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Cinderella's last dance

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Wake Forest showed again why they came into the Orange Bowl game 11-2, winners of the ACC, and the surprise story of the 2006 collegiate football season. They played smart, they played with confidence and they played as a team.

For a little over three quarters they played evenly with Louisville and looked like they were putting themselves in position to win one at the end just as they had done so many times before this year. With a little over 12 minutes left in the game, Louisville's explosive offense (averaging 38.9 points per game) had put up only 10.

Wake Forest's offense, though stymied throughout the night, was doing just enough to hang on to a three-point lead at 13-10.

The prior three quarters had consisted mostly of turnovers and missed opportunities for both teams. Louisville fumbled the ball away twice in its own territory and watched as sure-handed wide receiver Mario Urrutia dropped a potential 62-yard touchdown pass. Lou Groza Award winner Mark Carmody also missed a 32-yard chip shot – only his fourth miss of the season.

Not to be outdone, the Demon Deacons committed three turnovers, all in Cardinal territory, and missed a 47-yard field goal right before half.

Then, the bubble burst for Wake Forest. The Cinderella story was laid aside while Louisville took care of business. The Cardinals, who had not long ago played that same part, took on their new role of legitimate national power and put Sleeping Beauty to bed.

Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Brian Brohm led the Cardinals on two consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 81 and 71 yards to secure the 24-13 victory and reestablish themselves among college football's elite.

Louisville's Brohm must now make some tough decisions on whether to apply for this year's NFL draft or come back for his final season. He is projected to be a first-round selection, but he says he is now leaning toward coming back.

Louisville ends the season with a 12-1 record and its highest season-ending ranking ever. The Cardinals will now go back home hoping to become a legitimate contender for next year's national title.

Wake Forest, on the other hand, will go back home hoping to become a Louisville.