Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators enjoying calmer trip to Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — When Florida made its last trip to the Sugar Bowl in the 2009 season, it was nothing short of pure chaos.

The Gators were coming off an emotional 32-13 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game — a loss that ended their quest for an undefeated season and their shot at a national title. Then-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was coaching his last game before heading to his new job at Louisville. And then-head coach Urban Meyer resigned before the team's departure for New Orleans then changed his mind by the time the team arrived.

It is an event senior DT Omar Hunter will never forget.

"It's funny; (Meyer) did it on my birthday (Dec. 27)," Hunter said Saturday. "I remember it like it was yesterday. Happy birthday. He got in the team meeting room and he said what he had to say about it and the guys were just looking around like, 'What's going on?' And I saw everyone on their phones text messaging and calling, calling their parents. Guys were saying they wanted to transfer, they wanted to do this, they wanted to do that and then I guess a few days later, 'Oh no, I'm staying.'

"But everybody bought back into the program at that time and hung together for the Sugar Bowl (51-24 win over Cincinnati), and after that things kind of calmed down."

Which is why, Hunter said, many of the Gator players, particularly their seniors, are relishing this year's game. It has been low key, free of major distractions and, well, enjoyable.

"We've been having fun and enjoying every step of the way," Hunter said.

TICKETS REMAIN: Florida is a double-digit favorite over Louisville, but that hasn't translated into ticket sales. Florida has sold just 7,000 of its allotted 17,500 Sugar Bowl tickets. With the average ticket price at $165, those unsold tickets could cost the University Athletic Association more than $1.7 million.

PREPARING FOR A CHALLENGE: Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the Gators defense will pose one of the toughest challenges the Cardinals have faced this season. Florida is allowing 12.9 points per game, its fewest since 1964 (9.8). Watson said one thing jumps out when watching the Gator defense on film: talent.

"They have great talent, all across the board, and they have depth besides talent," Watson said. "That tends to lead to success, because what they do schematically is very good. They have every piece defensively you could ever want."

Antonya English can be reached at

Florida Gators enjoying calmer trip to Sugar Bowl 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 7:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida Gators want a White Out in home opener


    At least the Florida Gators are trying to do something to spice up this season's home opener.

  2. Stop expecting Gerald McCoy to be Warren Sapp


    Here's the problem when it comes to Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

    Photo from National Pediatric Cancer Foundation The crowd cheered wildly for cancer survivor Joshua Fisher, left, and Tampa Bay Buc Gerald McCoy at the 14th annual Fashion Funds the Cure on May 6 to benefit the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation at Port Tampa Bay Terminal 2.
  3. Orioles Buck Showalter's Trop takedown includes bullpen mounds, bathroom options, bladder problems


    Orioles manager Buck Showalter has never been a fan of the Trop, and after Monday's 5-0 win he — with some prodding from O's TV man Gary Thorne — took a few more shots during their MASN interview, specifically about the location of the bullpen mounds, and the lack of bathroom facilities.

    Orioles manager Buck Showalter has never been a fan of Tropicana Field.
  4. What a perfect USF football season would and wouldn't mean


    TAMPA — USF held its first fall practice Monday. A mere technicality. It's mind-bending how many people think that USF, sure to be ranked in the preseason Top 25, is going to throw down a 12-0 regular season with the schedule placed before it. This from a team that has never won a conference championship in its …

    The hiring of Charlie Strong, shown here, cente,r with USF president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Mark Harlan during his introductory press conference non Dec. 15, 2016, is one of several reasons for the Bulls' high football expectations this season.  [ JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
  5. HomeTeam 100: Players 31-40


    Wesley Chapel High School running back Dexter Leverett (6) runs the ball past Hudson High School offensive linebacker Cody Sutphin (8) during the second half at Wesley Chapel High School in Wesley Chapel, Fla., on Oct. 8, 2016. Wesley Chapel won the game 39 to 34