No. 21 Louisville stuns No. 3 Florida in Sugar Bowl

Despite being overwhelming favorites and the team with the BCS pedigree, the No. 3 Florida Gators (11-2) were blasted on Wednesday evening by the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (11-2), which pulled off a 33-23 upset victory at the 2013 Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Louisville scored on the first play from scrimmage of each half, overwhelmed Florida’s defense throughout the game and capitalized on each one of its opponent’s miscues to pull off the greatest victory in program history and biggest upset in BCS bowl game history. The Gators also snapped their streak of four-straight bowl wins and fell in a BCS game for the first time since 2000.

Florida put itself in an early hole on the very first play from scrimmage as sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel’s pass was tipped off the hands of redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose only to be intercepted by Louisville cornerback Terrell Floyd and returned for a touchdown just 15 seconds into the game. The defensive score was the Cardinals’ first of the season.

The Gators then went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and allowed UL QB Teddy Bridgewater to convert three third downs before running back Jeremy Wright carried the ball in for a one-yard touchdown. The 12-play, 83-yard drive ended with 6:47 left in the first quarter and gave UF its largest deficit of the season.

Continue Reading » No. 21 Louisville stuns No. 3 Florida in Sugar Bowl

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Gameday: 2013 Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – No. 3 Florida Gators vs. No. 21 Louisville Cardinals

Event: 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA [Capacity: 72,589]
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $47 on TiqIQ

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD / ESPN3D (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Quint Kessenich)
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No. 3 FLORIDA GATORS No. 21 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Charlie Strong
Record: 11-1 Record: 10-2
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -14 | O/U: 47.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 2-0 all-time against Louisville with the meetings occurring in Gainesville, FL in 1980 (W 13-0) and 1992 (W 31-17).
» The Gators have won four-straight bowl games (a school record) and hold a 20-19 all-time record in such contests. UF has appeared in 22 consecutive bowl games and made the most appearances in January bowl games (19) since 1993 as well as the most consecutive January bowl game appearances (eight).
» Florida is 5-1 in BCS bowl games and has won four-straight dating back to 2001. Winning a sixth would tie UF with USC and Ohio State for most BCS wins since the system began in 1998.
» The Gators are 3-5 all-time in the Sugar Bowl with appearances in 1965 (L), 1974 (L), 1991 (L), 1993 (W), 1994 (L), 1996 (W), 2000 (L) and 2009 (W).
» The Cardinals are making their first-ever Sugar Bowl appearance and second BCS bowl appearance. Louisville will be playing in a bowl game for the 17th time.
» Florida is looking to finish with 12+ wins for just the sixth time in school history.
» The Gators went 4-1 against teams currently in the BCS top 12.
» UF currently boasts the No. 1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida finished 7-0 at home in a season for just the third time in school history. The 2006 and 2009 UF teams also accomplished that feat.
» The Gators are 4-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp but 4-1 in that category this season with wins over Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State.
» Florida was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but has flipped that around and is 4-1 in 2012 in that category with all four victories vs. SEC opponents (two ranked).
» The Gators are 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 14-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 10-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida ranks first nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.5), third in scoring defense (12.9 points), fourth in third-down defense (.283), fifth in total defense (282.6 yards) and sixth in rush defense (96.6 yards).
» The 12.9 points per game allowed by the Gators defense is the lowest average since 1964 (9.8) despite facing three top-25 total offenses.
» Florida is +17 in turnover margin (fifth nationally) after being -12 in 2011 (113th). The 12 turnovers lost by UF Is the fewest for the program since at least 1949.
» The Gators have grabbed 19 interceptions, more than doubling its 2011 total of eight. UF has grabbed at least one pick in nine games and has forced nine fumbles.
» Florida is averaging 33:07 in time of possession through 12 games, a margin that ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC by 1:18 per game.
» The Gators have at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010. UF has not yet registered a kick return (or punt return) in 2012.
» Florida is seventh nationally in net punt average (40.7 yards per punt).
» Louisville is No. 1 nationally in red zone efficiency, converting 48-of-50 (.960) opportunities into scores including 34 touchdowns on 50 total drives (.680).
» The Cardinals are 14th nationally in passing efficiency (154.84) and third-down efficiency (.485).

» The Gators will wear blue jerseys and orange pants in the game. It is the first time Florida will be donning that uniform combination since the 1999 Florida State game.

