Physically dominated

Physically dominated

The Gators accepted head coach Will Muschamp's challenge of getting tougher, but it didn't look like it during Wednesday's loss in the Sugar Bowl. That's what stung the most as players walked around the locker room after the game. The Florida offensive line had inconsistent moments throughout the season, but junior guard Jon Halapio felt the team was dominated physically against the Cardinals.

"When we get outplayed and outphysicaled up front, we've got to use it as motivation in the offseason, spring football and fall camp," Jon Halapio said.

Those were the words he chose to use to describe the Gators loss to Louisville—outplayed, outphysicaled. The Cardinals were more physically dominant and played better than the Florida offensive line at the line of scrimmage. Louisville had three sacks during the game, and some of them were quarterback Jeff Driskel's fault for not getting rid of the football, but the offensive line struggled to protect or open up holes in the run game.

Driskel opened the game with a throw behind Andre Debose that went for an interception returned for a touchdown on the first play of the game. The sophomore ended the game 16-for-29, throwing for 175 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

"You can't blame the whole game on Jeff," Halapio said. "When we made a mistake, he was the first person to come to the offense and keep the drive alive and the team alive as a whole. That's the best thing I saw from Jeff tonight."

There's no doubt that the first offensive play of the game set the Gators back. They were fighting from behind the entire game, and the play also allowed the Cardinals to get their crowd into the game. The Louisville faithful travelled in much bigger numbers than Florida fans, and it was easy to tell during the game.

The Gators then opened the second half with an onside kick attempt that was botched, allowing the Cardinals to score on the first possession of the second half and take away any momentum Florida corralled from its touchdown to end the first half. The tough starts to both halves set the Gators back.

"It was hard," Halapio said. "It's hard for any team to play catch up. We were playing catch up the whole game."

The postgame locker room was a difficult situation for the Gators. There was frustration and even some embarrassment, but above it all, there was silence. Heads hung to the ground as Muschamp addressed the team, followed by a few seniors. It was an emotional moment to end the 11-2 season.

"Everybody was down," Halapio said, shaking his head. "Everybody's heads were down and everything. We don't like to lose. The greatest thing about coming back into the locker room after the game was listening to the leaders on this team talk to us. We've just got to carry this on next year."

There are still special memories that will go along with the 2012 season, even if the ending is sour from the Sugar Bowl loss. Halapio said he will always remember the team's success and bringing the Florida program back to the elite level in college football.

He'll also remember the seniors. The Gators had a large, experienced senior class that took the reigns of the team and helped bring it back to the level the program was when they first enrolled in Gainesville.

"To play on this team with all these seniors, we've just got great leadership," Halapio said. "I just love how these seniors have played. They pretty much led us this whole season. It was on the season. That's the best thing I love about this team."

After watching the seniors lead through 2012, it's now Halapio's turn. He's excited for the challenge that comes with being a senior leader for the Gators, and it starts immediately.

"I've got to bring this team in together and take on that leadership role," Halapio said.

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