On Sunday, after the No. 3 Florida Gators and No. 21 Louisville Cardinals were officially announced as the participants in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, head coaches Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong spoke to the media, accepting their respective bid to the bowl and discussing their own team heading into the game. Below are highlights from that media availability that were not otherwise featured in OGGOA‘s story on Strong from Sunday evening.
» Muschamp on the opportunity to play in the game: “We’re honored to play in New Orleans. New Orleans is a great place with a lot of Gators. It was our first national championship in 1996. This will be our seventh BCS bowl appearance, which is first in the SEC. A lot of respect for Louisville and their football team they have and of course Charlie strong, who was a huge part of two national championships here at the University of Florida in ‘06 and ‘08. He’s an outstanding defensive coordinator and a good friend.”
» Muschamp on not having a chance to play for the national title: “It is what it is. The system we have in place is what we have. We had our opportunity in Jacksonville, didn’t quite get it done to get into the national championship game. But we’re going to play in the sugar bowl and represent our conference. That’s a huge honor in itself to represent the University of Florida every time you step on the field. We have great motivation for this game, regardless of the circumstances.”
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
» Muschamp on how the team can improve in the next month: “It was this time last year when we had a great preparation for the Gator Bowl, recommitted ourselves to being physical and being tough on both lines of scrimmage.”
» Muschamp on if he’s frustrated with the system as-is: “I’ve been on both ends of this. … We all sit there before the season and we agree on all these rules and that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not saying we have to like them. We sit down and agree with something and then, at the end of the day, we want to complain about the rules. We started the season understanding the rules of engagement. It is what it is. Obviously it’s going to change in two years with a little different spin to it. I am frustrated from the standpoint of playing in our league and being limited to only two teams getting in. … These are the rules we started the year with and so be it.”
“It is a little frustrating that the bigger the conferences get, the less opportunity you have to play everyone in your league. So sometimes there isn’t a true champion; so from that standpoint. Again, we started this expansion stuff going, and here we are. These are the rules of engagement, you play with it, and we had our opportunities this past year and we didn’t get it done.”
» Muschamp on the players’ reaction to earning a Sugar Bowl bid: “Our guys were jacked up after we beat Florida State, and we knew we would be in a BCS game and probably the Sugar Bowl. They were extremely excited. We had a team meeting on Monday after that game, and our guys were thrilled to have this opportunity.”
» Strong on the last week for Louisville football: ”It’s been a great week. It’s just been a great week for the university, and you’re right, we’re getting selected to the ACC. And then you go on the road and have to win a championship on the road, and Rutgers, the Big East Championship; watching a quarterback that goes out and had to throw it because he was injured; and now we get a chance to go to the Sugar Bowl. We are taking small steps here. We still know that this program is nowhere near where it should be and just try to get better and better and get this program headed in the right direction.”
» Strong on if quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be fully healthy for the game: “We have enough time here that I think we have three or four weeks before that game. So we will get a chance and we will have medical staff around the clock, and we have medical staff here now, unbelievable job, so now they have enough time.”
» Strong on the job Muschamp does: “I know that Will has done a great job of coming in and making those players better football players and not only that, just making them grow up into top quality men.
» Strong on the SEC being a line of scrimmage league: “When you look at the Southeastern Conference, it is a very difficult league. And if you watch that game [Saturday], and Alabama goes to rush 360 yards, and the game has to be won at the line of scrimmage; and that’s where you play the game at the line of scrimmage. And then they have enough athletes where they can win the one on one battles if you load the box. So it’s going to be an interesting matchup for us, because they play that way the whole season. When it came down to where they need to go win games, they lined up and they were able to knock people off the ball and they were able to go win the fourth quarter. If you can’t validate a team in the fourth quarter, you have no chance; and that’s what the University of Florida was able to do this year, go win that fourth quarter.”
» Strong on taking Louisville to a BCS bowl so quickly: “I don’t look so much at what I’ve done; it’s the players. When you get a program, like everything is a process and it’s going to be rebuilding years and you have to get the right players in your program and you have to do it the right way. That’s what we have been able to do, get an outstanding coaching staff and I think that earlier we were talking about looking at our offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson, has done an outstanding job; our defensive coordinator, Vance Bedford. But I’ve been able to surround myself with some really outstanding coaches, and they understand the process and what we had to do to build a program. It’s been step by step and each year we try to make this program better and better with the direction of our athletic director, Tom Jurich. That’s what has happened here. Now we have established ourselves, and the foundation is we have laid some foundation that is more foundation than can be laid; and once that happens, this program can become a program like the University of Florida.”