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)
SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

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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Florida focused on preparation and execution

On New Year’s Day 2012, Florida Gators fans were likely worried about the future of the program as their team was getting ready to face Ohio State in a showdown of underperforming .500 teams in the Gator Bowl. Only the most optimistic among them could have imagined that exactly one year later, their Gators would be ranked No. 3 in the country and back in a BCS bowl game for the first time since the 2009 season.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what Florida is faced with on Wednesday, a big-time contest against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in what will no doubt be an exciting game for both fan bases.

For the Gators, a victory on Wednesday will be a near-perfect ending to a bounce back season. Florida undoubtedly hoped to have a chance at the national title but will instead be focused on putting the rubber stamp on a newfound toughness that Muschamp started instilling in the team during bowl practices one year ago.

Continue Reading » Florida focused on preparation and execution

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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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12/30: Driskel’s future, Gillislee’s present

No. 3 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Sunday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR JEFF DRISKEL IN 2013

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, fresh off a regular season in which he led the Gators to 10 wins in his 11 starts while posting an 11-3 touchdown-interception ratio (with four more scores on the ground), is only scratching the surface. That according to Pease and his teammates, who all believe that by the time he is done at Florida, Driskel could be one of the all-time greats.

“Tim Tebow is a great quarterback, I don’t want to take nothing from him,” senior running back Mike Gillislee told the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson on Sunday. “But I think Driskel is going to be a lot better. I think after this year he’s going to be a lot better.”

Both Gillislee and redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. described Driskel as a humble leader who is focused not on his numbers but rather ensuring that the offense runs smoothly and everyone on the field gets involved.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Hammond, who noted that Driskel’s ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage is a big-time characteristic he already possesses. “It’s a great advantage. Having trust in the quarterback like that and knowing that he will get us guys in the right situation. When we are all on the same page and we all see it through his eyes, how he sees it, then everything starts clicking.”

Pease on Sunday called Driskel “a good kid” and “a good player” who showed that he took steps every week, increased his knowledge and became a better leader. For those reasons, he is in the position to take a huge leap in his second year as a starter as he, the players around him and the offense as a whole continues developing.

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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12/28: Sugar Bowl importance, Lewis’s return

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Friday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

NOT TAKING ANYTHING FOR GRANTED

On Thursday, Muschamp discussed why it was critical for the Gators to win their 12th game of the 2012 season. One day later, he explained when Florida hit rock bottom one year ago and how the program has pulled itself up by the bootstraps.

“The month of October [2011] wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” he said. “Two games – Alabama and LSU – we got physically dominated. We had our opportunities in some other games. We didn’t make enough good decisions as coaches or players to put ourselves in position to win those games.”

Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon acknowledged that the coaching staff identified the problem soon after those losses and began working to put the Gators back together. “We had a problem with complacency and we found out how to deal with that, and we’ve become a better team,” he said.

Now Florida is back at the top of the heap, a great accomplishment for a second-year coach like Muschamp but one he promises that the program is not taking for granted.

“Certainly when you’ve hit the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, at a place like the University of Florida, it makes you appreciate things a little bit more,” he said. “That’s something where you’ve got to stay grounded in your approach as a player and a coach to understand you don’t just roll the hat out there and win football games. It takes work, it takes preparation, it takes recruiting, it takes development, it takes strength program, it takes character building, it takes all of those things to encompass to have the type of program you want to have at Florida.

“We understand that every day. I understand getting out of bed every day knowing that just because it happened yesterday doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. You got to make it happen and that’s what I think these players understand a little bit more.”

That never-say-die attitude has defined the Gators’ season. Including the awful performance against Georgia, in which Florida was perhaps a play or two away from potentially winning the game, it always found a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins pointed to a strip-fumble made by junior safety Matt Elam on a deep pass during the LSU game as one play in particular that was a paradigm of the entire 2012 campaign.

“I think that play defined our season. It just showed that we won’t quit,” he said. “Every game we’ve showed it. That’s one play that’s come out that’s shown it. He could have gave up on the play or could have just made the tackle, but he went the extra mile to make the strip.”

That is why Wednesday’s game is so critical. In addition to giving the Gators the 12th win they are pining for, it also shows that the turnaround is complete.

“This is a very important game for the program. I believe it’s a statement game,” redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “Coming out of the season last year, we had to make a statement versus Ohio State going into the season of what it was going to be. Ohio State finished undefeated. We beat them last year and we finished 11-1. It’s a big statement to finish strong in your bowl game.”

Read the rest of what the Gators 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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12/27: Gators arrive in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

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

TRANSFERS CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed two more transfers, which gives the Gators three in the last two weeks. He said that both redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders “just needed a fresh start given their situations.”

“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” he added.

He also spoke about keeping Florida players out of trouble and how those practices have unfolded over the last year or so. “It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”

Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic explained that he is proud of how the team has stayed out of trouble most of the year but is nevertheless sad to see Saunders leave the program. “Our guys have been smart all year. We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction,” he said. “[Saunders is] one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program. Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”

GETTING TO 12 WINS

Though the coach admitted that the Cardinals are going to put up a fight on Jan. 2, Muschamp has been “very pleased” with the team’s preparation through practice last Friday when everyone dispersed for the holiday break. He has also put a great importance on winning this game for Florida.

“It’s absolutely critical. We are trying to become just the sixth team in Florida history to reach 12 wins, which is huge considering how successful this program has been,” Muschamp said. “It’s also an opportunity to finish the season ranked in the top five, possibly No. 3. These things are important to our program as we continue to move forward. This is a one-game season. We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”

The seniors that have stuck with this program through thick and thin will be all-in next Wednesday, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also sees this as a great opportunity to completely knock the 2011 season out of the team’s memory and focus on moving forward.

“It goes back to the offseason. We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason. We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season,” he said.

Driskel is excited for the opportunity to win a bowl game as a starter “on a national stage [in] one of the biggest games of the year.” He continued, “We’re honored to be in the game. We’re honored to be in the Sugar Bowl, so we’re going to practice well and we’re going to prepare well so we can play well when the game rolls around.”

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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