Florida DL Dominique Easley and Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Florida's near-dream season ended with a thud in 2012, after the Gators stumbled against Big East champ Louisville in a 33-23 loss in the Sugar Bowl.
That loss wasn't as close as the score indicated.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 24-3 second-quarter lead, and Florida allowed a remarkably one-dimensional Cardinal offense to pass up and down the field.
It begs the question, did Florida take the game off?
Defensive lineman Dominique Easley scoffed at the idea.
"We didn't take a game off, they were just better than us," he said. "They were just better. Any loss you take with you."
That's a direct contradiction to his quotes in another room, where he admitted he did, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.
Florida DT Dominique Easley on Sugar Bowl loss: "We took off a game."— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 16, 2013
Whether the Gators packed it in at the Sugar Bowl is inconsequential. The 2013 Gator team is using the loss as motivation.
The Sugar Bowl letdown was a recurring theme as the Gators made the rounds at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. for SEC Media Days.
"There aren't many days that go by when we don't hear about the Sugar Bowl score," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "We have been motivated all offseason after getting beat down by Louisville."
Offensive linemen Jon Halapio weighed in as well.
"The Sugar Bowl left a bad taste in our mouth," offensive lineman Jon Halapio said. "We are using that as motivation in the offseason and hope to finish the season strong."
But is that the right approach?
How should the 2013 Gators view last season's Sugar Bowl?
You bet it is.
This is a Florida team that's loaded with top-end talent that can use the wake-up call to take the next step as a program. Will it work? That remains to be seen.
The Gators have to develop a downfield passing attack in order to dig out of holes in 2013, and replacing defensive studs like defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Matt Elam is a tall order.
But this crop of Gators is up for the task.
Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to make two steps forward, and that's the plan for the 2013 Florida Gators.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.