Originally written January 03, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
NEW ORLEANS Florida fans clearly didnt want to be here, and their teamresponded in kind. In the biggest surprise of the college football bowl seasonand the largest upset in Sugar Bowl history, Louisville and their outstandingquarterback Teddy Bridgewater stunned the Gators 33 -23 in a game that wasntas close as the final score indicated. In so doing, the Cardinals became thefirst 13-point underdog to win this bowl game. They did it the old fashioned way: by hitting the Gators inthe mouth early and never letting up. On the first play from scrimmage Floridaquarterback Jeff Driskel threw an interception to Louisville sophomorecornerback Terell Floyd who ran it in for a touchdown. From there the Cardinals were off to the races, scoring ontheir second possession and their third, and then tacking on three more scoresfor good measure. If Florida hadnt run a kickoff back for a touchdown with7:41 remaining and scored again with 5:00 to go, this one would have been ablowout. As it was, Bridgewater threw for 266 yards against a Floridadefense which was ranked among the best in the country, and he converted 9-of-14third downs, allowing the Cardinals to win the time of possession battle by 11-plusminutes. It was arguably the biggest win in Louisville history,although head coach Charlie Strong still defers to the 1991 Fiesta Bowl winover Alabama. If you look at this game, we were able to match upphysically and overpower the No.3 team in the country, Strong said. We left alot of points out there, but still our whole team, just loved theirperformance. There was a lot to love. The Cardinals defense sackedDriskel three times for 33 yards and allowed the Gators to convert only threethird downs.There was never anydoubt in our minds that we could win this game, said Jeremy Wright, who ledLouisville in rushing with 84 yards. We believed from the beginning, and thatbelief carried us tonight. Belief and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in thenation will go a long away. In order to change the culture of a program, our fans aregoing to have to change it, Strong said. This evening they took that step,just like we took a step and made a statement for next season. By the opening kickoff of next season 200,000 Louisville fanswill swear they saw this one in person. And they will be lying. In fact, fans set a record for not being here. This was the smallest Sugar Bowl crowd since 1939 when44,308 watched TCU beat Carnegie Tech 15-7. Back then, Tulane Stadium only held49,000. The next year an upper deck was added, expanding capacity to 70,000 andthe Sugar Bowl sold out. If 50,000 people saw this one in person (counting the bands)Ill eat a fried gator. Louisville traveled as well as could be expected for a 13-pointunderdog. More than half the attendees were wearing Cardinal red. It was the Florida contingent that was embarrassingly small.According to the Orlando Sentinal, Florida sold fewer than 7,000 tickets from itsofficial allotment of 17,500.The Sugar Bowl committee didnt make up the slackas there were empty seats on the 40-yard line in the Florida section, and anentire upper deck end zone never saw a soul.For some unfathomable reason, the Gator Nation has becomethe Gator neighborhood. Just as Louisville is relying on their fan base tochange the culture, Floridas could change the culture of that program as well,and not in a good way. Not to take anything away from Louisvilles performance, butFlorida played this Sugar Bowl like it wanted to be home with its fans. We got outplayed and outcoached, coach Will Muschamp said.Thats the bottom line. If you go out and get beat, you get beat. Thats whathappened. In the process of getting beat, the Gators had a school-record98 yards in penalties, including two personal foul penalties on the openingkickoff of the second half that led to one ejection and another Bridgewatertouchdown. Ive said it before, Teddy is one of the best quarterbacksin the country, Strong said. If you look out on that field tonight, you lookat what Florida has, you look at what we have, he was the best player on thefield. No one would argue that point, just as everyone who saw thegame would agree that Louisville had the best team.No, the problem doesn't lie with the people who saw this one: it lies with the people who didn't. Because if a team's fans don't care enough to come to the games, how can they expect the players to care about winning them?
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