The 2013 University of Louisville football season opener versus Ohio is just 100 days away. The Cardinals take on a solid Bobcat team, who won nine games last season, including a win in the Independence Bowl.
On Dominique Brown:
“He is doing well. He is transitioning back from being injured. He always stayed in with what we were doing, like the meetings. He has really grown.”
On Brown’s Ability Coming Off His Injury:
“His ability is the same. His ability has always been good. Now, he is playing more and he is more effective in what we are doing pass-protection wise. You can tell he is really locked in conceptually understanding what we are trying to do.”
On 1,000-Yard Rushers:
“I would say the goal is to have two 1,000-yard rushers. He definitely has that ability. You also have two other guys in Senorise (Perry) and Corvin (Lamb) who have that ability. Senorise would have been a 1,000-yard rusher if he didn’t miss four games. You have two other guys who can do it too.”
On Dominique Brown’s Size:
“For his size, he is very athletic and that will bode well for him. It will help him. For example, in the West Virginia game we had an unblocked guy right there he made a run for the first down.”
On Senroise Perry’s Rehab:
“He is doing well. He is really coming along. He is running now. He is doing some things where he is changing direction both front and back. He isn’t doing anything laterally. We are going to hold on that for a while, but he is doing a good job.”
Teddy Bridgewater Quotes from Wednesday’s First Practice
On the first day
“It’s a great feeling. The offseason went well. The guys came out and competed. The first day is about being organized and showing effort. Today, everyone came out and gave it their all.”
On his third spring season
“There is a big difference. With this being my third spring, I feel like a veteran. I feel like I’m one of those guys that everyone looks up too. If the young guys are out there and they don’t know their assignments, I want to be out there to help them. That is something different about this team”
On the difference with having everyone back
“We know with all the guys are coming back, and we have that chemistry and everyone has faith in one another.”
On having a great bunch of wide receivers
“That is every quarterbacks dream, ball fetchers. Devante Parker, Damian Copeland, Robert Clark, a new edition. Those guys bring excitement to the offense.”
On the addition of Gerald Christian and Robert Clark
“They change things up. We are able to do a lot more now that GC is here. We are able to have more packages with the tight end on the field. Robert Clark brings that speed to the offense; that quickness and elusiveness.”
On Gerald Christian
“He is a machine. He will go across the middle and catch the ball with three defenders on his back. He can block. He can pancake guys. He is an offensive lineman, a running back and a wide receiver in one body.”
On what he needs to improve on
“I want to improve my mechanics and become a leader. I want to more to my left more and throwing the deep ball more. It has to come natural and come from within. At times, I’m a shy person, but lately I’m showing my true character.”
On Will Stein graduating
“It’s weird not having Will (Stein) there. Will was the guy who pushed me. He knew the offense. I’m the guy who has to teach the offense, while Will was the guy who was teaching me the offense.”
On the back-up quarterback position
“Will Gardner is a star in the making and Brett Nelson is too. Both guys are ready to compete and eager to learn. They are both ready to get out there and show what they can do.”
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Louisville safety Calvin Pryor predicted the Cardinals would “shock the world” against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Brave words that he and his teammates backed up from start to finish against an SEC power.
Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play, dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater directed a handful of scoring drives and No. 22 Louisville stunned the fourth-ranked Gators 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.
By the end, the chant, “Charlie, Charlie!” echoed from sections of the Superdome occupied by red-clad Cardinals fans. It their way of serenading third-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong, the former defensive coordinator for the Gators, who has elevated Cardinals football to new heights and recently turned down a chance to leave behind what he’s built for the top job at Tennessee.
“They kind of thought we were going to come in and lay down and give them the game,” Floyd said. “But Coach Strong always preaches that we’re better than any team in the nation if we come out and play hard. Coach Strong believed in us and our coaching staff believed in us and we came in and believed in ourselves.”
Shaking off an early hit that flattened him and knocked off his helmet, Bridgewater was 20 of 32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns against the heavily favored Gators. Among his throws was a pinpoint, 15-yard timing toss that DeVante Parker acrobatically grabbed as he touched one foot down in the corner of the end zone.
“I looked at what did and didn’t work for quarterbacks during the regular season,” said Bridgewater, picked as the game’s top player. “They faced guys forcing throws … and coach tells me, `No capes on your back or `S’ on your chest, take what the defense give you.’ That’s what I took. Film study was vital.”
