Louisville upsets Gators in Sugar Bowl
University of Florida finishes the season 11-2
Jeff Driskel's first pass of the Sugar Bowl was intercepted and returned 38 yards for a touchdown.
It never got much better for heavily favored Florida in what was supposed to be the crowning game in a bounce-back season.
The fourth-ranked Gators, a two-touchdown favorite over No. 22 Louisville, fell behind by 14 points midway through the first quarter and trailed by double digits the rest of the way, losing 33-23 on Wednesday night.
"We got outcoached and outplayed," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "That's what I told the team. That's the bottom line."
Florida looked more like the team that dropped 11 games combined in 2010 and '11 than the one that lost only once in 2012. The Gators (11-2) were no match for the inspired Cardinals (11-2) and former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who left to become Louisville head coach in 2010.
"We've had a great year," Muschamp said. "We're building something here. We still did a lot of positive things this season. Obviously this is a sour day and a sour note, and I apologize to our fans and the university."
Florida was beaten in almost every way possible. After never trailing by more than 10 points in their first 12 games, the Gators trailed Louisville by more than that for all but the first eight minutes and the last 2:13
The Gators could not slow down Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 266 yards and two TDs against the nation's No. 1 pass efficiency defense. In the first half alone, Louisville converted five of six third downs and even made first downs on second-and-16 and second-and-15.
"I looked at what did and didn't work for quarterbacks (against Florida) during the regular season," Bridgewater said. "They faced guys forcing throws ... and coach tells me, 'No capes on your back or 'S' on your chest. Take what the defense give you.'"
Florida did not convert its first third down until the fourth quarter.
Driskel, who had thrown three interceptions all year, tossed two picks, both on tipped passes. The second came in the Louisville end zone as Florida tried to rally in the fourth quarter, but he will remember the first one the longest.
His pass was slightly behind receiver Andre Debose, who tipped the ball right to Louisville cornerback Terell Floyd. Floyd raced 38 yards for a shocking TD.
"It was a flat defender read," he said. "I threw it behind him, he tried to make a play on it and tipped it right to the guy. It's unfortunate to start the game like that, but the corner made a good play."
Losing on the scoreboard, the Gators also lost their composure. At the end of a failed onside kick to start the second half, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and running back Chris Johnson were flagged for personal fouls (Johnson was ejected), moving the ball to the Florida 19 before Louisville took a snap.
On the next play, Bridgewater threw his second touchdown pass to give the Cardinals a 30-10 lead - more points than the Gators had allowed in any game this year.
"We felt like it was there," Muschamp said of the decision to try for the onside kick. "We hit it too hard. We game-planned it and felt good about it. We wanted to steal a possession at the start of the second half. We had struggled defensively in the first half and felt you try to gain some momentum in the game."
Florida slipped to 5-2 in BCS bowl games. The Gators' other loss came to Miami in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.
"We did have a great year with a lot of wins," Driskel said. "But at the end of day we didn't come through and we didn't make enough plays."
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