NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown on the first play, dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater directed four more scoring drives and No. 22 Louisville held a 30-10 lead over heavily favored No. 4 Florida through three quarters of the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.
Shaking off an early hit that flattened him and knocked off his helmet, Bridgewater was 17 of 26 passing for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Among his throws was a pinpoint, 15-yard timing toss that DeVante Parker acrobatically grabbed as he touched one foot down in the corner of the end zone.
His other scoring strike went to Damian Copeland from 19 yards. Jeremy Wright added short touchdown run for Louisville and John Wallace connected on a 27-yard field goal.
Florida had not trailed by more than 10 points in a game all season, but the Cardinals, who came in as two-touchdown underdogs, got off to quite a start. The Gators did not get on the board until Caleb Sturgis's 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter, which made it 14-3.
Florida finally got in the end zone with a trick play in the closing seconds of the half. They changed personnel as if to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but lined up in a bizarre combination of swinging-gate and shotgun formations and handed off to Matt Jones.
Jones met only minimal resistance as he crashed into the end zone to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive that included four straight completions and four straight runs by Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.
The Gators tried to keep the momentum with a surprise onside kick to open the third quarter, but not only did Louisville recover, Florida's Chris Johnson was called for a personal foul and ejected for jabbing at Louisville's Zed Evans. That gave Louisville the ball on the Florida 19, from where Bridgewater needed one play to find Copeland for his score.
On the following kickoff, Evans cut down kick returner Loucheiz Purifoy with a vicious low hit that shook Purifoy up. Soon after, Driskel was sacked hard from behind and stripped by safety Calvin Pryor, who had said days earlier that he thought underdog Louisville was ready to "shock the world."
Louisville's Lorenzo Mauldin recovered on the Florida 4, but the Gators' defense drove the Cardinals backward and forced a missed field goal.