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Florida struggles early and often in 33-23 Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville

In what turned out to be an ugly performance, the Florida Gators struggled from the first play on offense (and defense) in their 33-23 loss to the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It's like they didn't even care they were there.

I'm a firm believer in that if you aren't playing for the national championship, then it really doesn't matter. I mean, it matters, sure, but it doesn't matter as much. Sugar Bowl champs or losers of the Sugar Bowl? The national championship was never going to happen, so what's the difference in finishing the season ranked No. 2 or No. 12?

Not a thing. It doesn't matter at all.

But that doesn't excuse the Florida Gators for their piss-poor effort in their 33-22 Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville on Wednesday night. And no, the game wasn't as close as the score suggests. The Gators were thoroughly outplayed and out-coached the entire game. In every facet. In every way possible.

Basically, it wasn't even close. And it started right after the opening coin toss.

On the first play of the game quarterback Jeff Driskel missed on a timing throw intended for Andre Debose by about three yards, Louisville intercepted the ball rather easily and returned it for a touchdown.

And things got worse from there.

Driskel would throw another interception in the red zone, and even though he would add a passing touchdown in garbage time, maintained a below-average level of play throughout the contest. He finished 16 of 29 for 175 yards passing and four yards on 10 carries.

Mike Gillislee never really got going, either, but the score had something to do with it. Gillislee finished with just 48 yards on 9 carries (not a bad average, I guess) but the Gators were playing from behind and the you don't run the ball trailing 24 to 3 with just a few minutes to go before halftime.

As for the second half, well, there was one. But that's about as much as I care to even write about. The Gators did win the half, if that counts for something by outscoring the Cardinals 13 to 9.

But that last touchdown came in garbage time while the Cardinals were all celebrating. So yeah, I guess the highlight would be Debose taking a kickoff back to the house for a touchdown. That counts for something, right?


What else is there to brag about? Even though it was a nice setup and execution, it sure isn't Matt Jones' touchdown run, or even Kent Taylor's touchdown reception, the final scoring play of the game.

If this was indeed the last game for some of the Gators' juniors (namely: Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Jordan Reed), it wasn't the sendoff that they deserved. At least Floyd played well. In fact, he was probably the only Gators player that showed up tonight.

We'll move on. The Gators will likely start the season ranked in the top 10 next season and their sights will be set on the SEC Championship. As they should be.

But on this night, they didn't even care where they were. And they should've.