Uncharacteristic performance by pass defense

NEW ORLEANS — The Gators entered the Superdome with the nation's top pass efficiency defense. Their season ended after Louisville sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater torched them for 266 yards and two touchdowns. The Florida pass rush couldn't get to Bridgewater, and he kept his composure while moving around the pocket to keep plays alive and hit plays downfield.

It was a night that didn't look like any of the previous games for the Florida defense. The Gators led the country by allowing just five passing touchdowns during the regular season, but against Teddy Bridgewater, the Gators gave up two. None of the passing touchdowns allowed by Florida during the regular season were 15 or more yards. Both of Bridgewater's were.

The Florida secondary dominated opponents this year and allowed the front seven to focus on affecting the quarterback and stopping the run. While the secondary was picked apart on Wednesday, the rest of the defense couldn't pick up the slack.

Bridgewater especially hurt the Gators on third down. When the Florida pass rush was able to get near him, the sophomore quarterback used his athleticism to move outside of the pocket and keep the play alive. Louisville converted 9-of-14 third down attempts against the Gators.

"He's a good quarterback," Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley said. "He knows how to execute and take control of his team."

Bridgewater made it clear early in the game that the Louisville offense would be able to move the ball. He converted for a first down on plays of 3rd and 14, 3rd and 10, and 3rd and 6. The 3rd and 10 was converted by a 12-yard run while the other two were on passes.

He was able to make both happen. When the Florida secondary locked down on the Louisville receivers, rushing lanes opened up at the line of scrimmage and Bridgewater was able to tuck the ball and run.

The receivers were able to get open on the key downs and make plays.

"It's a good quarterback and good receivers that got it done," Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. "It's a good duo."

Bridgewater's success wasn't a surprise to the Florida defense, who spoke all week about their respect for the sophomore quarterback. Florida safety Matt Elam mentioned during the week before the Sugar Bowl that Bridgewater would be the best quarterback the Gators would see for the season.

His response was shrugged off. The Gators had stifled Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and faced other talented quarterbacks. But no one did to Florida what Bridgewater did.

Asked about the comparison between Bridgewater and Manziel again after the game, Elam got a familiar look on his face. The look said it all. It was an ‘I told you so' look from the junior safety. And his opinion on Bridgewater or Manziel wasn't changed.

"Teddy is better. Hands down," Elam said.

Elam said his proof was in what Bridgewater did on Wednesday to the nation's top pass efficiency defense. He completed throws on deep ball and intermediate throws. There were multiple routes run by the Louisville receivers, and Bridgewater was able to make the throws on all of them.

He didn't make many mistakes.

"Teddy controlled his team, and he did his job like he always does," Elam said. "He's real good. He's the future Heisman winner next year."


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