NEW ORLEANS — Florida seniors Jon Bostic and Omar Hunter are done dwelling on what might have been if not for their lone loss to Georgia.
After finishing third in the BCS standings, one spot too low to play for a national title in Miami, the Gators asserted they remain highly motivated heading into Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl against two-touchdown underdog Louisville.
Hunter even suggested a victory for fourth-ranked Florida (11-1) over No. 22 Louisville (10-2) would be a “program changer,” because Florida has not been to a BCS bowl game since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season.
Last year, the Gators nearly missed out on the postseason, finishing the regular season 6-6 before posting a 24-17 victory over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. This season, only a 17-9 loss to Georgia on Oct. 27 got in their way.
“Being able to get this program back to a BCS game and possibly winning the game is big for our program,” Hunter said. “Being able to say that you brought Florida back to the top before you left is going to be special for these seniors.”
The Gators are hesitant to buy into the idea they’ll just roll over the champions of the Big East without much resistance.
One reason is their familiarity with Louisville coach Charlie Strong, who was Florida’s defensive coordinator from 2003-09, a period that included national championships in the 2006 and 2008 seasons.
“I played for his defense and I know how he talked to us and got us ready for games and I know their defense is going to be ready,” Hunter said. “Coach Charlie Strong is a great coach. He’s going to give everything he has to those guys and those guys are going to come out ready.”
Strong has sought to motivate his players by playing up their underdog status.
“Nobody really gives us a chance,” Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith said. “We kind of take that to heart and want to show everybody what we can do.”
Cardinals safety Calvin Pryor said he believes Louisville will “shock the world.”
“I have confidence in my team and the guys who I play with and I feel like this is a big statement game for us,” Pryor said. “I feel like we’re going to make big things happen on Wednesday.”
Strong said he may get a little sentimental when he walks onto the Superdome field and sees some of the players he recruited on the other sideline and hears the Florida band play the fight songs with which he became so familiar over the years.