Kicker Wallace a hit for the Cardinals

The University of Louisville football team wouldn't be playing in the Allstate Sugar Bowl without the leg of one player – John Wallace. The redshirt freshman from Cecilia, Ky., has kicked two game-winning field goals, including the season-ending win over Rutgers that gave the Cardinals the BCS bowl berth.

University of Louisville redshirt freshman John Wallace had a stellar high school career as an All-State kicker at Central Hardin High School.

Wallace finished with 32 career field goals, which ranks him second all-time in Kentucky history and he booted several 50-yard field goals.

But at times, Wallace admitted he struggled with his confidence.

"There would be times, I would just lose my confidence," Wallace said. "But in college you can't do that, so I had to get to where I wasn't doing that."

At least for this season, Wallace made it to that point.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Wallace has become a key player for the Cardinals, making 14 of 17 field goals – including a pair of game-winning field goals – and becoming the main kickoff kicker for the Allstate Sugar Bowl-bound Cardinals.

"When you really sit down and look at the numbers, John has done a hack of a job for us," special teams coach Kenny Carter said. "John was as productive as any kicker in the (Big East). I really thought he was, when he missed kicks it was over 40 yards. He won two football games for us."

With the help of Carter, Wallace – who arrived at U of L in 2011 and sat out last season – doesn't lack for confidence anymore. He also made 35 of 38 extra points and has a long field goal of 45 yards on the season.

"I have just tried to work hard this year and so that I was capable of doing what I did," Wallace said. "I just wanted to help the team like I'm supposed to do.

"Coach Carter broke down my confidence before the year, and then I worked it back up. I just had the mentality in high school going into games that I needed to make most of my kicks. Now, I know I have to make them all."

Wallace started the fall camp in a battle with freshman Matthew Nakatani for the kicking duties and it wasn't until just before the opening game that Carter named a starter. Wallace had a 22-yard field goal and four extra points in the opening-game victory over the rival Wildcats.

"Me and Nakatani had a lot of pushing each other back and forth," Wallace said. "We both had really good preseason camps. We were kicking it both pretty good. There was just a time they put me in, one kick and I hit like three in a row that were good and I think that kind of sealed it for me. That gave me confidence."

But Wallace suffered a minor injury during the game and Nakatani came in to handle the duties in the second game – a win over Missouri State.

Wallace returned for one of his best outings in a 39-34 win over North Carolina. He made both of his field-goal attempts, including a 43-yarder for the only points of the second half by the Cardinals.

A 38-yard field goal in the monsoon conditions at Southern Miss was a momentum builder in Louisville's come from behind win. And Wallace said his toughest kick of the season came at Pittsburgh in a win.

"I thought the Pittsburgh game, the one before halftime was one of the bigger kicks," Wallace said. "It gave us the momentum, was pretty long and I kind of had to rush that one. I think that was one of the toughest."

Carter said his kicker "just kept getting better" as the season went on. Wallace hit a 30-yarder in overtime to beat Cincinnati and then came the Rutgers game. He kicked a 20-yard field goal in the first half but the Cardinals trailed 14-3.

Teddy Bridgewater threw a pair of TDs for the lead before Rutgers tied it at 17. Wallace then won the game with a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left. The win gave the Cardinals a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

"I hit a bad ball," Wallace said of the biggest kick of the season for the Cardinals. "I was kind of lucky I made it. It was my fault, I just didn't go straight through the ball. I was pretty lucky. But I was excited about that one."

Now, Wallace is ready to help the Cardinals try and spring an upset against the Gators. And the coaching staff is confident to call on him at any point.

"He's very, very talented and he's tuned into what we need," Carter said. "Two games it came down to we needed him to do something and he did it.

But look the kid is intellectually and academically so smart and so sharp that nothing phases him. Nothing gets to him at all."

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