Sugar Bowl Notebook: Day 5

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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.

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