His other scoring strike went to Damian Copeland from 19 yards one play after a surprise onside kick by the Gators backfired badly. Jeremy Wright had short touchdown run which gave the two-touchdown underdogs from the Big East a 14-0 lead from which the Gators never recovered.
A complete recap of Wednesday’s Sugar Bowl win with links to postgame interviews, stats, notes, quotes and photos is available here at GoCards.com.
On Tuesday, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong met with reporters for the final time in advance of the Cardinals’ showdown with Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Cards and Gators will kick off on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., ET inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Louisville Offense to Run Through Healthy Bridgewater
During Tuesday’s press conference on the eve of the Cardinals’ second BCS bowl appearance, Strong provided an update on the health status of sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The 2012 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year is recovering from a broken left (non-throwing) wrist and a tweaked ankle suffered in the final two weeks of the regular season. Despite the injuries, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to the BIG EAST title clinching win at Rutgers on Nov. 29 and has been healing ever since.
“The last few weeks have really been to his advantage because now he’s been able to get healthy,” Strong told reporters on Tuesday. “Our game plan is all about Teddy and Teddy’s healthy now. I’m not saying he’s 100 percent, but he’s going to be better than he was in the Rutgers game.”
Cardinals Look to Get Physical with Gators
Having struggled in the running game during much of the second half of the regular season, the Cardinals will need to have success with its rushing attack against the stingy Florida defense. The goal for any team coached by Strong is to play physical and that begins with running the football effectively.
“You’d like to play physical. The only way you can play physical, you have to be able to run the football and Florida does a great job stopping the run,” explained Strong. “I think the last few games, we’ve not done a good job at all running the football. Since Senorise went down, Jeremy has carried most of the load, but it’s not all on Jeremy’s shoulder. We have to do a better job of blocking. In order to play football, you’ve got to control the line of scrimmage. That’s not what we’re doing right now.”
Sugar Bowl a Measuring Stick for Louisville
With only four seniors among their 22 starters on offense and defense, Louisville remains a very young football team. And with so many players set to return in 2013 from the Cardinals’ BIG EAST title winning and 10-win squad in 2012, expectations will be very high entering next season. For Strong and his team, that 2013 season starts with Wednesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup.
“I always tell them this (bowl game) is the first game of next season and it shows us exactly where we are,” said Strong. “And now, you have a team that is a really good football team. We have to have a good showing in this football game because we need to know exactly where we are. It’s going to be a measuring stick for our program and it’s going to either show us how far behind we are or how much further we need to go.”
Memories of Gainesville Fond for Strong
With four different successful coaching stints as an assistant at the University of Florida, Strong has many special memories from his time in Gainesville. While winning two BCS national championships and numerous SEC titles, Strong built a highly impressive coaching resume with the success he enjoyed as a Gator.
“Well, I spent so many years there, it was a special time for me,” Strong said of his coaching career at Florida. “I think, when you start from the ’80s and the ’90s, I was able to work with every head coach in that program. It was a special — it was special times for me. I really put my career there. I had some great wins, great losses, but you always learn from it. I was able to develop and become a really good football coach because of my experience there.”
“I think with the focus, even before we came to New Orleans, we started practicing in Louisville and they understand who they’re playing, they understand the bowl game. Now, they have a chance to get to a BCS Bowl game. The opponent, the University of Florida, speaks for itself. I don’t have to say much because a lot of these players on our team are from the state of Florida, so they know a lot of the players that they’re going up against. They understand it’s the University of Florida and it’s the Southeastern Conference and we’re in the Sugar Bowl.” — Strong on the team’s focus entering the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
“What’s going to be key is not giving up the big play and being able to just stop the run.” — Strong on the key to Wednesday night’s game with the Gators.
“I guess it really hasn’t hit me yet. I haven’t seen many of the players. Probably, when I walk into the stadium for the first time tomorrow night and look across the sideline, you see a lot of those players you were able to recruit. Then it kind of hits you. Once you hear the band rev up and play the different songs that you’re so familiar with — and we had a function last night, saw a lot of the administrators. It will be something special.” — Strong on the impact of coaching against Florida.
On Monday, Louisville conducted its final practice session inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in preparation for Wednesday night’s matchup with Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl. Following practice, selected UofL players met with reporters to preview the BCS bowl game.
