All the experts handicapped the Sugar Bowl as a blow out for the Florida Gators (11-2). No way the University of Louisville Cardinals (11-2) could compete because this team was from the ballyhooed SEC. You know, the Mecca of college football. How could a lowly Big East team hang? Well they did. Not only did they hang, the dominated the Gators 33-23 in New Orleans.
Terrell Floyd intercepted Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel on the first play of the game and ran straight to the house to put the Cards up 7-0 with just a few seconds off the clock. To prove that score wasn’t a fluke, Teddy Bridgewater marched Louisville down the field and the Cardinals capped the drive with a 1 yard walk into the end zone by Jeremy Wright. Suddenly the 14 point underdogs were up by 14 at the end of the first quarter.
The Gators publicly acknowledged that Bridgewater would be the best QB they’ve faced this year. That’s high praise considering they played Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Bridgewater came up big with accurate throws and scampering ability.
Thanks to a late TD right before half time, the Cards only went into the locker room up 24-10, but how many people handicapped it that way?
Opening the second half, Florida tried an onside kick that failed because Andrell Smith was on the coverage and recovered. After the play was over, two Gators were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct with Florida’s Chris Johnson being thrown out of the game.
After stepping off 30 yards on combined penalty yards, Bridgewater made them pay for such a lack of discipline. On the very next play he hit Damian Copeland for a touchdown putting the Cards up 30-10.
In an attempt to catch the sprinting Cardinals, Florida resorted to gadget plays and wildcat formations which worked at times but Louisville had them scouted pretty well to keep the impact to a minimum. So while Tim Tebow and Emmitt Smith looked on, their alma mater couldn’t seem to figure out how the Cardinal defense got so good. For every thrust, the Cards figured out how to parry.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators couldn’t do what they’ve done all season: stop teams on third down. Louisville converted to keep drives alive and eat up the clock against a team that’s not exactly known as a quick strike, come from behind squad.
The Cardinal special teams reared it’s ugly head and gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to bring the game closer and give Florida some hope. Then the Gators marched after Louisville’s first 3 and out led to another score but it was really too late for them to remember they come from Mecca.
Teddy Bridgewater finished the game 20-32 for 266 yards and two touchdowns while enduring 5 sacks. Jeremy Wright struggled early on but ran for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Photo: Louisville.com/Max Sharp