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Revved up Cardinals

Bowl game caps Louisville's amazing turnaround

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Posted: Sunday December 20, 1998 06:35 PM

 

PONTIAC, Michigan (AP) -- A year ago, Louisville was 1-10 and spending Christmas at home.

Marshall was in the same place it is today -- getting ready for the Motor City Bowl.

Wednesday, the two will meet in Pontiac.

The Louisville Cardinals were in Michigan Sunday, preparing for the bowl match at the Pontiac Silverdome. Marshall (11-1, MAC champion) was supposed to arrive earlier too, but the team's plane to Detroit was delayed.

Louisville's transformation from the 1-10 doormat of Conference USA to the 7-4 bowl team is nothing short of miraculous.

With a victory against Marshall, Louisville would match the record for biggest turnaround by a first-year coach. Players point to new head coach John L. Smith, for installing a high-powered offense and a new, winning attitude.

"We have a little saying -- tear off the rearview mirror and look out the windshield," Smith said. "We told them to forget 1-10. Now their self-image is totally different than it was."

One of the first to believe in what could happen was quarterback Chris Redman. Just before the fourth game of the season, when his team stood at 1-2, Redman said the Cardinals' goal was to go to a bowl game.

"From my perspective, I always try to be positive and optimistic," Redman said. "I always think we can do the incredible things."

Smith said his players are elated to be playing in the bowl game.

"They're kind of pinching themselves," he said. "They're asking, 'did we really get it done?'"

Senior running back Rafael Cooper is particularly pumped up. Cooper is a Detroit native who played for Minnesota before transferring.

"It can't get any better than this," Cooper said. "Playing my last college game at home in front of my fans. I'm going to really show out."

With the number one offense in the country, the Cardinals expect Redman, a possible future Heisman Trophy contender, to use Cooper, tight end Ibn Green and his other weapons to show the country and Marshall, that 1-10 is nothing but a footnote in the media guide.

 
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