Someone forgot to tell Florida’s team and coaching staff to get off the bus in New Orleans. The 10-point difference wasn’t indicative of the chasm between the two teams during the game. The Gators were the heavy favorites, and they were upended in all three phases of the game. Will Muschamp was outcoached, and even the cheerleaders were outcheered…is that a word? It couldn’t get any worse for the #3 team in the country.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater carved up the Gators like a Thanksgiving turkey, tossing two touchdown passes and connecting on 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards. Florida had allowed no touchdown passes for 15 yards or longer, and Louisville struck for two. Hats off to Bridgewater – his Heisman campaign for 2013 kicked off against arguably the best defense in the country entering tonight.
Louisville only managed 61 rushing yards, but racked up a total of 327 yards and forced three turnovers from the Gators.
What it means? Florida had a great regular season, finishing 11-1 and beating four ranked teams, but they simply ran into a buzz saw against the Cardinals. Florida looked undisciplined on so many levels, and they couldn’t move the ball on offense for much of the game. Florida committed nine penalties for 97 yards. It’s a head coach’s job to get players ready to play, and it was clear from the get-go that Florida wasn’t prepared. Credit Louisville, though, for their game plan that was executed to perfection. Florida could lose as many as six defensive players depending on how bad the draft wipes them out, but the Gators return several offensive players, if that means anything at all at this point.
Key Stat: Louisville torched Florida’s top defense on third downs, connecting on nine of 14. Florida had no answer on defense for the first three quarters, and they certainly had no answers on offense until late in the fourth quarter. Louisville only punted one time in the game, compared to Florida’s three onside kick attempts.
Key Play: Several plays explained the dominance. The first play of the game was a pick-six off a tipped pass. Louisville took the early 7-0 lead and grabbed all the momentum. But the biggest head-scratching play came on the second-half kickoff when Muschamp irrationally chose to attempt an onside kick. Louisville recovered and Florida suffered two 15-yard penalties in the process. The Cardinals started that drive at Florida’s 20-yard line but ended up without any points after a missed field goal. Florida created some momentum just before halftime with a touchdown, and Mushcamp must have felt desperation with the attempt. The Gators could have easily kicked it deep and settled in on defense.
Concerning for Florida: Jeff Driskel’s development, or lack thereof, has to be concerning entering next season. Yeah, there are no playmakers on offense at receiver, and the offensive line had trouble blocking air at times, but Driskel really took a major step back from his development earlier in the season. Granted, he was never great, but he was a good game manager who made plays through the air and with his legs when he had to. He didn’t resemble the quarterback that suited up in Tallahassee just five weeks ago. Driskel’s development over the offseason will be oh-so crucial for Florida next season.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports