2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl

University of Louisville Team Arrival

December 27, 2012

Charlie Strong, University of Louisville Head Coach

Opening statement...

"We are really excited to be here and represent the Big East Conference. We are proud that the selection committee picked the University of Louisville. You look at this football team we have this season and all of the games we came back in, it all started three years ago when we started building a foundation. We are really excited about the direction this program is headed in. I was here three years ago on the other sideline coaching at the University of Florida preparing for Cincinnati. The next day I left for Louisville and our goal the first season was just get to a bowl game. It was the same scenario we had this season when we had to go to Rutgers and pull off a big win. Our quarterback had an outstanding year, and he had to go into that game with a bad ankle and wrist and still win. That game was huge for us to get to the point that we are at now.

 

"We know we are playing an excellent football team in the University of Florida. We are happy and excited, and it's really great for the school and the city of Louisville and the administration. To represent them is such an honor."

 

On staying at Louisville...

"I'm just blessed to have this opportunity, but the reason for the position I am in is because of the players. It's all about the players and how they played. I talk to them all the time about trust and commitment to the program. When I went to recruit them, I stressed the process and commitment and that they just had to stay with me. So when I had the opportunity to leave, I just couldn't walk out on them like that.

 

"I also work for the best athletic director in the country. When you have a chance to work for an AD that gives you everything you ask for then you can't just turn and walk away from them. The city of Louisville has also been behind me the whole way. From the day I took this job, Louisville trusted me and believed in this football program. I can get everything that needs to be accomplished here at Louisville and I am happy being here."  

 

On playing against Jon Bostic, a player he recruited while on staff at Florida...

"I haven't really had a lot of time to think about it. I haven't really seen a lot of the players that I recruited three years ago so it's hard to say. I have my own team here right now and I am very happy with what I have. I have a group of seniors that have really bought into this program, and that's the reason why we are here right now.

 

On moving Bostic from safety to linebacker...

"Bostic is a really good football player and I went to visit him as many times as the administration would let me. Bostic was too big to play safety and it was just a matter of time before he could eat his way into playing linebacker. But I have to hand it to the university for giving me the opportunity to recruit such a talented player like him."

 

 

 

On what it feels like being the underdog...

"I just told my team we have standards and goals that we need to get accomplished. You can think about being the underdog or how you are rated, but at the end of the day you still have to go out there and play the game. We will focus on our own fundamentals and technique and practice hard each and every day. We have to take care of our business. If we aren't locked in and focused then none of it really matters."

 

On keeping his team out of trouble throughout the year...

"Anytime you talk about changing the program, the number one thing you have to attack is the academics. When we first took over three years ago, we looked at the grades and there were about 50 guys below a 2.0 GPA for the semester. I didn't have many good words for some of the guys and told them our team average has to be better than 2.75 or else they can go find another team to play for. By the end of the spring semester, we did achieve that goal. So it's all about academics. We were proud three weeks ago when we saw about ten of our players graduate mid-semester. We all know at some point football is going to end, and you need a degree to go be successful and contribute to society in a positive way."

 

On playing in a BCS Bowl...

"We know there are only 12 teams selected to play for a BCS Bowl and we are honored to be here. We are proud to play on such a national stage and be one of 12 teams to do so."

 

On his time coaching at Florida...

"My success started at Florida. I was a part of two national championship teams and worked for so many outstanding coaches. One after the next, those coaches gave me opportunities and built tremendous programs with tradition. That same tradition is what we are trying to establish at Louisville as the program continues to get better each year. Though, it was a great experience at Florida and a lot of fun."

 

On waiting to become a head coach...

"When trying to become a head coach, it's all about waiting and being patient and finding the right job. I didn't get a head job right away, but I am so thankful that it happened for me here at Louisville. I'm at the right place right now. I'm very happy that I was given the opportunity here and that we've been able to do so much in the last three years."

 

On the curfew for his players...

"There won't be a curfew because I want my players to enjoy the experience. They deserve it as a team because they've worked so hard to get themselves here. They already know it's all about business and we're not trying to see how many hurricanes we can consume or anything. We can stay out at night, but in the end we know it's a business trip for us."

