No. 22 Louisville leads No. 4 Florida early

BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer Published:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Terell Floyd returned an interception 38 yards for a score on the first play, Jeremy Wright added short touchdown run and No. 22 Louisville jumped to a 14-0 lead over No. 4 Florida in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.

Teddy Bridgewater completed four of his first five passes for 66 yards, leading the underdog Cardinals 83 yards on 12 plays for their second score.

The Gators went into the game as two-touchdown favorites. But Floyd, one of nearly three dozen Louisville players from the state of Florida, provided a surprise start.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel's interception was only his fourth all year. He was looking for seldom-targeted receiver Andre Debose, who had only two catches all season coming in. The throw was a bit behind Debose and the receiver tipped it, making for an easy catch and score for Floyd.

Oddly, Louisville had only 10 defenders on the field until only moments before the snap, when safety Jermaine Reve darted out from the sideline and immediately found a Florida receiver to cover.

When Louisville's offense got the ball later in the quarter, the Florida defense, ranked among the best in the nation this season, sought to intimidate the Cardinals with one heavy hit after another. Then again, Cardinals coach Charlie Strong was plenty familiar with many of these Gators -- he was their defensive coordinator before moving to Louisville after the 2009 season.

One blow by Jon Bostic knocked Bridgewater's helmet off moments after he'd floated an incomplete pass down the right sideline. Bostic was called for a personal foul, however, which seemed to get the Cardinals drive rolling. Later, Wright lost his helmet during a 3-yard gain and took another heavy hit before he went down.

Louisville kept coming, though.

B.J. Butler turned a short catch into a 23-yard gain down to the Florida 1. Then Wright punched it in to give the Cardinals an early two-TD lead over a Southeastern Conference opponent that lost only one this season.

Louisville won the Big East berth to this game. They beat Rutgers in late November to virtually lock up the conference title, sealing that win on a late interception by Floyd.