NEW ORLEANS -- Florida wrapped up its 2012 season with a surprisingly poor performance against Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators’ defense, which had been so good all season and was the reason they were in the national championship hunt in late November, played its worst game of the season.
Here is the good and the bad from the 33-23 loss, which snapped UF’s four-game bowl winning streak.
1. Andre Debose sighting: Debose returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Gators a chance at a comeback. It was his school record fourth kickoff return for a touchdown. Debose hadn’t played since the Georgia game but offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Debose had improved during bowl practices and had earned some additional playing time. Debose also had one catch for 4 yards and one carry for 8 yards. Maybe it’s a sign that he has fixed the attitude and work ethic problems that have dogged him throughout his career.
2. Aggressive calls: Coach Will Muschamp called a fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown and also tried an onside kick to start the second half. The fake field goal was a nifty play. Several linemen split out wide left while FB Trey Burton, RB Matt Jones and K Caleb Sturgis lined up behind the center. Burton took the snap and ran a triple option. He handed off to Jones, who scored from a yard out. One other option on the play would have been a pitch to Sturgis. While the onside kick didn’t work and the Gators were penalized twice, it was an aggressive call that could have given the Gators some much-needed momentum to start the half.
3. UF didn’t quit: The Gators made an attempted comeback that was sparked by Debose’s kickoff return. The defense forced a three-and-out and UF mounted a 97-yard drive that ended with QB Jeff Driskel’s touchdown pass to TE Kent Taylor with 2:13 to play. But Driskel was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt and Louisville recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
1. Turnovers: The Gators turned the ball over three times and finished minus-2 in turnover margin. The worst one came on the game’s first offensive play when Driskel’s throw was behind Debose, who got a hand on the ball and tipped it into the air. Terell Floyd picked it off and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. That fired up the Cardinals, shocked the Gators, and set the tone for the rest of the game.
2. Lack of discipline: The Gators committed nine penalties for 98 yards. Five were personal fouls, facemasks, or unsportsmanlike conduct. The most costly came on the second-half kickoff, when Loucheiz Purifoy and Chris Johnson were each penalized for personal fouls and Johnson was ejected from the game for throwing a punch. UF also committed two penalties inside the red zone on offense that cost the Gators a chance at a touchdown. It was a surprising lack of discipline from a team that had been composed all season.
3. Pass coverage: Florida has been one of the nation’s top teams against the pass all season (No. 1 in pass efficiency defense in the regular season), but the Gators apparently forgot how to cover during the break. UF’s DBs got turned around and confused and had trouble playing the ball. Louisville receivers were wide open, especially in the middle of the field and in the flats. The Gators played more zone than they have in any other game this season and looked lost.