "I expected this because we've got a lot of talented guys in the secondary, so I feel like I expected us to play this well right now."

 Floyd did mention, though, that he believes the defensive backfield is still in need of some improvement.

 "I also think we need improvement to get better," Floyd added, before listing a few areas in which the group could afford growth. "Technique. Film study. Just little things that we do."

 Picking off the opposing quarterback at least once in every game, the Cardinal secondary has produced an output that any coach or fan would be pleased with through the early stretch. Floyd & Co. will have their next go on Saturday in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.

Sophomore wide receiver James Quick has been inserted into the role of punt returner, and it has been well received. Quick has totaled 98 yards in the last two games, picking up 67 yards in the win over FIU last Saturday.

"At first, I was a little nervous returning punts," Quick said. "I never had a chance to return punts in high school. This was my first time returning punts in college. It was a fun experience going and putting the ball in my hands."

 On the offensive side, Quick was just as productive, accounting for 231 all-purpose yards.

 Quick also made the longest play from scrimmage this season when he caught a 74-yard pass from Will Gardner and scored a touchdown to put the Cardinals ahead 21-0. The product of Trinity High totaled 174 yards receiving, which was the most by a Cardinal receiver since Harry Douglas recorded over 200 yards versus Syracuse in 2007.

 "He really made a great play on the ball," head coach Bobby Petrino said. "That's something we've been looking for a working hard at, so it was good to see it show up in the game."



 Safety Gerod Holliman has been named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week after his performance in Louisville's 34-3 win over FIU last Saturday.

 Making his first collegiate start, Holliman collected two interceptions in the win over FIU, returning one 32 yards in the second quarter to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead. He would add another interception on the next possession to set up another score.

 A native of Miami, Fla., Holliman leads the nation in interceptions with five this season, which matches Charles Gaines' team-leading total from last season.

 "I think Holliman has done a really nice job of studying, understanding what passing routes we're going to see, having enough confidence when he sees it to not hesitate and go make a play," said Petrino. "I think that's, when you look at some of our things on offense is, sometimes you see it, you don't have enough confidence to go do it. That's what he's doing. He sees it, he's practiced it, now he's got enough confidence that he goes and makes the play."



Pio Vatuvei has made a quick transition to the Louisville defense. The junior-college transfer has started the last three games and is creating havoc upfront. Vatuvei has six tackles and one sack this year this year, but is taking on blockers to create opportunities for the linebackers. But the amazing thing is, Vatuvei arrived on campus on Aug. 4, but he hasn't missed a beat on one of the nation's top defenses. 

"Just took it day by day. When I was recruited here they told me they wanted me to be a big part of defense. I didn't know which way until I came here so just took it day by day; learned the play book, learned to scheme. Players especially, learned from them as well, so it really was a good transition for me."






FB: Cards Turn Focus to FIU; Washington Makes Impact

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The University of Louisville football team wrapped their second practice of the week on Wednesday evening. The Cardinals will looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season, which they suffered at the hands of new ACC foe Virginia by a score of 23-21. The Cards will try to avenge that loss when they travel to Miami to take on Florida International.

Looking to move forward, much of the discussion this week for the Cardinals' coaching staff has been about the impending meeting with the Panthers. At his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, head coach Bobby Petrino talked about the opportunity ahead.

"A lot of guys will go down and get to play in front of their family and friends and fans," Petrino said, making reference to the fact that more than 20 Cardinals are from the state of Florida, 14 of whom from Miami specifically.

"What we have to do is make sure we stay focused. We need to understand much like the Miami game that this is a new season, new team."

 Staying locked in will be key for the team as they take on the Panthers. The Cardinals routed FIU early last season, posting a 72-0 shutout in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. But this is a new edition of the Panthers, a squad that defeated Wagner 34-3 in week two, and one that jumped ahead of Pittsburgh by 16 points last week before a Pitt comeback.

 "We get to watch them on video against Pittsburgh where they played very well. They played tough and made plays offensively, created havoc at times with their defense against Pittsburgh's offense," Petrino said. 

 "I think that will help us get very motivated. But the biggest thing is we have to enjoy the process and enjoy the process of preparing for the game from the meetings tomorrow, to practice tomorrow, and really just focus on that right now. That will help us win the game more than anything."