Veterans Help Teach Youthful Cardinals in Banner Season
With only four seniors earning starting roles and few than 10 total seniors playing significant roles this season, maturity always figured to be a key in whether Louisville could earn its second BCS bowl berth in school history. From the first day of preseason training camp in August through the final horn in a dramatic come-from-behind win at Rutgers to clinch the BIG EAST title, the Cardinals showed significant growth as a team. And one of the key reasons for the successful growth starts with the leadership exhibited by Louisville’s senior class.
“I feel like we’re more mature now,” senior wide receiver Scott Radcliff said on Monday afternoon. “We have a lot of young guys playing and I think the old guys help the young guys realize they need to grow. They’re playing and they need to realize this is a fast game. This isn’t high school anymore. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve done.”
Cardinals Look to Keep Speedy Driskel Contained
The Florida offense has found much of its success this season on the ground. First Team All-SEC running back Mike Gillislee has led the way with more than 1,100 yards rushing, but he certainly isn’t the only running threat for the Gators. Speedy sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel provides Florida with an added dimension thanks to his outstanding ability as a runner. The Gators’ second-leading rusher with more than 400 yards this season, Driskell can turn any unsuccessful or broken offensive play into a positive gain and that has the attention of the Louisville defense.
“Playing against a running quarterback, and Driskell is a dual-threat quarterback, you have to keep your rush lanes,” explained sophomore defensive end Deiontrez Mount. “If you get out of your rush lanes, then the quarterback can expose them and that can end very badly.”
Defensive Line Anchors’ the Gators
The ability of the Florida defense has been well documented throughout the days and weeks leading up to the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators rank third in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 12.9 points per game. They also rank No. 1 nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.49), No. 5 in total defense (282.6 yard per game) and sixth in the nation in rushing defense (97.0 yards per game). Most believe the anchor of this outstanding unit is the defensive line, led by junior Sharrif Floyd, a First Team All-SEC selection and a Third Team AP All-American, and senior Omar Hunter. This interior duo has combined for 54 starts up front providing experience and talent for Florida.
“Their defensive line is probably the strongest part of their defense and of their team,” said sophomore wide receiver Eli Rogers. “They have a great front seven. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re up for it.”
Early New Year’s Eve Curfew Works for the Cardinals
With the madness of Bourbon Street on New Year’s Eve rocking less than three blocks from the Cardinals’ team hotel at the New Orleans Marriott, the Louisville football players welcomed 2013 from the comfort of their rooms thanks to a 10:30 p.m., CT curfew. Despite not celebrating the New Year like many other college students, the Cardinals were more than willing to flip the calendars together in a more calm setting thanks to the opportunity they earned to compete on one of the biggest stages in all of college football.
“Those college kids aren’t playing in a BCS bowl game,” said Radcliff of whether he’d prefer to celebrate New Year’s like other college students. “I’d rather do that than go out and party one night. It’ll be a good night tonight. We’ll hang back, hang out with all of the players and just relax. We have an early curfew. We’ll see our families beforehand, but then we’ll all be on lockdown and just hang out with each other.”
“The mindset is to go out and have fun. This is my last game and I’m going to have fun. It’s going to be a blast.” — Wide receiver Scott Radcliff on his mindset going into the Sugar Bowl.
“It’s all been the same. It’s a change of setting, but it’s all been the same.” — Offensive lineman Kamran Joyer on whether practice has been different in New Orleans compared to Louisville.
“In August, we were still learning each other. Now, I believe everyone is flying around more and we understand the game better.” — Wide receiver Eli Rogers on the change in the team since preseason camp in August.
On Sunday, Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and selected members of the Cardinals’ defense met with reporters to preview Wednesday’s showdown against Florida in New Orleans in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Florida Offense Confident, Explosive
The Florida offense has improved throughout the season and enters the Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Louisville coming off a strong performance against Florida State. In the 37-26 win over the Seminoles, the Gators scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, the most FSU had surrendered in the fourth quarter at home dating back to at least 1996. Florida rushed for 244 yards on 47 carries (5.2 avg.) and scored three touchdowns on the ground against an FSU defense which had been giving up just 70.6 yards per game. First Team All-SEC running back Mike Gillislee led the way against the Seminoles With 140 yards on 24 carries (5.8 avg.) to take his season totals to 1,104 yards rushing on 235 carries (4.7 avg.).
“They play with a lot of confidence,” Bedford said of the Florida offense. “The offensive line is big and athletic. I think right now the quarterback position, they’re playing better. You could see the confidence building every single game. The receivers are starting to step up. They’re making plays and did an outstanding job versus Florida State. And Gillislee is playing lights out, so we’re very concerned about that running game.”
