Two fourth-quarter touchdowns weren't enough to help the Florida Gators mount a comeback, as they fell to the Louisville Cardinals by a final score of 33-23 in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
The Gators played well against the run throughout the game, but had few answers for Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. A number of penalties, combined with an inability to stop the Cardinals on over half of the team's third-down conversion attempts led to the Gators falling in their first BCS bowl game since 2009.
Let's take a look at the Gators' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Overall Game Grade: C
Although it wasn’t certain at the time, quarterback Jeff Driskel’s interception on the first play of the game ended up setting the tone for the Gators in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
Driskel’s first pass was intercepted by the Cardinals and returned for a touchdown, causing the Gators to go down early. However, by the end of the first quarter, Driskel had the offense moving and looking as if they were about to climb back into the game, despite being down 14-0.
The sophomore completed passes of 14 and 13 yards to Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee, respectively and also had 10 rushing yards. The Gators were forced to settle for a field goal, and did not return to the red zone until the end of the second quarter.
Just before halftime, Driskel managed to reel off four straight completions to Quinton Dunbar (twice), Frankie Hammond and Hines for 45 yards, before rushing for 24 yards. The drive set up a one-yard touchdown run by Matt Jones.
Although Driskel found success during the second quarter, his best quarter of the game, it did not carry over into the second half.
Driskel was sacked and fumbled to start the third quarter, saw completions to Jordan Reed and Dunbar lead to a punt due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called against the Gators bench and saw the offense pick up just 14 more yards in the quarter.
The fourth quarter saw Driskel get intercepted in the red zone before throwing for 65 yards and giving the Gators at least a chance of climbing back into the game late. However, a sack on the two-point conversion essentially ended any chance for late-game comeback, although the chances were already slim.
Driskel finished the game with 16 completions for 175 yards, as well as one touchdown and two interceptions. The 175 passing yards was Driskel’s highest total since the Gators faced the Georgia Bulldogs in November.
It made sense for the Gators to try and establish their passing game early and not rely completely on the ground game, so as to avoid having to establish a passing attack late with the game on the line.
However, Gillislee and Jones’ longest runs came in the fourth quarter, meaning that Driskel and the passing game were not part of a balanced attack for much of the first half.
Driskel saw his protection break down a few times from the offensive lines and was not able to hit his receivers consistently, but managed to come up with big throws at critical moments while having the most pass attempts in a game in his career.
Overall Game Grade: C+
As of halftime, running back Mike Gillislee only had 16 total rushing yards. However, the Gators managed to rush for 111 total yards, although they averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
Gillislee finished the game with nine carries for 48 yards. Seventeen of these yards came on a rush on the last drive of the fourth quarter.
Freshman Matt Jones had a one-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter and also had a 17-yard run on the last drive of the fourth quarter, although he finished with 16 total rushing yards.
Trey Burton also added 24 yards on five carries
The Gators' rushing attack turned in a stronger performance than the Cardinals’, but was not able to give the Gators a well-balanced attack to help out with the passing game. Quarterback Jeff Driskel’s 10-yard run toward the end of the first half was the Gators' biggest gain on the ground at the time.
Overall Game Grade: B
Three wide receivers caught passes from quarterback Jeff Driskel, with sophomore Quinton Dunbar having the biggest game of the group.
Dunbar finished with five catches for 77 yards, including a big 26-yard catch to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. Both Dunbar’s number of catches and receiving yards were his biggest totals in a game this season.
Senior Frankie Hammond caught two passes for 22 yards, giving him 14 straight games with at least one catch dating back to last season.
Andre Debose also had a catch, although his biggest impact came on special teams.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Omarius Hines had his contributions felt in both the ground and passing games.
The senior caught three passes for 34 yards. He also had two rushes for 11 yards but had a 15-yard gain that put the Gators inside the Cardinals' red zone in the fourth quarter before Jeff Driskel was intercepted.