Safeties coach Greg Brown took time to talk to the media on Wednesday evening, specifically to chat about his designated group- a unit that has shined particularly bright through the first three weeks of the season. Despite the solid play of Terell Floyd, Gerod Holliman, and James Sample, Brown insists there is still much work to be done.

"It's only been three weeks, and it's long way to go. Our guys have to continue to improve," Brown said. "You're either getting better or you're getting worse. Our guys have got to continue to get better, they've got to work hard in practice."

Brown was also asked specifically about the play of redshirt sophomore Gerod Holliman. Holliman, a Miami native, had a career game against Virginia, totaling six tackles and grabbing two interceptions.

"He had a good game," Brown said. "He works hard at it. He's an instinctive guy. He sees things, he processes, and he attacks. That's what makes him good."

"He's a guy who has always had some ability, always had talent. But he's worked hard, he's put himself in a position to make plays and it's worked out for our team. We're happy that he's doing so."


Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was insistent Wednesday that he and his team must continue to move forward, and be cognizant of the challenge they have ahead in Florida International. He did however, take time to address the things the he liked about his defensive unit's performance in the Virginia loss.

Grantham stated that what he was most impressed with was his team's ability to continue to make stops, even when defending a short field. Due in part to struggles on special teams and in part to penalties, the average starting field position for Virginia last Saturday was their own 44-yard line, placing the defense's back against the wall throughout the entire afternoon.

Despite the tough position, the Cardinals held the Cavaliers to 6 of 18 on third down and 285 yards of total offense.

"When you play defense, that's part of it, being able to fly around even when you get in adverse situation," Grantham said.

"That's just part of defense, you gotta go play the next play. You've got to go get the ball back. You really just have to buy in. We're one unit, one team. Once you believe that, and you trust that other guys are going to be in the right spot and you can start playing fast, I do think it kind of snowballs a bit. We've got to continue to do that and work."

Looking forward to FIU, though, Grantham was complimentary about what he's seen so far of the Panthers, and adamant that his team will face a stiff challenge this weekend.

"When you look at them, I think they're well-coached," Grantham said. "They know where to throw the ball relative to where you look. They can put it in some good spots. They've got a couple wideouts that can make some plays and they try to find ways to get those guys the ball."

"So I think they've got some good young talent. Like I said, they were up 16-0 on Pitt. They were playing hard. We've got to understand that and be ready to play."


One of the unexpected bright spots against Virginia was freshman cornerback Trumaine Washington, who stepped in to provide the Cardinals with four total tackles and a game-swaying sack in the fourth quarter.

"I think he made some plays," Grantham said of Washington. "He's a guy who has shown up in practice, being physical, making plays on the ball. I think that the more playing time he gets that will come out, and we'll see some production there. We're pleased with his progress."

Washington saw got his first taste of action two weeks ago, in the team's 66-21 win over Murray State. The Miami, Fla. native made two tackles against the Racers. 

"It feels great to get my number called," Washington said Wednesday, speaking to the media for the first time.

"Whenever my number gets called, I just feel like I can be the best I can be. It all starts in practice, I go hard in practice. As you can see, the results are in the game. I made a play and helped my team get a big stop."

Being from Florida, Washington is excited for this weekend's game at Florida International, and the opportunity to go back home with big game experience under his belt.

"It feels great, going back home in Miami. My family is coming to see me, friends, and my teammates from high school."

"Even though we're going back home and every body is watching us, it's still a business trip. We're just trying to get one thing done, and that's to get the win." 

FB: Lamb Sees Big Things on His Touchdown Run

Big-screen scoreboards are great for the fans, but who knew the players enjoy looking at them as well.

As junior running back Corvin Lamb of the University of Louisville football team was racing 97 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown in the win over Miami, he glanced up at the scoreboard to get a glimpse at himself.

"I was running full speed until I looked at myself at the big screen," Lamb said after practice on Thursday. "It was so amazing. I was just so happy to be out there running again with my teammates."

After a 24-yard field goal put Miami ahead 10-7, Lamb took a kickoff at the three-yard line and went untouched for an electrifying return for a touchdown that excited the crowd. It changed the complexion of the game and helped the Cardinals to a 31-13 ACC win in front of a sold-out crowd.

"I knew that we were down and that something needed to be done," Lamb said. "I didn't know I was going to do it right then. I felt it, but it did feel good to do it."

