Dec. 12, 2011
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Heading into the 2011 Belk Bowl, Louisville is playing its best football at the right time. Winners of five of their last six games, the Cardinals overcame a 2-4 start to win their first BIG EAST title since 2006 and capture their second-straight bowl appearance.
--- Tickets are available still for the bowl game. Visit Louisville's Belk Bowl Central for more information or click here to purchase tickets immediately. ---
The Cardinals take on NC State on Dec. 27 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The game is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
"We're really excited about being invited to go play in the Belk Bowl," said head coach Charlie Strong. "I had a chance to go to Charlotte last week. I had a chance to visit there numerous times when I lived in Columbia, S.C. It is a very nice city. It is going to be a city that is going to welcome our football team with open arms, and we're really excited. If you look at this program, we're 2-4 and for us to make a run in the last six games and go 5-1, it speaks volumes of this program, the leadership, the direction and just how far it's come."
The Cardinals slumped to 2-4 after a loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 15, but turned it around in league play with key wins over nationally ranked West Virginia and consecutive road wins for the league title and a bowl-game bid. The Cardinals were forced to go with youth and inexperience, but it has paid off in the end because of the infusion of freshmen on both sides of the football.
"You look at a young football team," said Strong. "You look at us on offense. At one point in the last game there, you look at Teddy (Bridgewater) at quarterback, two guards in (Jake) Smith and (John) Miller. Then, you look at the wide receiver with Eli (Rogers), DeVante (Parker) and Michaelee (Harris) - you have three freshmen there. There's six freshmen right there on offense. Then you look at the defensive side. You look at the free safety, a true freshman. You look at the corner is a true freshman. You look at (Lorenzo) Mauldin, who we took from tight end and who is a true freshman. Then you look at B.J. Dubose. So we have some youth on this team, a team that grew up really fast."
Louisville has practiced just five times since the end of the season, but is beginning bowl preparations for a solid NC State team that has won three of its last four games, including a win over nationally ranked Clemson.
"We're excited to be a representative going to play in the Belk Bowl," said Strong. "We will have bowl preparations on Wednesday. We will start preparing to go play a very good NC State team. It is a team that is loaded with a lot of talent. If you look at their defense, they have a corner (Dave Amerson) who was a Walter Camp All-American. He is a really outstanding corner, who led the country in interceptions. Then, a quarterback (Mike Glennon) on offense, who is able to move the ball down the field with a big receiver. It is going to be a good challenge for our football team. We know this; we have to be prepared to play."
Louisville will resume with eight-straight practices, beginning on Dec. 14-21 before boarding the charter plane for Charlotte that final day.
"We start on Wednesday," said Strong. "We start our bowl preparations. We will go all of the way through. We'll leave here on the 21st to go to the city of Charlotte. Then, we'll continue our bowl preparation once we get into the city of Charlotte. We're extremely excited about where we are going and the direction of this football team."
Added Strong, "We've been able to practice some weekends, not doing very much. It's all about fundamentals and technique right now. What we've been doing with this football team right now is just getting them ready with fundamentals and making sure they stay sharp. We've been doing that over the weekend because we've been getting ready for final exams and making sure academically our players continue to go to class and make sure we pass. Not just take classes, but make sure we are where we need to be with "A's" and "B's" and "C's" and not guys who just go through the motions. We are not going to let that happen academically."
The Cardinals own a 3-0 series advantage over the Wolfpack, including a 29-10 win at NC State in 2007. Louisville defeated an ACC foe, Wake Forest, in the 2007 Orange Bowl, and is looking for its third-straight post-season win for the first time in school history.