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gameday: 2013 Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – No. 3 Florida Gators vs. No. 21 Louisville Cardinals

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Sentimental Strong ready to lead Louisville

From the day the participants in the 2013 Sugar Bowl were announced, a major story heading into the game has been No. 21 Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong going up against the No. 3 Florida Gators, a team he coached in one position or another for 16 of the 30 years in which he has been a coach.

After graduating from Central Arkansas, Strong took a graduate assistant job at Florida from 1983-84. He moved on to two other stops and returned to Gainesville, FL as an outside linebackers coach from 1988-89. He returned two years later to serve as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach from 1991-94. Strong then spent seven years away before returning to UF as defensive coordinator (and assistant head coach) from 2002-09.

Central Arkansas may be his alma mater, but Florida is undoubtedly a second collegiate home to Strong. Yet while fans and the media are focused on the back story, Strong has spent little time thinking about the Gators that way. That’s not to say he will not be touched by the moment at some point before the game begins.

“Well, see, I guess [it] really hasn’t hit me yet because I haven’t seen many of the players. So probably when I walk into the stadium for the first time [Wednesday] night and look across the sideline, you see a lot of those players you were able to recruit. Then it kind of hits you,” he said on Tuesday. “Once you hear the band rev up and play the different songs that you’re so familiar with … it will be something special. I mean, you kind of sit there, I’ll probably be in a daze for a second, but I still got to get refocused and get my team going also.”

Strong knows he has to be focused because his Cardinals are going up against a formidable opponent. He did not waste much time before praising UF as he lauded his former school as part of his opening statement on Tuesday.

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1/1: Muschamp, Strong talk teams, Sugar Bowl

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and No. 21 Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming 2013 Sugar Bowl and their respective teams heading into the game. Below are some choice notes and quotes from the media sessions.

» Muschamp on freshman standouts: “You look at Antonio Morrison, [Jonathan] Bullard and [Dante] Fowler. Those three guys have been as productive as any freshman I’ve been around.”

» Muschamp on becoming a head coach: “It’s taking the right job. I had other opportunities before the Florida job came. It’s about taking the right job. It’s about the right situation, the right people, the right circumstances, being in a situation where you think you can be successful. All the critical factors as far as recruiting base, support from the administration, all of those things need to be in place.”

» Muschamp on Florida’s lagging Sugar Bowl ticket sales and if the numbers worry him: “Obviously right now economically we’re going through a tough time in our country. I think that certainly has affected everyone, not just Gator fans. And so that’s a tough time right now and there’s different ways to get tickets other than going through the University Athletic Association. Obviously we’re seeing a little bit of a loophole those things happening as well. … I don’t worry about that. I worry about third down and stuff like that. I let Jeremy [Foley] worry about that.”

» Muschamp on an injury update: “We’re fine. We’re good to go for the game.”

» Muschamp on playing in a dome and what the team has had to do to prepare: “Adjusting to the lights. We’ve worked it all week, as far as seeing the punt catchers and kick off and receivers working and catching the football because it’s a little different with the lights in the stadium there. We’ve worked on that. And kicking in an environment for [Caleb] Sturgis is good for us. We can probably be at the 38 yard line and be in range for a 55-yard, 56-yard [field goal] maybe even to the 40 [yard line].”

» Muschamp said sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson will be the punt returner while sophomore CB Loucheiz Pufioy and redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose will both be back for kick returns.

Read the rest of what Muschamp and Strong had to say…after the break!
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12/27: Strong, Louisville talk Florida, Sugar Bowl

No. 21 Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 3 Florida Gators and provide updates on his team.

» Strong’s opening statement: “I was here three years ago on the other sideline coaching at the University of Florida preparing for Cincinnati. The next day I left for Louisville and our goal the first season was just get to a bowl game. It was the same scenario we had this season when we had to go to Rutgers and pull off a big win. […] We know we are playing an excellent football team in the University of Florida. We are happy and excited, and it’s really great for the school and the city of Louisville and the administration. To represent them is such an honor.”

» Strong on moving Florida senior Jon Bostic from safety to linebacker: “Bostic is a really good football player and I went to visit him as many times as the administration would let me. Bostic was too big to play safety and it was just a matter of time before he could eat his way into playing linebacker. But I have to hand it to the university for giving me the opportunity to recruit such a talented player like him.”

