Dec. 31, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - A lot of the University of Louisville football players on the 2012 squad hear all about the "Orange Bowl" team, and how that team is still honored throughout campus and in the city. That team was certainly very special, culminating an 11-1 regular season with a win over Wake Forest in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
While the 2012 Cardinals don't mind hearing about that outstanding football team, this year's team wants to make it's the own name with a win over third-ranked Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La., on Wednesday night.
The Cardinals concluded practice for the week with their typical Thursday practice on Monday afternoon. Louisville worked out for about an hour-and-a-half in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome before getting a little free time. The Cardinals will not be celebrating New Year's Eve, as the squad will be in the hotel when the ball drops at midnight.
The Cardinals didn't come to the "Big Easy" to party. They came to win a football game and put their football program on the map.
"Going forward, this is the biggest game Louisville can potentially play for years," said senior offensive tackle Alex Kupper. "This is a big-time SEC opponent and that's the best conference in the nation, everyone knows that. So to be able to play one of those teams is a huge opportunity."
After back-to-back 7-6 records, the Cardinals took the program forward to where it was in 2006 when they won a critical road contest at Rutgers in late November to give Louisville a 10-2 record and a third BIG EAST title.
"The beginning was a long time ago," said Kupper. "We were on a big stage in 2006 when we were building the program and it took a little dive, but then 2010, when Coach Strong came in and that year we won a bowl game and started rolling the ball in the right direction and last year we built on that and this year we took a big step."
This is by far the biggest stage the Cardinals have ever stepped foot on during their long football history. Louisville is no stranger to post-season play, but the Cardinals are about to take on one of the nation's most prestigious and dominant programs in the country. However, the Cardinals aren't ready to just lie down because they know they are ready to take on the challenge.
"I think as far as talent goes, there's always going to be discrepancy," said senior center Mario Benavides. "I think in college football in general, it's not high school. Every team has talent. I think what separates most programs is tradition, attitude, things like that. Things that maybe people overlook that maybe as a player you can appreciate those factors a little more. Obviously coaches; I think we have the best coaching staff in America. So as a player, you always have confidence in them. I think what it really comes down to is executing because our coaches put us in the right position. People may have the perception that Florida has more talent. That may be. You go by rivals, stars, ratings, whatever you want to say. But the bottom line is that anyone can win on any given Friday, Saturday, or in our case, Wednesday. I think that proves to you how fragile college football is."
Louisville is fully aware they are playing one of the teams who could legitimately be playing for a national title, but the Cardinals feel they are a pretty good football team, and are going to put forth their best effort on Wednesday in the Sugar Bowl.