Sugar Bowl victory a win on and off the field for the Cards - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Sugar Bowl victory a win on and off the field for the Cards

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The Cards won the Sugar Bowl trophy. The Cards won the Sugar Bowl trophy.
Fans rushed to greet the players as they arrived home Thursday. Fans rushed to greet the players as they arrived home Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Basketball has always been king in the Bluegrass state, but the excitement after the University of Louisville's commanding Sugar Bowl win over Florida Wednesday night, takes the Cardinal football program one step higher and it's only up from here.

In 24 hours, the University experienced a major BCS bowl win, priceless national press and a hero's welcome home.

It's a big pay-off after years of building the school's football program.

A huge victory party waiting for the team at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was a sight both naysayers and even some loyalists weren't sure was in the cards.

It came courtesy of a brilliant performance by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a dominating Cardinal defense and a team fueled by faithful fans who traveled to the Big Easy and far outnumbered the Gator crowd.

Louisville Senior Center Mario Benavides said of the victory, "It feels like a dream you know, I feel like I haven't woken up since we won the game and the way it happened and the atmosphere," he said, "I don't think anyone expected that."

Louisville not only pulled off the biggest upset in BCS bowl history, but clearly dominated an SEC power, the third ranked team in the nation.

"To beat an opponent that many people thought should be in the national championship," Benavides said was incredible.

It's the exclamation mark to a Cardinal season and sport that already celebrated some massive moments like getting into the ACC and retaining sought after Head Coach Charlie Strong.

It all goes back to the vision of Athletic Director Tom Jurich, but he won't take the credit. "The greatest thing about it," he said of the win, "Is the way they (the team) prepared for this game and I think the fan turnout was amazing, we had 30,000 people here (New Orleans.)"

Red shirt Freshman Jalen Harrington said of the future, "Next year, we're shooting for the National Championship and Top 5."

That's a discussion that once seemed elusive now, not so much.

The Cards will be a pre-season Top 10 team and Bridgewater will certainly be in the Heisman conversation.

Card fan Katrina Shannon said of her team, "Next year's going to be even better, but this year wow, you couldn't ask for anything better for 2013!"

The Sugar Bowl win not only will help Strong with recruiting but, all that national buzz also helps the university attract students.

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