 

Mario Benavides, Center, University of Louisville

On losing weight before this season and how it has affected his play...
"I've played at 310 [pounds]. It has its advantages. It has its disadvantages. I got tired a lot faster, I can tell you that. I've felt good all year playing at this weight, and I've played against nose guards that have been that heavy or heavier and I've had success. It's all about execution and technique.  I don't think weight really matters. If I was 220, I would be worried but I'm not."

On the team enjoying its first night in New Orleans...
"I'd like to think that tonight, guys are going to enjoy themselves. But personally I feel like after tonight, it's just like any other game week. Time to buckle in. I'll spend a lot of time on my iPad in my room. New Orleans is New Orleans; it's not going anywhere.  I'll enjoy it while I can and after the game, but for the most part right now we're down here for one reason and one reason only."

On the tone Charlie Strong set for the team heading into the bowl week...

"I think he's done a good job, and the seniors as a whole have done a good job of just letting these younger guys know that yeah, we're extremely talented and they're coming back next year, but nothing guarantees you a spot like this. I think as a team we understand that you take advantage of these moments. You can't play and mess around. There's a time to have fun and there's a time to be serious because there are a lot of other great college football teams that are 10-2 who didn't make it to a BCS game. So we understand how fragile college football really is. For example, look at the No. 1 team going down in Oregon then Kansas State. Anybody can lose any given day, so I think he's really hit home with that concept. Anybody can win, and anybody can lose. If you're not paying attention one day, it could happen to any of us."

 

On being the underdog...

"I think our team overall has done a really good job of trying to stay neutral, whether it's good or bad because at the beginning of season they were saying a bunch of good things about us. We try not to listen to that. People like to take the underdog role on. It is what it is. We are an underdog. We've actually played pretty well under that role the last couple of years. Whatever it takes for any guy within himself to play his best game, I don't care how you take it. Me, personally, I'm glad to go out there and play a football game, and I look at it as Xs and Os, effort and technique. I don't really care who I'm lining up against. [Florida] is obviously a very good team. They deserve to be where they're at. On film you can see that they're very talented. I think the discrepancy between rankings, that just is is what it is because we earned to be here and they earned to be here as well."

 

Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, University of Louisville

 

On his wrist and ankle...

"I feel great. I can't put an exact percentage on it right now, but I feel great. I've been running really well in practice so [the ankle] won't be much of a factor. It's not bothering me at all."

 

On how much of this trip is strictly business...

"Like coach said, we're not here to see who can drink the most hurricanes. We worked hard for this opportunity all year and we're not going to let the moment outshine us."

 

On having such a large portion of the roster from Florida...

"We have such a great coaching staff and they have ties to Florida. They do a great job of going down there and building relationships with athletes."

 

On whether being from Florida motivates him to beat the Gators...
"No I don't think that's a factor. We play every game the same. We play hard every week no matter who the opponent is."

 

On whether being on this stage motivates the team for next season...

"We don't really think about that. As long as we continue to work hard, good things will continue to come for the football program and the school."

 

On Coach Charlie Strong:

"He cares so much about the players. He cares about his players first as a person, then as an athlete. He wants you to be successful in life before being successful in athletics. We are very happy he is still here. There was not a doubt in my mind that he wasn't leaving. We are proud of the decision he made. He cares so much about this team."

 

On being an underdog...

"We don't really talk about that at all."

 

On being friends with players on Florida's roster...

"Yeah I am friends with a good amount of them. We haven't talked at all about this game."

 

On Florida's defense...

"They are very physical. They have a great front-seven. The closest team to them would be Rutgers, but we haven't really faced a team like them."

 

On his development throughout this season...

"I've become a better manager of the game. The coaches have done a great job of teaching me and making sure I pursue on perfection."

 

 On preparing for this game...

"We don't change anything. Everyday has been a ‘grind-it-out' day and we approach each day with that mentality."

 

On how much he will enjoy this experience...

"I'll enjoy it with the team. It's not about me as an individual, but rather as a team. I don't go out at all."

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