Gators’ Attack Starts Up Front
The success of the Florida offense begins up front with a talented group of offensive linemen. And it’s not just a group of five guys either as eight different offensive linemen have started games this season and 11 linemen have seen game action. Left tackle Xavier Nixon is the most experienced Gator on the offensive line with 32 starts for UF. The Cardinals’ defensive front will be tested in trying to close down running lanes and pressure the Gators’ passing attack on Wednesday.
“They remind me a little bit of North Carolina,” Bedford said of the Florida offensive line. “North Carolina was big. They were strong. They were athletic. And they can get their hands on you, they present a problem. They do a variety of things on offense. They run power games. They run spread games. So you have to play great technique up front. That’s why we have to move up front. We have to bring linebacker, defensive backs which is what we do already. It’s going to be a major problem. And when Mike gets the ball in his hand, there’s no telling what can happen.”
Decision to Leave Florida for Louisville Not Easy for Bedford
When Charlie Strong accepted the head coaching job at Louisville following the 2009 season, Bedford had just completed his second season on the coaching staff at Florida. While with the Gators, Bedford worked closely with Strong in guiding the UF defense, so it came as no surprise when he was offered the defensive coordinator position by Strong on his first Louisville team. However, the decision on whether to accept the offer was not an easy one for Bedford, whose association with then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer goes back many years. In the end, it was Bedford’s close relationship with Strong that helped him make his final decision, one that has certainly worked well for the Cardinals.
“You know, it really wasn’t, because Urban wanted me to stay with him,” said Bedford on whether the decision to join Strong was an easy one. “Sitting down and talking to my wife, it was tough to make that decision. I’ve known Charlie for a while as I’ve known Urban. I knew Urban when he was a wide receiver coach at Colorado State with Earl Bruce. We go way back. It was an opportunity and a change for me to go out and do different things. I told Charlie, ‘you’ve been an outstanding defensive coordinator for a long time in this league. For me to come and work for you as a defensive coordinator, I’m going to lean on you and trust you.’ He’s been there the entire time with us. That’s one of the reasons why we’re playing great defense. He’s a guy I can go to: What do you think about this, what do you think about that? So we rode together, we’re on the same page together, because of that we’re sitting here today.”
Louisville Train Continues Rolling in 2012
Prior to the 2011 season, Bedford made headlines in Louisville with his energetic “get on the train” speech during the Cardinals’ media day activities. It was an electrifying talk on the future of the Louisville football program and a not-so-subtle urge for fans and media to get on board with what Strong was doing with the Cardinals. That speech became a topic of discussion during Sunday’s media activities with reporters when Bedford was asked to review those comments less than 18 months after his declaration.
“Well, we’re sitting here right now in New Orleans. I think it’s rolling pretty good,” Bedford said. “Because we are ahead of what anyone ever expected us. Who in the country expected us to be sitting right here in the Sugar Bowl, to be in the Sugar Bowl game. It’s heading in the right direction. We have the young talent. We’re a junior/sophomore team. On defense, we only have one senior that’s starting. On offense, we have three seniors that are starting. You’re talking about a young football team, so the future’s ahead of us. And what Tom Jurich has done — he’s moved us into the next era, the era of the ACC. Everything we’re looking for as a coaching staff, as a football team, Tom Jurich has brought to the table for us, so we’re excited to be where we are right now.”
“The sky’s the limit for this team. It’s a bunch of young guys, a bunch of hungry guys. And we have a bunch of coaches who are ready to take it to the top.” — Cornerback Adrian Bushell on the future of Louisville’s program.
“You got to really stay on your toes because you really have to stay on the quarterback. He may run and decide plays quickly, and if he makes you miss like he’s done in a couple of games, you’ll be down for a while.” — Linebacker Preston Brown on Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.
“We are using this as motivation to show the world what we can do. People are giving Florida a 93 percent chance of winning and that makes us want to show the nation what we can do versus an SEC opponent.” — Defensive end Marcus Smith on the Cardinals’ mentality of being an underdog.
“Yeah, we are having a real good time seeing the city of New Orleans. Coach [Charlie] Strong stresses to us when it’s time to work, you work and when it’s time to have fun, you have fun.” — Defensive end Marcus Smith on being in New Orleans.
