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By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
NEW ORLEANS – Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 20-of-32 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns Wednesday and the No. 22 Cardinals held off a late charge by No. 4 Florida to post a 33-23 win in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
For Florida (11-2), it marked the Gators’ first loss in a bowl game since dropping the Capital One Bowl to Michigan 41-35, also snapping a school-record four-game bowl winning streak. Wednesday’s victory was the second all-time for Louisville (11-2) in a BCS Bowl Game, as the Cardinals logged their fourth 11-win season in program history.
There was little Florida could do to stop Louisville’s offense for much of the game and the Cardinals led 33-10 with 7:54 remaining in the game.
That’s when the Gators made a valiant comeback attempt, scoring a pair of touchdowns in a little more than a five-minute span late in the fourth quarter.
Florida’s Andre Debose returned a kickoff 100 yards – a Sugar Bowl record – to cut the Gators’ deficit to 15, 33-17, with 7:31 left. After forcing Louisville to punt on its next drive, Florida put together a 13-play, 97-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Driskel to Kent Taylor to bring the Gators within 10, 33-23. A two-point conversion failed as Driskel was sacked on the attempt, which all but sealed the game.
Louisville racked up 336 yards of total offense – including 266 through the air – to Florida’s 286. The Gators were more balanced offensively, rushing for 111 yards and passing for 175.
Driskel finished the game 16-of-29 for 175 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Quinton Dunbar led all Florida receivers with five catches for 77 yards. Mike Gillislee led the Gators on the ground with nine rushing attempts for 48 yards.
Louisville’s Jeremy Wright carried the ball 25 times for 84 yards with a score, while Eli Rogers was the Cardinals’ leading rusher with four catches for 62 yards.
Louisville won the opening coin toss and elected to defer, but the Cardinals quickly got the ball back and into the end zone after Florida’s Driskel was picked off on his opening play from scrimmage. The Cardinals’ Terrell Floyd returned the interception 38 yards for a touchdown, putting Louisville ahead 7-0 just 15 seconds into the game.
Florida was unable to get anything going on its next drive and Louisville took over, marching the ball down the field and again finding the end zone, thanks to brilliant passing from Bridgewater and a 1-yard run for score by Wright to put the Cardinals ahead 14-0 at the 6:47 mark of the opening quarter.
The Gators capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive at the 14:50 mark of the second quarter with a 33-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis to cut their deficit to 11, 14-3.
Louisville then scored 10 unanswered with a 27-yard field goal by John Wallace and a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to DeVante Parker to go ahead 24-3 with 2:57 remaining until halftime.
Florida scored its first touchdown of the game with 10 seconds left before intermission as Matt Jones capped off an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard run for touchdown to send Louisville into the locker room ahead 24-10.
Less than 10 seconds into the second half, Bridgewater struck from 19 yards out to Damian Copeland to put Louisville ahead by 20, 30-10 with 14:52 left in the third quarter.
Wallace knocked home a 30-yard field goal with 7:54 left in the game to widen the Cardinals’ advantage to 33-10 to set up Florida’s comeback attempt.
The Gators concluded their season with 11 wins after a 7-6 tally a year ago.