NEW ORLEANS – Jeff Driskel's throw on the first play of the Sugar Bowl was slightly behind receiver Andre Debose, and he could only tip the ball. Louisville cornerback Terell Floyd was right there for the rebound, and turned it into a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.
It never got much better for heavily favored Florida in what was supposed to be the crowning game in a bounce-back season.
The fourth-ranked Gators, a two-touchdown favorite over No. 22 Louisville, fell behind by 14 points midway through the first quarter and trailed by double digits the rest of the way, losing 33-23 on Wednesday night.
Florida looked more like the team that dropped 11 games combined in 2010 and 2011 than the one that lost only once in 2012. The Gators (11-2) were no match for the inspired Cardinals (11-2) and former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who left to become Louisville head coach in 2010.
Florida was beaten in almost every way possible.
The Gators could not slow down Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 266 yards and two TDs against the nation's No. 1 pass efficiency defense. In the first half alone, Louisville converted five of six third downs and even made first downs on second-and-16 and second-and-15.
Florida did not convert its first third down until the fourth quarter.
Driskel, who had thrown three interceptions all year, tossed two picks, both on tipped passes.
Losing on the scoreboard, the Gators also lost their composure. At the end of a failed onside kick to start the second half, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and running back Chris Johnson were flagged for personal fouls (Johnson was ejected), moving the ball to the Florida 19 before Louisville took a snap.
On the next play, Bridgewater threw his second touchdown pass to give the Cardinals a 30-10 lead — more points than the Gators had allowed in any game this year.
Florida slipped to 5-2 in BCS bowl games. The Gators' other loss came to Miami in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.