NEW ORLEANS — The Gators relied on their defense throughout the regular season. Wednesday night, the unit, which had consistently been one of the stingiest in college football, collapsed in the Superdome.
No. 4 Florida surrendered its second-most yards this season and a season high in points as it fell to No. 22 Louisville 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl.
Going into the game, the Gators had the nation's fifth-ranked total defense, allowing an average of 274.4 yards per game. The Cardinals gained 333 yards despite working with a short field for much of the night. Because of Florida turnovers, failed onside kicks and penalties, Louisville began drives at the UF 4-, 19-, 45- and 46-yard lines.
Cardinals sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater picked apart a Florida secondary that ranked first in the nation in pass-efficiency defense before Wednesday. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 91.50 against the Gators, with five touchdowns and 19 interceptions in the regular season.
The Miami native completed 20 of 32 passes for two touchdowns, one interception and 266 yards, the highest total for an opposing quarterback against the Gators since Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers threw for 297 on Nov. 5, 2011, in a 26-21 Florida win.
The Florida defense was worn down as it uncharacteristically struggled to get off the field throughout the contest.
Florida opponents converted 28.32 percent of their third-down chances in the regular season. The Cardinals converted 9 of 14 third downs and did so on three attempts of third and 10 or longer.
One of the long conversions gave the Cardinals a 24-3 lead late in the first quarter as Bridgewater found sophomore wide receiver Devante Parker in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown on third and 12.
Bridgewater stayed in a rhythm despite a solid Florida pass rush. The Gators recorded a season-high five sacks, but Bridgewater consistently avoided pressure and found his receivers down the field.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the game was that Louisville punter Ryan Johnson did not make his first appearance until the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter.