Archive for January, 2013

January 3, 2013

Louisville Wins 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl

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.

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January 1, 2013

Sugar Bowl Notebook: Day 6

Click Here for the GoCards.com Sugar Bowl Coverage Index

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.”

Notable Quotes…
“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.

January 1, 2013

Sugar Bowl Notebook: Day 5

Click Here for the GoCards.com Sugar Bowl Coverage Index

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.”

Notable Quotes…
“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.