With a 14.5 point spread, the Sugar Bowl between Florida and Louisville wasn’t projected to be all that competitive. That turned out to pretty much be the case, but it was the Cardinals, not the Gators, dominating in shocking fashion.
From the first play from scrimmage — literally, a pick-six by Louisvlle’s Terell Floyd — the Cardinals had Florida out of its comfort zone and trying to play catch-up. That’s not exactly what the Gators are designed to do and No. 22 Louisville handed a 33-23 loss to No. 4 Florida for the biggest win in program history and one of the biggest upsets in a BCS game.
The loss drops the SEC to 3-3 this bowl season with Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi still left to play. None of the three should be considered massive favorites to win their bowls, either.
The Gators have been known for its top-10 defense all season. It’s what’s saved them a time or four in close games. But Florida was mostly unable to stop Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 266 yards and a pair of scores. That’s the most yardage a Florida defense has given up since Nov. 5 of last year.
Leading up to the Sugar Bowl, Florida safety Matt Elam (pictured) said Bridgewater was the best quarterback his team would face this season. Better than Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Better than Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. That’s high praise, but Bridgewater didn’t do anything to suggest Elam wasn’t right.
It helps that he usually had all day to throw. Louisville’s offensive line didn’t always run block well — the Cardinals continued to struggle in the run game with just 70 yards — but did they ever pass protect, and in crucial spots too. Louisville was 9-of-14 on third down conversions against the mighty Gator defense and punted just once all night. When Louisville didn’t score, it was because the Cardinals stopped themselves with a missed field goal or interception.
While Louisville and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson deserve all the credit for a solid offensive showing, Florida’s defense deserves at least a little of the blame for being off. Florida was college football’s only defense from a BCS conference that hadn’t allowed a touchdown pass of 15 yards or longer all season, yet Bridgewater’s scores were from 15 and 19 yards.
But Will Muschamp failed to put the defense in better situations. The offense, which has been a liability all year, had three turnovers and couldn’t do much outside of picking apart a prevent defense. A failed onside kick with two personal foul penalties tacked on gave Louisville the ball at the Gators 19-yard line to start the second half. Bridgewater tossed a touchdown pass to Damian Copeland on the next play.
Speaking of penalties, Florida had a lot of ’em — nine for 98 yards to be exact. It was an all around bad night for a team that had the most impressive body of work this season. To end it a sour note against a team that will be getting a lot of preseason hype in 2013 will have Muschamp looking for answers this spring, especially on offense.