» Strong on coaching the Gators: “My success started at Florida. I was a part of two national championship teams and worked for so many outstanding coaches. One after the next, those coaches gave me opportunities and built tremendous programs with tradition. That same tradition is what we are trying to establish at Louisville as the program continues to get better each year. Though, it was a great experience at Florida and a lot of fun.”

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12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the last two weekends of practice, preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl and update the statuses as well as provide his thoughts about a number of players on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ian Silberman (shoulder) will both miss the bowl game. Each player had successful surgery on his respective injury recently but will not be able to return in time. Furthermore, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (torn pectoral) has been doing individual work with the team but has not been cleared to play just yet. Muschamp said there are no other players expected to be absent for the bowl game, though he did mention previously that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders would not play.

TRANSFER CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed that freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit who did not play this season, has decided to leave the program and pursue opportunities elsewhere. “Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and felt like he wanted to move on. We will support him in that,” he said.

He also noted that there should not be any more transfers before the bowl game but things could certainly change after Jan. 2. “We’re good right now. Obviously after the bowl game you sit down and evaluate where a young man is but right now we’re good to go,” Muschamp added.

RETURNING TO PRACTICE

Florida has practiced each of the last two weekends but has spent that time mostly working on fundamentals and getting back to basics. Muschamp said that the Gators will begin preparing for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday. Florida will then take a break for the holidays before resuming practice in New Orleans, LA, the site of the Sugar Bowl, on Dec. 27.

One thing he has tried to do since the end of the regular season is come up with a balance for the team between resting and getting away from it all but still remaining sharp football-wise.

“It’s really important for them to get away and decompress a little bit from football. You look at bowl games, with this long of a layover, it’s a one-game season. That’s how you really got to approach it,” he said. “You got to put all of your energy into it. I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get too stale with the preparation. They get tired of watching the same film over and over and over again.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

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Muschamp, Strong speak about Sugar Bowl bids

On Sunday, after the No. 3 Florida Gators and No. 21 Louisville Cardinals were officially announced as the participants in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, head coaches Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong spoke to the media, accepting their respective bid to the bowl and discussing their own team heading into the game. Below are highlights from that media availability that were not otherwise featured in OGGOA‘s story on Strong from Sunday evening.

» Muschamp on the opportunity to play in the game: “We’re honored to play in New Orleans. New Orleans is a great place with a lot of Gators. It was our first national championship in 1996. This will be our seventh BCS bowl appearance, which is first in the SEC. A lot of respect for Louisville and their football team they have and of course Charlie strong, who was a huge part of two national championships here at the University of Florida in ‘06 and ‘08. He’s an outstanding defensive coordinator and a good friend.”

» Muschamp on not having a chance to play for the national title: “It is what it is. The system we have in place is what we have. We had our opportunity in Jacksonville, didn’t quite get it done to get into the national championship game. But we’re going to play in the sugar bowl and represent our conference. That’s a huge honor in itself to represent the University of Florida every time you step on the field. We have great motivation for this game, regardless of the circumstances.”

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
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Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and Florida Gators defense are terms that go hand-in-hand, except this time Strong will not be leading one of the best units in the country onto the field but rather trying to figure out a way to score on it.

All of that will occur in one month when Florida and Strong’s Louisville Cardinals square off in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, LA.

It will be one day short of exactly three years from the last time he donned orange and blue and coached the Gators’ defense against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Florida allowed just three points in the first half and cruised to an impressive victory.

“We are so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like the University of Florida,” said Strong on Sunday after the game was announced. “I spent so many years there and I just think back; it seems like it yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati for the last time being at the University of Florida.”

Though he is years removed from the program, Strong praised the Gators’ defense and said he watches Florida play each and every week. In fact, he still communicates with some of the players he helped recruit, most of whom are in their final seasons at UF.

“You look at the defense and you’re so familiar with the guys there, when you think about those guys,” he said. “Lerentee [McCray], he has been there forever, Omar [Hunter] and [Jelani] Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver; and Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he’s still kicking there. You look at [Jon] Bostic and how well he’s played. Then you look at the quarterback position with [Jeff] Driskel being a dual threat where he can run and throw the ball.

“That’s an outstanding program; a program that’s built with toughness, offensive and defensive line, a very tough program. So it’s going to be an exciting matchup.”

Strong certainly seemed enthused on Sunday. His passion for the Florida program sounded as genuine as it was when he was a coordinator. He also took some time to praise the school’s administration, head coach Will Muschamp and what the Gators have accomplished so far this season.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

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