On Saturday, Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and selected members of the Cardinals’ offense met with reporters to preview Wednesday’s matchup with Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Character, Football IQ Set Bridgewater Apart
The rise of sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater among the nation’s top signal callers has been impressive to watch. Whether it’s been leading the Cardinals to one of their numerous fourth quarter wins this season, or playing brilliantly through multiple injuries in Louisville’s come-from-behind win at Rutgers to clinch a BCS berth, the 2012 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year has exhibited terrific leadership and poise. Everything he does on the football field starts with who he is away from the field.
“From day one, he’s been a great student of the game,” Watson said of Bridgewater. “Because of his understanding of the game and what we do conceptually, he understands football and it goes slow for him. He’s a great decision-maker. He can create in and out of the pocket. He’s the best football player I’ve ever coached. He’s a very talented young man. And he has great character to go along with it.”
With so much talent and ability to go with his outstanding work ethic and football IQ, Bridgewater’s skill-set has allowed the Louisville coaches more flexibility in the way they prepare their game plans. It adds an increased level of responsibility for Bridgewater, but as he has shown so efficiently this season, he is more than capable of handling those duties.
“We put a lot on our quarterback,” Watson explained. “We run a pro-style offense, so he has to make a lot of decisions for us in every aspect of the game. He gets us in the right play at the line of scrimmage many times. He fixes our protection at the line of scrimmage. And he makes pass decisions. Really, he’s a coach on the field. It’s been remarkable for me. I’ve been doing this 30 years and coaching this position for 20 of those 30 and I’ve never had a guy who could do so much so early. He just has a high football intelligence that goes along with his competitiveness. He sees himself succeeding in everything he does, so we put a lot of responsibility on him.”
Florida Defense Defined by Talent, Skill
The Gators have hung their hat on defense this season, limiting the opposition to 283.4 yards of total offense. Florida is stout against the pass as the Gators have registered 19 interceptions this season led by four from Matt Elam. The Gators have allowed just 155 points this season, an average of only 12.9 points per game.
“They have great talent all across the board and they have depth,” Watson said in talking about the Florida defense. “That tends to lead to success and what they do schematically is very good. They can rush four guys. They don’t have to bring a lot of pressure on you because they’re so good up front and they have lock down people on the back end. Their safeties are good coverage players. Their linebackers can cover, so they have every piece defensively that you could ever want.”
Elam Leads the Way for Gators’ Defense
Elam, a junior defensive back from Palm Beach Gardens, leads the Florida defense. The First Team All-American is second on the team with 65 tackles, including a game-high 10 at Tennessee and team-best seven vs. LSU, when he forced a game-changing fumble in the third quarter. He has 10.0 tackles for loss, five pass-breakups and a team-high four interceptions after a pick in Tallahassee in the win over Florida State.
“I’ve watched him play in every one of their games and in those, you see what a great player he is and you appreciate his style of play,” said Watson of Elam. “He’s a very physical player. He can cover. He embodies everything you want in a player at that position. He’s a guy that can wreck a game for you, so we have to account for him. He’s an excellent football player. The staff there at Florida does a great job of using him and putting him in positions to execute for them. He’s come up with several big plays. He does it all and he’s a great player.”
Sunshine state Recruiting Key to Cards’ Improvement
Any coach will tell you that recruiting is the key to the success of a program. And with the Louisville football team’s return to the national spotlight has been the successes on the recruiting trail. Led by head coach Charlie Strong’s experience coaching and recruiting in the talent-rich state of Florida, the Cardinals have welcomed a large number of highly athletic and highly skilled players from the Sunshine State during the last three seasons and their impact on the team’s success is noticeable.
“It’s been huge for us,” Watson said of recruiting in Florida. “Charlie, with his background and with a number of our assistant coaches being from Florida and having experience recruiting the state, there are a lot of strong ties with our staff to the high school coaches and that community of coaches down there. We have 34 players that are from Florida and those kids are the ones that have turned around our program.”
“(Florida) recruited me as a quarterback, but I actually wanted to play wide receiver.” — Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on his prep recruitment by Florida.
“In games like these, you don’t try to put an ‘S’ on your chest or a cape on your back. You just take what they give you.” — Bridgewater on whether his approach changes in a game like the Sugar Bowl.
“Elam is obviously a huge part of their defense. He’s an All-American. He’s in on every single tackle. He’ll be a player that I know Teddy will be watching a lot.” — Center Mario Benavides on the impact of Florida defensive back Matt Elam.
“He’s definitely a players’ coach. When there’s a problem, we can go talk to him. He cares for us as players and he looks out for what’s best for us.” — Running back Jeremy Wright on Cards’ head coach Charlie Strong.