Florida Gators: Louisville Cardinals

Bowl attendance is way down

January, 3, 2013
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The only thing more eye-popping than Florida's no-show performance in its 33-23 Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville was how many Florida fans no-showed for the game.

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has a story on overall bowl attendance being down 5 percent this season, and it was most glaring in New Orleans on Wednesday night. The Sugar Bowl's announced crowd of 54,178 was the game's worst since 1939, and the smallest ever for a BCS bowl.

In other words, don't expect to see the Gators back on Bourbon Street any time soon if the Sugar Bowl has anything to do with it. Florida reportedly sold about 7,000 tickets of its 17,500 allotment. Louisville sold about 15,000.

The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl drew more fans this season than the Sugar Bowl. According to Solomon, this was the third time in the past four years the Sugar Bowl crowd was below 70,000, which had happened only twice from 1975 to 2009. Florida has now played in five of the past seven Sugar Bowls with crowds under 70,000.

The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, which saw Northwestern defeat Mississippi State, also saw a decline in attendance. The crowd of 48,612 was its second smallest since 1960. The Capital One Bowl's announced crowd of 59,712 for Georgia-Nebraska was its fourth-lowest in the past 24 years.


Reaction to Louisville's 33-23 win over Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl:

It was over when: Louisville cornerback Andrew Johnson intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone and returned it 22 yards early in the fourth quarter. Florida was close to scoring a touchdown and cutting Louisville’s lead to 30-17, but Jeff Driskel threw a bit behind receiver Quinton Dunbar and the ball bounced off Dunbar’s hands. The Cardinals converted that turnover into a 33-yard field goal and a 33-10 lead. That lead turned out to be insurmountable.

Game ball goes to: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater shredded Florida’s defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency. The sophomore from Miami, Fla., completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater was rarely pressured and pretty much had his pick of open receivers all night.

Stat of the game: Louisville was fantastic on third down and Florida wasn’t. The Cardinals went 9-for-14. Florida went 3-for-10 and the Gators didn’t get their first third-down conversion until the fourth quarter. Florida had entered the game fourth nationally in third-down defense (28 percent).

Unsung hero: Kick returner Andre Debose gave the Gators a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter when he took a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 33-17.

Best call: It turned out to be meaningless in the final outcome, but the Gators scored their lone touchdown on a fake field goal late in the first half. Florida split several linemen out wide left but had fullback Trey Burton, running back Matt Jones and kicker Caleb Sturgis lined up behind the center. Burton took the snap and gave the ball to Jones on an option play and he scored from 1 yard out.

Second guessing: Florida coach Will Muschamp called for an onside kick to begin the second half trailing 24-10. It turned out to be disastrous. Not only did Louisville recover the ball, there was a skirmish after the play. Special teams standout Chris Johnson was ejected for throwing a punch, Loucheiz Purifoy was also penalized for a personal foul, and the Cardinals took possession at the UF 19-yard line. They scored a touchdown on the following play for a 30-10 lead.

What Louisville learned: The Cardinals program is in good hands with coach Charlie Strong and appears ready for its move to the ACC in 2014. Louisville is loaded with young talent -- 26 of the players on the two-deep depth charts on offense and defense are freshmen or sophomores -- and most importantly has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Bridgewater. The Cardinals gained a huge measure of momentum for next season with Wednesday night’s rout and will almost certainly be a preseason top 10 selection.

What Florida learned: The Gators didn’t learn anything new about their offense. The offensive line needs work, Driskel needs to improve, and there is a dearth of playmakers at receiver. However, it appears the Gators may not be as set on defense as they may have thought. Especially in the secondary, which was supposed to have been the team’s strength. The Gators were unable to slow down Louisville’s passing attack and the loss of Purifoy to an injury in the first half showed that the Gators don’t have much depth at corner.

3-star LB Kelsey receiving SEC interest 

December, 15, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Three-star linebacker Keith Kelsey Jr. (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) has offers from USF, Louisville and Iowa State, but now a few SEC schools are starting to show interest.

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound athlete has scheduled a visit to Louisville and could soon schedule a visit to South Carolina.

"I got Louisville scheduled so far and South Carolina has been recruiting me too, Iowa State and USF has been talking to me too. South Carolina is fixing to offer me. I'd be interested in taking a visit there."

Allstate Sugar Bowl

December, 2, 2012
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Louisville Cardinals (10-2) vs. Florida Gators (11-1)

Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)

Louisville take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: The Cardinals were the overwhelming preseason choice to win the Big East because they returned just about everybody off a team that won a share of the league title last season. The star among the bunch lived up to his top billing, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knocked just about everybody’s socks off with his performance in 2012. He is the biggest reason why Louisville is headed to the BCS and not a second-tier bowl game.

