Sugar Bowl Notebook: Day 2

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In head coach Charlie Strong’s third season with the Cardinals, he has taken the UofL program to its highest level since 2006. When 18th-ranked Louisville takes the field against No. 4 Florida on in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night, the program will be making its second BCS bowl appearance overall and first since winning the 2007 Orange Bowl. With the Cardinals playing in such a grand spotlight like the one offered by the Sugar Bowl, motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Louisville players.

“It was good to bring (the motivational tactics) up, but if you’re not motivated for this game, something is wrong with you,” said senior fullback Nick Heuser. “Just walking in the Superdome today, the coaches made us stop and look around. This is what we work for, this is a big time game and we’re turning into a big time program. We’re motivated.”

Arriving in New Orleans and practicing for the first time inside the massive Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday afternoon helped remind the Cardinals of what they’ve accomplished this season. Two of the key goals for this team were to win a BIG EAST title and earn a spot in a BCS bowl game and now, the goal is to close out this memorable season with a win.

“It was a great feeling,” said junior defensive tackle Brandon Dunn on walking in the Superdome for practice. “It was like ‘okay, we’re here, so let’s go take care of business.’ We’ve come a long way and we’ve battled through lots of ups and downs. We’ve reached where we wanted to get to, now let’s finish it.”

Cardinals Work Hard in Friday’s Session
Louisville practiced for more than two hours inside the Superdome on Friday and the session was highlighted by a very aggressive pace. With kickoff still several days away, the Cardinals expect to have a few more intense practices in New Orleans before they get into the final stages of preparations for the Gators.

“We will taper back early next week, but these next couple of days are important,” said senior offensive lineman Alex Kupper. “They’re important for getting our legs going a little bit and getting the game plan in place.”

Gators’ Running Game to Test Louisville Defense
On the offensive side of the ball, Florida running back Mike Gillislee is one of the top runners in the country, averaging 92.0 yards per game. The Gators have punished their opponents on the ground this season, averaging 194.5 yards per game and while tallying 21 scores on the ground. With such a strong emphasis and a high level of success coming from the running game, the Cardinals be tested in slowing down the Gators’ attack.

“Hopefully, not much more because that will mean our front seven is taking care of the job,” said senior cornerback Adrian Bushell when asked if he expected his role in the run defense to increase. “But, if it comes down to it, I’m ready. This is a good team and they’re going to make a few plays, but we have to step up and hold them to three.”

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