Jordan Reed, who entered the game as the Gators' leading receiver, was held to just one catch for seven yards. His catch came on a play in which the Gators bench was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the offense moved back 15 yards. This was Reed’s fewest amount of receiving yards in a game this season.
Freshman Kent Taylor caught just his second pass of the season, but it came for a fourth-quarter touchdown and at least gave the Gators a slight chance to climb back into the game late.
Overall Game Grade: D
Quarterback Jeff Driskel was sacked four times throughout the game. One sack came just after the Gators had unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick, and the Cardinals scored on the following play. Driskel was sacked on the Gators' next possession and wound up fumbling the ball, which was recovered by the Cardinals.
One of the biggest sacks, however, came on the Gators' two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. If the Gators had converted, they would have been down by eight points and able to try another onside kick.
Instead, offensive lineman Xavier Nixon was beat by a pass-rusher who got to Driskel and ended the conversion attempt.
The Gators had 111 rushing yards, 49 of which came on three runs in the fourth quarter.
Overall Game Grade: A
The Gators' defensive line did a tremendous job of stopping the Cardinals' running game.
At halftime, Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the team’s leading rusher and had totaled just three yards.
The Cardinals finished the game with 70 yards rushing, although 57 of those yards came in the fourth quarter—25 of which came on a run by Jeremy Wright that was the biggest rush given up by the Gators this season.
Dominique Easley had a big game between getting to the quarterback and stopping runners in the backfield and combined with Dante Fowler Jr. on a big stop behind the line of scrimmage.
Damien Jacobs and Sharrif Floyd also had sacks for the Gators, with Floyd’s coming on a big third-down stop.
The line gave up some big rushes in the fourth quarter, but for the most part, played a great game and forced the Cardinals to rely on their passing game for success. Unfortunately, Bridgewater and the Cardinals' passing game were able to come up with multiple big plays.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Jon Bostic and the Gators' linebackers contributed to limiting the Cardinals' running game to few big gains before the fourth quarter but also allowed nine different receivers to catch passes from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Bostic was able to make plays and Lerentee McCray had a sack, but the Gators allowed Bridgewater to find his rhythm early and string together a series of completions, despite a lack of a run game.
However, the Gators did limit the Cardinals to just 1.9 yards per rush.
Overall Game Grade: D-
Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made throws all over the field as the Gators had few answers for his passing throughout the game.
Matt Elam had a sack and made big plays, while seniors Josh Evans had his third interception of the year. These players help keep the grade from becoming an "F," since the secondary made very few other big plays.
Bridgewater was able to complete 20 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 8.3 yards per throw. The Gators' ability to stop the run put pressure on Bridgewater to make the big throws that were needed, and he was able to pick apart the secondary while doing so.
Overall Game Grade: A
Andre Debose’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave the Gators at least a chance to mount a late comeback.
Loucheiz Purifoy had returns of 29, 26 and 14 yards before suffering an injury. The special teams unit also managed to block a field-goal attempt.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis connected on a 33-yard field goal.
Overall Game Grade: D
The Gators started off the game getting some big hits on Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but were unable to limit his passing. As the game continued, so did Bridgewater’s effectiveness.
One of the biggest numbers from the game may be the nine penalties called on the Gators for 98 yards.
The Gators began getting called for penalties early on and continued to get called for much of the game. The team’s bench was also called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
After halftime, the Gators decided to try an onside kick, despite not having tried one all season long. The kick was not only unsuccessful, but two personal foul penalties were also called on the Gators on the play. The Cardinals scored on the very next play.
A decision to have Omarius Hines take a direct snap at the goal line in the fourth quarter led to a loss on the play with time running out, but the Gators were able to eventually score on the drive.
Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s decision to go for it on fourth down with the Cardinals out of timeouts in the second quarter led to the Gators' first touchdown of the game but was one of the few bright spots in terms of the coaching staff.