|Louisville recorded only their fourth 11-win season in school history with the Sugar Bowl win over Florida. (US Presswire)|
LOUISVILLE WON. Considered by most a two-touchdown underdog, Louisville shocked the Gators and silenced the critics in a 33-23 Sugar Bowl win. Big East Offensive Player of the Year Teddy Bridgewater added another memorable performance to his star-studded sophomore campaign, completing 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater earned the MVP honors, but he got a lot of help from the Cardinals' defense. Florida was held to just 3-10 on third down, and Jeff Driskel turned the ball over three times. In addition to the turnovers, the Gators were also hindered by nine penalties accepted that totaled 98 penalty yards.
HOW LOUISVILLE WON: Louisville's offensive line rose to the occasion, giving Teddy Bridgewater protection against a ferocious Florida pass rush. The unit delivered arguably their best performance of the season, giving Bridgewater time to spread the ball around to nine difference receivers for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Once the Cardinals' offense raced out to a 30-10 lead on the first play of the third quarter, the attention turned to the run game and short passes to burn the clock.
Louisville held the ball for 9:22 in the third quarter, with the only score for either team coming on the first play from scrimmage. Florida's failed onside kick attempt to start the second half was coupled with two personal foul penalties and the next play Bridgewater tossed a beautiful touchdown pass to Damian Copeland in the corner of the end zone.
WHEN LOUISVILLE WON: Louisville made it clear from the first play that this was not going to be the game many expected. A bobbled incompletion from Jeff Driskel was pulled in by Terrell Floyd, who proceeded 38 yards to the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. The Cardinals scored on each of their four drives on offense and before you knew it were leading 30-10. But the moment the result was no longer in doubt occurred early in the fourth quarter, when Driskel's second tipped pass was pulled in by a Louisville player, this one by Andrew Johnson. Florida finally caught a break with Josh Evans' interception, and a few big plays set up the Gators' offense with 1st and 10 from the 11. But instead of points to cut into the lead the Gators handed the ball back to Louisville; who returned to their clock-eating ways.
WHAT LOUISVILLE WON: Whether this win is the most significant in Louisville's history is debatable, but it is undoubtedly the most important moment in the program's modern history. In his first ever full season as a head coach, Charlie Strong gave a veteran-led Louisville team the first bowl appearance of their collective careers. In his second year, a young Cardinals team, led by the Big East Offensive Rookie of the Year, came on strong late to earn a share of the Big East title. In just his third year ever, Strong led this group into the Sugar Bowl against the heavily favored Gators and dominated.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: Unlike Louisville, Florida appeared to regress from the way they finished the season. The difference between an 11-win season and a 12-win season is not much if there is no SEC or BCS title involved, so the only real fallout here is the embarrassment and disappointment in the way the game was lost. For whatever reason, Florida did not look like the team that marched into Tallahassee and forced five turnovers in a 37-26 win against Florida State. The Gators pass defense was picked apart and the Driskel-led offense not only turned the ball over three times, but only finished two drives in the end zone -- the last one coming arguably after the game was out of reach. Florida will be back though, and it is possible they could each be in the mix as Top 10 teams heading into 2013.
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