Cardinals dominate Florida in Sugar bowl win

Louisville, KY – The party in New Orleans started early for the University of Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals dominated the University of Florida from beginning to end in their BCS Sugar Bowl last night. How dominating were they?

Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play. In 15 seconds the Card defense scored the games first touchdown setting the tone for the rest of the night.

The Cards first offensive series sent a scare into the fans when QB Teddy Bridgewater took a massive hit, albeit an illegal one, that took his helmet off. What did Bridgewater do?

He got up and led the Cards to a first series touchdown.

Any doubt about the Cards toughness or ability to hang with Florida, in a game Florida was heavily favored to win, were erased at that point. Bridgewater has proven time and again that he is one of the nation’s best QB’s and should gain some serious Heisman consideration next season.

His final numbers? Bridgewater was 20 of 32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Third down conversions were necessary early and Bridgewater delivered by going 6 of 6 at one point on those conversions to keep the offense steaming along.

Third and long? No problem.  Bridgewater picked apart the Florida secondary with ease when it counted. Sacks? Nope Bridgewater showed how adept he was at avoiding an aggressive Florida defense by sidestepping every opportunity they had to get to him.

The offensive line who has come under some fire for inconsistency at times this season? We never saw any. Defense? They stepped up and denied Florida any opportunity to take control.

Florida, who until last night had not trailed in any game by more than ten points, found themselves down 33-10 midway through the fourth period.

What of the arguments of the SEC being a dominant conference and the Big East a weak one?

Florida’s loss dropped SEC teams to 3-3 this bowl season, with Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi still left to play.

Just weeks ago everyone thought Coach Charlie Strong would accept an offer to leave Louisville for Tennessee, and why not? Louisville had been used as a stepping stone by so many to “bigger and better” programs that it was automatically assumed that he would do the same. Yet Strong surprised many by staying.

A Facebook poster comment stated:

How rare is it that another “big” program calls and you can’t bring yourself to leave because you can’t look your players in they’re eyes and tell them your leaving them, even using a father analogy. How do you get rewarded? They play like your sons.

Leaders set examples that others follow. Coach Strong proved himself to be a man of his word, a rare thing today in college athletics.

From the leadership of AD Tom Jurich to football coach Charlie Strong Louisville has become a program for others to follow.

And that may be the biggest victory of all.

AD Tom Jurich was expected to use Louisville as a stepping stone when hired here in 1997. Stay a couple of years and move on to a bigger program. No one would notice and it was expected at that time. Jurich defied the mindset and has followed through on his promise to take Louisville to the big leagues.

He has led by example.

Every decision he has made since taking over as Athletic Director in 1997 has proven his intent. The hiring of Coach Charlie Strong was yet another example of his insightful leadership. After being burned by former coaches like John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, good coaches but no loyalty, Jurich never lost his vision or his style in selecting coaches. He has remained steadfast in his business and leadership styles and his commitment to Louisville.

He was finally rewarded with his hiring of Coach Charlie Strong who has proven himself to be a class act in his own right. After fighting for years to gain the respect he deserved, the majority of that time at Florida itself,  and finally landing a head coaching position, Coach Strong was given an opportunity by Tom Jurich who did what he does best.

Identifies talent and sells them on a vision of the future.

And what of the leadership of those like Charlie Strong?

When hired Strong was so focused on getting the rebuilding process started he and Jurich didn’t even go over the details of his five-year contract until right before he was introduced as head coach. Three years later what did Strong do?

Coach Strong proved his loyalty and respect in December by opting to stay at Louisville by turning down the so-called big league offer by Tennessee. Strong stated, “How do you walk away from someone who believes in you?”

You lead by example Coach. Attitude reflects leadership and the positive attitude by Coach Strong has led to positive results by the student athletes under his charge.

Charlie Strong continually talks about earning respect. He no longer has to talk about it, he has earned it.

After the play of the Cards last night earning respect is no longer a problem. It is expected.

It was reflected in the play of the Cardinals last night and all season.

When hired Coach Strong stated, “Coaching is taking young men and making an impact and influence on their lives to make them better people.”

There is no doubt that he is accomplishing this.

Some people demand respect while others command it.

Charlie Strong and Louisville are those that now command respect.

Job well done Cards.