‘Outcoached and outplayed'

NEW ORLEANS — The stage was set for No. 3 Florida to ride a Sugar Bowl win into the offseason. The opportunity to take the momentum into next season was there. And then Wednesday night happened. The Gators suffered letdowns to start each half of the game while falling into a rut they couldn't come out of after giving Louisville a defensive touchdown to start the first quarter.

"Got outcoached and outplayed," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said after the 33-23 loss. "That's what I told the football team. That's the bottom line. It's unfortunate they score on the first play of the game and that kind of sets the momentum against us. Guys continued to play hard and just didn't get some of the things done we wanted to accomplished in the game.

"We got behind the eight ball and struggled on third down defense the entire game, got us out of whack a little bit."

Falling behind early set the Gators in a position where they struggled to get back in the game. They threw the ball on the first snap, but quarterback Jeff Driskel's pass was behind Andre Debose, tipping off his hands and going into the hands of Terell Floyd, who returned the interception 38 yards for a touchdown.

It was the first defensive touchdown for Louisville on the season, but it set the Gators in comeback mode for the rest of the game.

"I threw it behind him," Driskel said. "He tried to make a play on it but tipped it right to the guy. The corner made a good play. Unfortunate to start the game like that, but he made a good play."

The issue was overcoming the mistake. The Gators earned their bid in the Sugar Bowl by overcoming mistakes during the season and pushing through the stay in the game. After the interception returned for a touchdown early in the game, the Gators weren't able to regain the momentum.

The next drive went three-and-out, and Louisville grabbed the ball, marched down the field and took a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Florida offense didn't get much better, as Driskel ended 16-for-29, throwing for 175 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

"You can't let it affect you," Muschamp said. "We went back to that play a couple times later in the game. As a quarterback you've gotta shake it off, and at that time we had the whole game in front of us. So you can't let a play like that affect you for the rest of the game."

The start of the second half was even worse. The Gators came into the third quarter down 24-10 and kicking off the Louisville. Muschamp tried to flip that, but it ended up backfiring.

Caleb Sturgis tapped the ball forward while the Florida special teams tried to jump on it. Instead, Louisville recovered, and after two personal fouls called after the kick was recovered, Teddy Bridgewater hit a 19-yard touchdown pass on the first offensive snap of the half.

"We felt like it was there," Muschamp said. "We hit it too hard. It's something that both their guys were lined outside the hash, we game planned it and felt good about it. We wanted to steal a possession the start of the second half.

"We had struggled defensively in the first half and felt like you try to gain some momentum in the game."

Fightin Gators Top Stories