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Cardinals won't be home for the holidays, but no one is complaining about extra work

Louisville's seniors have qualified for four straight bowl games and are used to being on the road during the holidays (UofL Athletics Photo)

Louisville’s seniors have qualified for four straight bowl games and are used to being on the road during the holidays (UofL Athletics Photo)


As most college students across the country are departing campus and heading home for the holiday season, members of the University of Louisville football team are gearing up for a trip of their own.

The No. 21-ranked Cardinals (9-3, 5-3 ACC) are preparing for their trip to Charlotte, N.C., where they will compete in the 13th annual Belk Bowl against No. 13 Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC) on Dec. 30. The team will make their trip to the Tar Heel State on Christmas Eve.

For this batch of players, though, this is familiar territory, and the opportunity to once again appear in a nationally prominent bowl game is equally as coveted as a trip home for Christmas.

“It’s good to have another opportunity for the post-season,” senior offensive tackle Jamon Brown said. “It’s good to be home for Christmas, but it’s also good to have another opportunity to play a game and continue your season.”

A starter since midway through his freshman season, Brown is part of a senior class that has participated in three straight bowl games with a fourth coming up. As a freshman in 2011, Brown and the Cardinals faced North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl (a 31-24 defeat), outlasted Florida 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl in 2012, and last season routed Miami (Fla.) 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

So grinding away at another week of preparation through the holidays nothing new to this group of players.

“It’s pretty routine for me and a lot of guys who are on this team,” Brown added. “We have a lot of older guys that have been to bowl games pretty much the whole time we’ve been here, so we’ve gotten accustomed to how we do things.”

What is new for the Cardinals is preparing for a bowl game under head coach Bobby Petrino, who served his first stint at Louisville from 2003-06 before returning to the role in 2014. As can be expected given Petrino’s signature intensity, having extra time to prepare for Georgia has not equaled extra rest for the Louisville players.

“When you go to the bowl, it kind of becomes like camp practice again. You’re here all day, and all you do is eat, sleep, and breathe football,” senior guard Jake Smith said.

For Petrino, the approach has been to view the Cardinals’ meeting with the Bulldogs as a new, one-game season. The dozen prior games taking place between September and November are now in the past, making it necessary for the Cardinals to readjust, refocus and relearn.

“Coach Petrino is doing the daily game-week preparation practices,” Smith explained. “Today was a (what would normally be a) Wednesday practice. We do certain things on certain days. Saturday was a Tuesday, tomorrow is going to be a Thursday, and then we’ll have days off in between. There’s a method to the madness. They kind of break you down a little bit and then build you back up, so you can reestablish that toughness and get yourself re-acclimated to the speed of the game.”

Revisiting the camp-like approach was also mentioned by sophomore running back Brandon Radcliff, who said, “We just have to stay healthy, get everybody to the game, but still practice hard and physical.”

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If his record is any indication, Petrino knows how to approach bowl preparation. As a head coach at the FBS level, Petrino is 4-3 in bowl games, winning three of his last four postseason appearances.

As the head man at Louisville, Petrino is 2-2 in bowl games, his last postseason game with the Cardinals being the 2006 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl, which provided U of L its first BCS victory.

The Cardinals will have their final on-campus session Tuesday before flying to North Carolina on Wednesday.

From U of L Athletics

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