|The Louisville Cardinals celebrate perhaps the biggest win in program history. (US Presswire)|
There is certain to be plenty of hand-wringing among SEC apologists after this one, but the only truth is this: Louisville dominated Florida on Wednesday night in New Orleans, winning the Sugar Bowl, 33-23. And it wasn't that close.
It started immediately, when Louisville cornerback Terell Floyd picked off Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel on the first play from scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown. That was the first of many poor throws from Driskel, who finished 16 of 29 for 175 yards and two interceptions. The Cardinals never looked back from there, and the Gators never really threatened.
Louisville, of course, was led by its sensational sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was named Sugar Bowl MVP after throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns against the nation's top defense. Another stat that proves the Cardinals' dominance Wednesday: Louisville was only forced to punt a single time -- and that didn't come until the fourth quarter.
When the game turned: Florida was shell-shocked after the early pick, but -- as the third-ranked team in the country -- the Gators were expected to counter. They didn't. Instead, the Louisville defense forced a three-and-out and drove 84 yards for a score. It was 14-zip just like that, and Florida never made much of a game of it.
What they said:
- Louisville coach Charlie Strong, to ESPN following the game: "[ESPN analyst David] Pollack got us fired up earlier today, when he said it was going to be a 15-point game in their favor and it was gonna feel like a 30-point game. And then he said our defense hasn't played well all year. So this is for him."
Significance of Louisville's victory: It's tough to overstate just how important this win is, especially on the heels of the Cardinals moving to the ACC and head coach Charlie Strong announcing his intentions to remain with the team. And with Louisville being so young, they're certain to be vaulted into the Top 10 of next season's preseason poll. Besides that, Bridgewater will immediately enter the discussion as a Heisman favorite entering the 2013 campaign. This game could be looked back upon as the birth of a major football power.
Significance of Florida's loss: Losing in a BCS bowl is bad enough, but falling to a team from the Big East is, at least, a major ego hit for the Gators. It starts 2013 off on a sour note for Will Muschamp and company, who'd better be looking for an offense in the offseason.
Top shelf performances:
Numbers you should know: Louisville converted 9 of 14 third-down opportunities... Cardinals tight end B.J. Butler had two catches for 42 yards (he began the season as a defensive lineman)... Florida was penalized nine times for 97 yards, including concurrent personal fouls that gave Louisville 30 free yards... Both Bridgewater and Driskel completed passes to nine different receivers.
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