But this team had major adversity to overcome. Louisville survived one close call after another en route to a school-record 9-0 start. Then came loss No. 1 on the season, a stunning 45-26 blowout on the road to Syracuse in which the Orange outplayed the Cardinals in every single phase of the game. Then came loss No. 2, an inexplicable triple-overtime home defeat to UConn -- a team with one of the worst offenses in the nation. In that game, Bridgewater broke his wrist and sprained his ankle, yet nearly led a comeback win.

Louisville went into its regular-season finale at Rutgers without many people giving the Cards much of a shot to win. Rutgers jumped out to a 14-3 lead. But Bridgewater refused to be denied. Playing through his injuries, he led Louisville to a 20-17 comeback win to clinch the BCS spot. Bridgewater ended up throwing for 3,452 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season and was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the entire nation. He may have been an unknown outside the Big East before the season began; that is no longer the case.

Bridgewater allowed his team to survive the loss of leading rusher Senorise Perry, who tore his ACL against Syracuse and is out for the season. He allowed his team to win games it struggled in for a large chunk of time. And he allowed his team to survive some pretty shaky play on defense. It’s safe to say that many expected Louisville to be better than it was defensively this season, particularly up front. But for a majority of the season, the Cardinals had a hard time consistently stopping the run or consistently getting a pass rush going.

And yet, Louisville found a way to win 10 games and get back to a BCS game. In Teddy, Louisville trusts.




Florida take from GatorNation's Michael DiRocco: The Gators were one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season.

They followed up a 7-6 mark in coach Will Muschamp’s debut season with an 11-1 record in 2012, highlighted by victories over Texas A&M, South Carolina, LSU and Florida State. And if USC had upset Notre Dame, Florida could possibly be playing for the national title.

Florida’s turnaround was led by a smothering defense, which isn’t surprising considering Muschamp’s background. The Gators rank in the top six nationally in total defense, rush defense and scoring defense and have allowed opponents to throw just five touchdown passes. Safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jon Bostic have had career years.

But the biggest change is how good the Gators have been at forcing turnovers this season. UF forced just 14 in 2011, which was the lowest single-season total in school history since the school began compiling fumble stats in 1950. This year, UF has forced 29, which includes 19 interceptions (four by Elam), and the Gators have a plus-17 turnover margin.

UF’s offense hasn’t been pretty, but coordinator Brent Pease did a good job of compensating for a lack of playmakers at receiver and injuries along the offensive line. Running back Mike Gillislee finally got his chance to be the feature back, and he responded with 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF player to surpass 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

After finally settling on Jeff Driskel as the starter, Pease put together game plans that took advantage of Driskel’s mobility and didn’t ask the sophomore to do too much. Manage the game and stay away from mistakes were the goals, and Driskel did that this season with one exception (Georgia). He ended up throwing for 1,471 yards and 11 TDs -- many of those yards to tight end Jordan Reed (44 catches for 552 yards) -- with only three interceptions while running for 409 yards and four touchdowns.

The Gators could play conservatively on offense because of their outstanding defense, but also because of punter Kyle Christy and kicker Caleb Sturgis. Christy, a Ray Guy Award finalist, was a field-position weapon with a 46.1-yard average (fifth nationally) and 25 punts of 50 or more yards. Sturgis, a Lou Groza Award finalist, made 23 of 27 field goal attempts and is the school’s all-time leader in field goals (69) and field goals of 50 or more yards (eight).

Gator pledge Hearns pondering OSU visit 

October, 5, 2012
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James HearnsDerek Tyson/ESPN.comLong-time Gator commit James Hearns said Friday night after his high school game that he's considering taking an official visit to Ohio State.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Judging by his game on Friday night you would never know that four-star linebacker James Hearns (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) is coming off a severe ACL injury from last season.

The 6-foot-3, 226-pound inside linebacker accounted for two interceptions, including one he returned for a 48-yard touchdown in Lincoln's 45-7 victory over Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz. Hearns actually had a third interception negated by a penalty early in the game.

Though he appeared to be the most dominant player on the field Friday night, Hearns said there are parts of his game he still needs to improve on.

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Joel Embiid's recruitment gaining steam 

September, 6, 2012
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The last time he had a national audience, center Joel Embiid (Cameroon/The Rock) was on the wrong side of a clinic at the hands of Brandon Ashley. Then a junior center for Montverde, Embiid was given the unenviable task of trying to slow down a grooving Ashley. He didn’t and Montverde succumbed to Findlay Prep in the NHSI championship.

[+] EnlargeJoel Embiid
Paul BiancardiCenter Joel Embiid is currently not ranked in the ESPN 100, but expect him to have a major impact down the line at Kansas.
A lot has changed since last March. For starters, Embiid is no longer at Montverde. The near 7-footer transferred to The Rock in Gainesville, Fla. With Dakari Johnson (New York/Montverde) gobbling up court time, Embid might not have seen as much playing time as he would have liked, so he bolted.

“He is a surprise to me and a pleasant one at that,” The Rock coach Justin Harden said. “He’s every bit of 6-11. He can do a lot of good things with the ball. He’s only been playing 18 months. Was a volleyball player before that.”