The scary thing for opponents on the rest of the teams on the schedule, Lamb said he never really reached full speed.

"I have been out for a full year so it was exciting to be out there," Lamb said. "I wasn't even running full speed, but I would like to be. I don't think I got touched, I remember just hitting it and running. I was trying to make a play and contribute to the team."

Lamb's road to recovery has been difficult after tearing his ACL early in the season last year, and the road back has been long and winding.

"It was more of a mental struggle seeing my teammates out there having fun," Lamb said. "I was just inside, and I can't go outside because I was doing my rehabilitation.  It was a process. It was a mental process of just getting myself together."

Lamb's long road back came full circle when he was out on the field for the opening kickoff, and he was happy to contribute on special teams.

"I feel like special teams is a huge part of the game and it can change the complexion of the game," Lamb said. "If I have to be on special teams to help my team win, I will do that to help my team win."

FB: Defense pleased with effort, but looks to move on

The University of Louisville football team entered their Monday evening matchup against the University of Miami (Fla.) intent on making an emphatic statement.

  With a dominant 31-13 victory, the Cardinals did just that. And it started with their performance on defense.


As a team, the Cardinals held the traditionally potent Hurricane offense to just 244 yards of total offense. Led by a front seven that plugged holes seemingly as soon as they appeared, the Cards stifled Miami to a total of 70 rushing yards, keeping 2013 first team All-ACC running back selection Duke Johnson to 90 rushing yards and, more importantly, out of the end zone.


Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham noted Wednesday that the performance was a direct result of the team's preparation over the last month.


"We did what we had to do," Grantham, speaking to the media for the first time since Monday's win, said.


"I thought the guys played with effort and energy. I was pleased with the communication both on the field and on the sidelines. I thought we prepared. You can see the invested time we had going into the scheme and learning the game plan. Credit goes to the players for doing that."


When getting into specifics, Grantham praised the play of the defensive line and linebackers- a group that held the Hurricanes to an average of 2.6 yards per rush on Monday night.


"I thought the guys played with energy," Grantham said. "They played with pad level. Did a good job with their hands. Controlled the line of scrimmage. They made it hard for them to run the ball."


"I was really pleased with their effort, energy, and the way that they played."


The group was provided a boost by defensive end-turned-outside linebacker Deiontrez Mount. Mount made eight stops on the night, good for the team's second-highest total. Mount also earned credit for two tackles for loss and a sack in the outstanding season-opening performance.


Mount, who converts to a role as an outside linebacker in Grantham's 3-4 defensive scheme, said that his first in-game experience of the new system was even better than he had imagined throughout fall camp.


"I love it," Mount said with a grin of his impression of the 3-4 with a game now under his belt. "Me and (fellow outside end-turned-backer) Lorenzo (Mauldin) loved it. We always joke around on the field that we're going to do big things this year, and we definitely did."


The 6-foot-5 243-pound senior from Fort Walton Beach, Fla. figures to have plenty more opportunities this season to do just that. Moving into a starting role this year following the departure of first round NFL Draft pick Marcus Smith, Mount brings experience to the table. Despite missing significant time to injury twice in his Louisville career, Mount has made nine starts, and has appeared in 33 contests, tallying more than 50 tackles.


As if a new role as a full-time starter were not enough motivation for the performance he gave in the Cardinals' first game as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Mount credits the atmosphere of the stadium for providing him the boost he needed.


"I was pumped, man," Mount said of bursting through the tunnel and on to the field for the first time this season, into a horseshoe of a record 55,428 screaming fans clad, like the Cardinals, in all black.


"I couldn't believe my eyes when I ran outside. There was black everywhere, I could barely see my own hands. It was just amazing. We need that more often."


Though there is plenty to talk about with regard to Mount's showing against Miami, the senior leader insists that his focus is on moving forward. The Cardinals have a short turnaround, as they'll play host to Murray State on Saturday.


"It's pretty tough man. Anyone can beat any team. With this quick turnaround anyone can be a good match for you."


Mount is quick to credit Murray State and their capabilities on offense, insistent that despite their status as an FCS school, they're a worthy opponent.


"You just can't have people pat you back. You just can't listen to that stuff. They play football. They strap on their pads just like we strap on our pads."


Kickoff between the Cardinals and Racers is slated for 7 p.m., Saturday Sept. 6, at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

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