Cardinals Complete Phase I of Sugar Bowl Prep
On Friday, the 18th-ranked Louisville football team conducted its final pre-Christmas practice session in preparation for the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl. After going their separate ways for a four-day holiday hiatus, the Cardinals will reconvene on Dec. 26 before traveling to New Orleans the following day where they will continue the countdown to their matchup with No. 4 Florida at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Jan. 2/8:30 p.m., ET/ESPN).
“We ended phase one of our bowl camp on Friday and we’ll come back on the 26th (of December),” explained Strong. “What I want to do is give these guys time to get home and get some rest. We’ve been working very hard and I’ve been very pleased with the way we’ve practiced. We will come back on the 26th, practice on the morning of the 27th and then get on the plane and go to New Orleans.
“We’re happy to be in the position we’re in with a chance to go to a BCS bowl game. It’s an outstanding job that this football team has done and a credit to how hard they’ve worked all season long.”
The Cardinals’ team headquarters will be at the New Orleans Marriott, while all practice sessions will be held at either the Superdome or at the New Orleans Saints practice facility.
Lengthy Layoff Allows Louisville Players to Heal
With more than 30 days between the Cardinals’ regular season finale at Rutgers (Nov. 29) and the showdown with the Gators (Jan. 2), the Louisville players have taken advantage of the added time off to rest and heal from the grind of the week-to-week season. Strong told reporters on Thursday that aside from running back Senorise Perry, who is out with a season-ending injury, no other Louisville players were held out of practices this week due to injuries sustained during the regular season. Having so many healthy players in practice has made the Sugar Bowl prep feel more like fall camp.
“It is like the first game. We played our last game on the 29th of November and now you don’t play again until January 2nd, so you have a month off,” Strong said. “It’s like fall camp where you get here in August and you don’t play that game until the first week of September, so you have guys that have been injured and banged up a little that you have a chance to get back.”
Emphasis on Gators in Early Practice Sessions
Prior to opening their Sugar Bowl preparations, Strong and his coaching staff told reporters they expected the December practices to serve as an opportunity for many of the Cardinals’ first and second year players to gain increased reps. However, Strong said this week that those chances have been limited due to the team’s early emphasis on preparing for what they’ll see across the field from a highly talented group of Gators.
“Our focus has been on Florida, so we haven’t had much time with the young players,” said Strong. “We do give them some reps, but really, we don’t have enough guys where we can go scrimmage with the young players. It’s all about the preparation for Florida.”