UofL football beat No. 3 Florida 33-23 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans. It was arguably the biggest win in school history and positions the Cards for an even bigger season in 2013. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was named the Sugar Bowl’s Most Valuable Player after completing 20 of his 32 passes for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cards finished the season 11-2. Here is a sampling of some of the post-game reactions from players, coaches and national analysts.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER: It meant a lot, not just for this school, but for the city of Louisville. To see these fans travel all the way down to New Orleans and just show their support, it’s great to give back to those fans.
TAYLOR: Did that blow you away when you saw how many fans were here and how much of an impact they could make?
BRIDGEWATER: Coach Strong always talks about what makes SEC teams so great is their fan support, and today, our fans showed up the University of Florida.
TAYLOR: How big of a deal is it for you to be considered a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender?
BRIDGEWATER: It means a lot to me, but I wouldn’t be in this situation without these guys in this locker room and without this coaching staff, and without the fan support that we have. These guys, the wide receivers they make big plays, they help me get my stats and things like that. The offensive line does a great job blocking up front. The running backs run with their pads low, and it’s all a team effort.
TAYLOR: Coach, is that the biggest win in school history?
UofL Head Coach CHARLIE STRONG: The Fiesta Bowl may have been bigger … the Alabama game may have been bigger than that. Our kids played unbelievable, but I say this: this game ball goes to our crowd. Our fans got here and our players knew this, they had enough fans here, where they did not want to let them down. They had to play for themselves, play for their teammates and then play for these fans, and that’s exactly what we did. The city of Louisville should be very proud.
TAYLOR: How important was it to set the tone? You came out right away with the Terell Floyd interception for a touchdown.
STRONG: We needed to (get) a lead. We felt like if we ever got a lead, then we could maintain it and it would be hard for them to score.
TAYLOR: What did Teddy Bridgewater show you?
ESPN Analyst KIRK HERBSTREIT: I don’t think it’s so much what Teddy showed us, other than toughness and just showing what he showed all year. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country. I think it was more about the offensive line giving him time, the receivers getting away from press coverage. If there was anything that was shocking it was that. Nobody has been able to do that this year against the Florida team. Give Charlie Strong and his staff – I’m just saying this to say this – this was one of those bowls where one team was angry, they had a chip on their shoulder, they were very well-prepared on both sides of the ball, and the other team was going through the motions. When you have that kind of approach, you have a good chance of winning the game, so Louisville deserved it.
TAYLOR: Is it crazy to think that they could start 2013 ranked in the top 5?
HERBSTREIT: Not with Teddy coming back. When you have a high profile player, who is probably going to be one of the top Heisman frontrunners, and a team that has so many players coming back. After this performance, they’re going to be up there in the top 5, top 7, and if Teddy can get off to a good start early in the year, they’re going to get a lot of attention.
TAYLOR: Is Teddy a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender?
HERBSTREIT: Without a doubt, he’s going to have to be one of the guys on the short list. Magazines come out in June and July, he’ll be on a lot of magazines, now how does he handle it? He’s handled everything so well up to this point in his career, but it’s different when there’s a big bull’s eye on your chest, not just him as an individual, but the program. This is a statement game, and to back it up after Charlie Strong decides to stay, and they’re going into the ACC, it’s almost like a trifecta. There’s a lot of excitement and momentum in this program.
TAYLOR: What did Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville show you?
ESPN Analyst CHRIS FOWLER: Tremendous toughness. I’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks play and he’s as tough of a guy as I’ve seen mentally and physically. To take the shot that he took, the very first play of the game, the cheap shot, where his helmet comes flying off. You don’t know if his night is done – to bounce right back and play as well as he did, and to be able to convey the belief to his teammates that this win was possible. Obviously there are a whole bunch of guys buying in, but the quarterback touches the ball every play, he’s the best player on the field and he’s got to lead by example. He’s a guy that I’m looking forward to watching in 2013 a lot.
TAYLOR: A Heisman Trophy contender?
FOWLER: It’s very early, but how could you not put him in the group of players to watch for next year? Louisville fans are lucky that he is not draft eligible, because I think if he were, with the crop of quarterbacks that are draft eligible, some teams would covet him, but fortunately we get to have him in college football for at least another year.
UofL Photos Courtesy of MICHELLE HUTCHINS | University of Louisville Athletics