Louisville shocks Florida in Sugar Bowl

Louisville 33, Florida 23

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NEW ORLEANS — Louisville safety Calvin Pryor predicted the Cardinals would “shock the world” against Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

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Louisville's DeVante Parker catches a touchdown pass as Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy defends. The Cardinals, the Big East champions, started fast as they knocked off the Gators in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.  DAVE MARTIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Louisville's DeVante Parker catches a touchdown pass as Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy defends. The Cardinals, the Big East champions, started fast as they knocked off the Gators in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.

Brave words that he and his teammates backed up from start to finish.

Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play, dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater directed a handful of scoring drives and No. 22 Louisville stunned the fourth-ranked Gators 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.

Shaking off an early hit that flattened him and knocked off his helmet, Bridgewater was 20 of 32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns against the heavily favored Gators. Among his throws was a pinpoint, 15-yard timing toss that DeVante Parker acrobatically grabbed as he touched one foot down in the corner of the end zone.

His other scoring strike went to Damian Copeland from 19 yards one play after a surprise onside kick by the Gators had backfired badly. Jeremy Wright had short touchdown run which gave the two-touchdown underdogs from the Big East a 14-0 lead from which the Gators never recovered.

By the end, the chant, “Charlie, Charlie!” – for third-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong – echoed from sections of the Superdome occupied by red-clad Cardinals fans.

Florida never trailed by more than 10 points this season, and the Southeastern Conference power had lost only once going into this game. The defeat dropped SEC teams to 3-3 this bowl season, with Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi still left to play.

Louisville and Florida each finished at 11-2.

Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel, who had thrown only three interceptions all season, turned the ball over three times on two interceptions – both tipped passes – and a fumble. He finished 16 of 29 for 175 yards.

Louisville won the Big East berth to this game. They beat Rutgers in late November to virtually lock up the conference title, sealing that win on a late interception by Floyd.

Down 33-10 midway through the fourth period, Florida tried to rally. Andre Debose scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and Driskel threw a TD pass to tight end Kent Taylor with 2:13 left. But when Louisville defenders piled on Driskel to thwart the 2-point try, the game was essentially over.

Florida didn’t score until Caleb Sturgis’s 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

The Gators finally got in the end zone with a trick play in the closing seconds of the half. They changed personnel as if to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but lined up in a bizarre combination of swinging-gate and shotgun formations and handed off to Matt Jones.

Jones met only minimal resistance as he crashed into the end zone to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive that included four straight completions and four straight runs by Driskel.

The Gators tried to keep the momentum with a surprise onside kick to open the third quarter, but not only did Louisville recover, Florida’s Chris Johnson was called for a personal foul and ejected for jabbing at Louisville’s Zed Evans. That gave Louisville the ball on the Florida 19, from where Bridgewater needed one play to find Copeland for his score.

On the following kickoff, Evans cut down kick returner Loucheiz Purifoy with a vicious low, high-speed hit that shook Purifoy up. Soon after, Driskel was sacked hard from behind and stripped by Pryor.

Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin recovered on the Florida 4, but the Gators’ defense drove the Cardinals backward and forced a missed field goal, but that was one of few morale victories for the frustrated Gators.

After Louisville native Muhammad Ali was on the field for the coin toss, the Cardinals quickly stung the Gators. Floyd, one of nearly three dozen Louisville players from the state of Florida, made the play.

Driskel was looking for seldom-targeted Debose, who’d had only two catches all season. The throw was a bit behind Debose and the receiver tipped it, making for an easy catch and score for Floyd only 15 seconds into the game.

Oddly, Louisville had only 10 defenders on the field until only moments before the snap, when safety Jermaine Reve darted out from the sideline and immediately found a Florida receiver to cover.

When Louisville’s offense got the ball later in the quarter, the Florida defense, ranked among the best in the nation this season, sought to intimidate the Cardinals with one heavy hit after another.

One blow by Jon Bostic knocked Bridgewater’s helmet off moments after he’d floated an incomplete pass down the right sideline. Bostic was called for a personal foul, however, which seemed to get the Cardinals opening drive rolling. Later, Wright lost his helmet during a 3-yard gain and took another heavy hit before he went down.

Louisville kept coming, though.

B.J. Butler turned a short catch into a 23-yard gain down to the Florida 1. Then Wright punched it in to give the Cardinals an early two-TD lead over a team that finished third in the BCS standings, one spot too low to play for a national title in Miami.

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Techfan 01/03/13 - 04:37 am
With the SEC bias in the BCS,

With the SEC bias in the BCS, that should drop UF from #3 to about #8, and move Louisville up from #21 to #13 or #14.

Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 01/03/13 - 05:48 am
Techfan, I'm not going to

Techfan, I'm not going to spar with you on the bias thing. You are correct on one thing though, Florida SHOULD drop quite a few spots. Now, if they only drop a couple, THEN you can say all that stuff about a bias. Georgia should be over Florida...again.

Riverman1 01/03/13 - 08:48 am
The new ACC team. Congrats to

The new ACC team. Congrats to Charlie and Louisville.

soapy_725 01/03/13 - 10:11 am
Shock and Awe

Someone was not prepared for this game. FL looked lost from the openings play. Perhaps celebrating in advance was the problem? Sad performance by FL. SEC 3-3.

itsanotherday1 01/03/13 - 11:20 am
Louisville beat them like a

Louisville beat them like a rented mule. I hated to see it for the SEC, but my hat is off to Charlie Strong and that bunch. They played almost flawless football and were still throwing their bodies around to the very end. If Georgia had played all year with that level of enthusiasm and commitment, they would be playing this Monday rather than last Tuesday.

justthefacts 01/03/13 - 11:58 am
SEC Bias

Ha, yeah, sure. LOL.

rmwhitley 01/03/13 - 06:18 pm
if auburn and florida

NEVER win another game, Life is good.

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