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Top 2014 defensive lineman Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside), decommitted from Louisville on Sunday and has named Auburn, Florida and Alabama his three leaders. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle prospect said it has always been his dream to play in the Southeastern Conference.

"I decided to decommit because I felt like I was a big SEC guy," Valentine said. "I love the programs in the SEC conference and I love how the SEC wins championships. It's just a great conference."

Valentine, who will attend Florida's Friday Night Lights camp on July 27, said his familiarity with the Florida program is a reason the Gators are at the top of his list. Valentine's head coach at Bayside, Derek Smith, coached former Florida players Reggie Nelson and Joe Cohen at Palm Bay High School.

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Decision coming soon for Harris? 

June, 12, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Under Armour All-American safety Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) has offers from the who's who of college football programs, but the talented 6-foot-1, 209-pound athlete decided to participate at Florida's camp on Tuesday afternoon.

Harris said getting familiar with Florida's coaching style, in particular defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and head coach Will Muschamp, was a reason he decided to participate.

"It was cool being out there with them and seeing their style of how they coach," Harris said. "They were putting me in a position to play where I would be playing if I went there -- playing safety but also covering the slot."

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2012 PF Montrezl Harrell considering five 

May, 20, 2012
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When Seth Greenberg was fired last month from Virginia Tech, ESPN 100 power forward Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, N.C./Hargrave Military) announced he would ask out of his scholarship. After a prolonged period, he was finally released from his letter of intent.

Now that Harrell is free to weigh his options, five programs are in the mix -- Louisville, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and N.C. State.

Louisville has a unique tie because current Cardinals assistant Kevin Keatts was the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy when Harrell initially agreed to spend his senior season in Chatman. When Keatts left for Louisville, his protégé at Hargrave Military Academy, A.W. Hamilton, kept Harrell and coached him last season. Harrell will visit Louisville on May 31, according to the Rocky Mountain Telegram.

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PHOENIX -- There is nowhere to hide. There are no secrets to keep and no shocking, revolutionary game plans to unveil.

With Louisville and Florida, this would also be the case in November: Is there a high-profile coaching duo as familiar with one another as Rick Pitino and his former star player and pupil, Billy Donovan? No.

That familiarity will play a factor, no doubt ... but it's also the default situation for any two teams squaring off with a Final Four berth on the line. By this point, the Cardinals and Gators are what they are. Both teams have revealed themselves in their three NCAA tournament victories to date. And both coaches will prepare their teams accordingly.

What do those preparations entail?

There's the obvious strength-on-strength matchup: Over the course of the season, Florida's offense has been one of the best and most efficient in the country. As of Friday's pregame press conferences, the Gators ranked No. 3 in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.com. Louisville, meanwhile, has likewise been a great defensive team all season -- after Thursday night's historically brutal lockdown of No. 1-seeded Michigan State, the Cardinals rank No. 1 in the nation in defensive efficiency.

(Read full post)

Video: Florida coach Billy Donovan

March, 24, 2012
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Billy Donovan talks about his seventh-seeded Gators' matchup with No. 4 Louisville on Saturday and about facing mentor and former coach Rick Pitino with a Final Four berth on the line.


PHOENIX -- The No. 7 seeds in the 2012 NCAA tournament were as follows:

Notre Dame. Saint Mary's. Gonzaga. Florida.

Sing it with me now: One of these things is not like the others.

For starters, Florida was the only No. 7 seed to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, and the only one -- after Thursday's 68-58 victory over Marquette -- to reach the Elite Eight and the one-game-from-the-Final-Four precipice it so intensely entails.

(Read full post)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's bowl trip won't be a long one.

If the Gators (5-5) beat Furman on Saturday to become bowl eligible, they are pretty much a lock for the Gator Bowl in Jacks0nville, which will be played at EverBank Field on Jan. 2. It would be the Gators' first appearance in the bowl since 1992, when they beat N.C. State 27-10.

ESPN experts are torn on some of the potential SEC schools' final destinations. Here are some possible SEC bowl matchups I'm looking for:

BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Oklahoma State
LSU has to get by Arkansas and OSU has to get by Oklahoma. Great matchup in WR Justin Blackmon and QB Brandon Weeden vs. LSU's secondary.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Houston
How will QB Case Keenum and the Cougars' high-flying offense fare against an elite SEC defense?

Capital One Bowl: Arkansas vs. Nebraska
Pro-style offense vs. spread-option offense.

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan
South Carolina's defense will have its hands full with QB Denard Robinson.

Cotton Bowl: Georgia vs. Kansas State
Cotton gets a team from the Eastern Division for a change.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Auburn vs. Virginia Tech
If the Tigers somehow beat Alabama, this could change.

Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State
Officials would love a rematch of the 2006 national title game.

Music City: Tennessee vs. Miami
QB Tyler Bray's return makes this an intriguing matchup.

Liberty Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. Southern Miss
Commodores make just second bowl game since 1982.

BBVA Compass: Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Bulldogs cap disappointing season in Birmingham, Ala.

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