Make us your home page
Instagram

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 english@tampabay.com.

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

Loading...
  1. Anthem protest, the latest: Jerry Jones joins Cowboys on field in show of solidarity

    Bucs

    As President Donald Trump continued tweeting Monday about his displeasure with NFL players for staging demonstrations during the national anthem, the Cowboys took a knee on the field just before the anthem was performed on Monday Night Football. Dallas players were joined by owner Jerry Jones, and they quickly …

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, center, joins the team in taking a knee before the national anthem Monday night. They stood and linked arms for the anthem.
  2. Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says players who kneel have team's support

    Sports

    TAMPA — Receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were the only Bucs players kneeling during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Vikings, but DT Gerald McCoy said the team supports their protest "100 percent."

    Bucs tight end Cameron Brate pulls in a touchdown catch as Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (34) hits him in the back of the head.
  3. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Luke Del Rio regains UF starting job, for now

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Luke Del Rio is once again the starting quarterback for No. 21 Florida.

    Luke Del Rio provided a needed spark when he replaced starter Feleipe Franks and rallied Florida past Kentucky.
  5. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-name prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times