The Gator football team got off to a bad start in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans Wednesday night and could never recover as Florida is upset by former Gator assistant Charlie Strong and his Louisville Cardinals 33-23.
The win leaves Florida at 11-2 on the year, the same record Louisville ends the year with as well.
After getting the opening kickoff, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel threw an errant pass to wide receiver Andre Debose that deflected off his hands into the waiting arms of defensive back Terrell Floyd who returned the pick for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a lead they would never give up.
It set the tone for the entire game as Louisville gained instant confidence and it set Florida back on its heels. Florida quickly fell behind 14-0 before a Caleb Sturgis field goal temporarily stemmed the tide but Louisville quickly extended its lead to 24-3 on a field goal and a touchdown pass by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who was named the outstanding player of the game.
The Gators got a late first half touchdown on a run by Matt Jones to trail at the half 24-10.
Perhaps the other play that shifted momentum in the game was Gator coach Will Muschamp’s decision to start the second half with an onside kick. The kick failed and Florida was assessed two 15 yard penalties and had Chris Johnson kicked out of the game as well for throwing a punch. Louisville quickly scored on another Bridgewater touchdown pass to extend the lead to 30-10 after the extra point was blocked.
And in the fourth quarter, as the Gators were fighting to get back in the game, Driskel threw his second interception, this time in the end zone, to stop a potential touchdown drive. Even though Florida scored two late touchdowns at the end to make it interesting, one on a 100 yard kickoff return by Debose, a failed two point conversion on the second score sealed Florida’s fate and gave Louisville a shocking win.
Many believed the Gator running game would wear down the Cardinals but tailback Mike Gillislee was no factor, gaining just 48 yards as Florida was forced to throw the ball more than it wanted to because it was playing from behind early. Driskel, seemingly holding on to the ball too long at times, ended up 16 of 29 for 175 yards with a touchdown pass and the two interceptions.
And once again, Florida’s lack of discipline showed up as the Gators were flagged for nine penalties for 97 yards. In all, a tough way to end a season that had so much success.
After the game, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam announced they would skip their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft.