A few thoughts and tidbits that ran through the noggin during Louisville’s 33-23 win over Florida in last evening’s Sugar Bowl:
* Florida fans shouldn’t complain too much about the loss. No, really. They shouldn’t.
Because they didn’t take Louisville any more seriously than the Gator players did.
That won’t actually prevent grumbling, of course, but the fact is, many Gator fans moaned about having to play a Big East team. UF also failed to sell out its bowl allotment by a pretty good chunk. So if a fan — who could afford to go — didn’t take the Cardinals seriously and didn’t go to the game, I don’t see how that fan can whine too much about his team not showing up, either.
* Florida went 11-1 against the season’s toughest SEC schedule. They did so with a heckuva defense and a penchant for taking care of the ball (they were plus-17 going into last night’s game). In our game preview, we wrote that with Florida’s depth and talent, turnovers were the only thing that could undo the Gators’ chances in New Orleans. One fumble and two interceptions later — including an INT returned for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game — and UF had another loss on its ledger.
UF went 11-0 when it turned the ball over two or fewer times in a game this past season. The Gators were 0-2 when they turned it over more than twice (six turnovers versus Georgia, three versus Louisville). Even simpler, Florida was 11-0 when it won the turnover battle, 0-2 when it lost it. Which goes to show…
* Just how bad UF’s offense really has been. As of this morning — there are still a few SEC bowl games to play — Florida ranks 12th out of 14 teams in total offense. The Gators have a serious lack difference-makers at the skill positions. That’s been an issue since Tim Tebow’s departure.
Play-calling has been booed and coordinators have been hounded, but the fact is, things haven’t been right with UF’s offense for three years and three different O-coordinators:
|| Points Per Game
|| Yards Per Game
| 2010/S. Addazio
|| 29.8 (8th in SEC)
|| 351.2 (10th in SEC)
| 2011/C. Weis
|| 25.5 (8th in SEC)
|| 328.7 (10th in SEC)
| 2012/B. Pease
|| 26.5 (10th in SEC)
|| 334.0 (12th in SEC)
Maybe it’s the lack of a top-end quarterback. Maybe it’s the lack of weaponry around the Gators’ QB. Whatever the reason for the Gators’ offensive struggles, it doesn’t appear to be play-calling as three different men under two different head coaches have been sending in the signals. It’s becoming apparent that the issue isn’t Xs and Os, it’s Jimmys and Joes.
* Could Florida have looked much worse last night? Louisville had the sixth-best defense against the run in the eight-team Big East, allowing 4.2 yards per carry on the season. Last night, however, the Gators managed just 3.7 yards per carry (30 rushes for 111 yards). That’s a less effective night on the ground — in terms of yard per carry — than Connecticut, Syracuse, Temple, Cincinnati, South Florida, Southern Miss, Florida International, and Kentucky had against the Cardinals. This from a Gator team that averaged 4.3 yards per carry against SEC defenses.
In addition to the poor run game, UF never looked ready to play. From undisciplined hits (a helmet-to-helmet hit on Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater kept a Cardinal touchdown drive alive) to punches thrown (Chris Johnson was ejected from the game) to Will Muschamp’s panicky decision to try an onside kick to open the second half (even ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough said that reeked of “desperation”), Florida did not look like itself last night.
Safety Matt Elam said he and his teammates “prepared our ass off,” but it sure didn’t show on the field. That’s not to take anything away from Louisville and coach Charlie Strong who did show up and did take the fight to Florida all night long. But it was clear one team came ready to play and one team did not.