Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/3/13
NEW ORLEANS -- We can go back and forth about the pros and cons of the college football bowl system, but one of the quirks that makes the 35-game holiday football festival so unique is that 35 teams get to end the season on a high. Which means the other 35 go out on a low. And so it was for the 2012 Florida Gators, who five weeks ago bused home from Tallahassee after an 11-1 regular season, capped by a thorough beat-down of their arch rival and berth in a BCS bowl. Will Muschamp's second team authored a great story of recovery and redemption. Then came Wednesday in the Sugar Bowl, where Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the No. 21 Cardinals put a different ending on Florida's feel-good tale. Bridgewater bedazzled the No. 4 Gators while dazzled the Superdome crowd with 266 yards passing and a pair of touchdown throws in a 33-23 upset victory that marked the greatest moment in the UL program's middling football history. "It just wasn't our night," junior tight end Jordan Reed said. "Sometimes this stuff happens." Plenty happened, all right. For the Gators, much of it was bad, much of it quickly and at the worst possible times. "Got out-coached and outplayed," Muschamp said. "That's what I told our team. That's the bottom line." But Muschamp clearly wanted to knock down any notion the team's first bowl defeat in five years should taint the gains the program made over the previous five months, in bouncing back from a 7-6 season in 2011 -- the most losses by a UF team since 1987 -- to become just the sixth team in school history to win at least 11 games. He was hoping, though, to be the sixth to claim at least 12 wins. "We're building something here. We're building a program. It was an unfortunate setback, but it's one game," Muschamp said. "We still did a lot of very positive things, in my opinion, this season. Obviously, this is a sour day and a sour note and I apologize to our fans and the university, but we've had a great year and we're moving forward at a rapid pace." No one would have argued those points before the game, but as rapid as the Gators (11-2) were moving forward before the 79th Sugar Bowl they just as quickly undermined themselves in the game with huge steps backward to start both halves against the underdog Cardinals (11-2), champions of the ridiculed Big East Conference (and bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014). "We've come back a lot this season," junior offensive guard Jon Halapio said. "But playing catch-up against a difficult outfit like Louisville, that was going to be tough." Especially when in shell-shock mode. The Gators received the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel threw behind his intended receiver in the flat. The ball caromed off the hands of UF wideout Andre Debose and into the hands of Cards cornerback Terrell Floyd, who scored untouched on a 38-yard interception return. It was 7-0 Louisville 15 seconds in. "You still have the whole game to play," Driskel said. True. UF, though, went three-and-out on its second possession, with tailback Mike Gillislee dropping a perfectly thrown third-down pass that would have moved the chains. The Cardinals took over at their 17 and promptly marched 83 yards in 12 plays, as Bridgewater converted a pair of third downs along the way, and scored on a 1-yard run by Jeremy Wright to make it 14-0 barely seven minutes into the game. Like that, the joint jumping in favor of UL, which probably outnumbered UF fans 4-to-1. In rhythm and ripping the UF secondary, Bridgewater was on his way to hitting 20 of 32 for the night, staking the Cards to a 24-3 lead before the Gators scored on a Matt Jones 1-yard run -- out of broken fake field goal formation -- with 10 seconds go in the half to make it a 14-point lead. The touchdown gave Florida a smidgeon of momentum heading into the locker room, so the start of the second half was going to be key. The Gators gambled on an onsides kick to open the third quarter. Not only did it bounce right to a Cardinal inside midfield, but two UF players were flagged for dead-ball personal fouls after the play. That was 30 more yards. Louisville started the second half with a first down at UF's 19 and on the Cards' first snap Bridgewater hit Damian Copeland for a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-10. That took eight seconds -- two fewer than the disastrous start to the first half. "We had plenty of opportunities to get back into the football game," Muschamp said. "We didn't do it." Louisville, a 7-6 team in the previous two years, did it all night long, much to the delight of its red-clad fan base. "To change the culture of a program, our fans are going to have to change it," said Cards coach Charlie Strong, who served as UF's defensive coordinator for two national championship teams under Urban Meyer. "This evening the fans took that step, just like we took a step where we go and beat the No. 3 BCS team in the country and go and win and make a statement for next season." Strong and his players left the dome feeling like world-beaters. Good for them. "They came out and dominated," UF senior safety Josh Evans said. "No excuses. They were the better team." And they earned the right to feel great about themselves heading into the New Orleans night. For the Gators, it'll take a few days to get over the sting, but it too shall pass. One game does not a season make; even a last game on a really big stage. "At the end of the day, the Gators are going to be the Gators," said junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who afterward announced his plans to head for the NFL. "This program will get it right by going out and attacking another season ... like we did last year." When they were one of the other 35. Where they'll look to be a year from now.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: K-State players storm student section after big win

Tony Dungy coaches his way into Canton

Top eight takeaways from NFL Honors awards

Report: Austin Rivers out 4-6 weeks with broken hand

Brett Favre Hall of Fame discussion took less than 10 seconds

WATCH: Pop wishes Kobe well in heartfelt message


Eric Berry named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Cam Newton to be named NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Another star confirmed for Super Bowl 50 halftime show

WATCH: Wayne Simmonds loses his cool, earns match penalty

Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy headline Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Terrell Owens says he was not elected to Hall of Fame

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker