UF primed for bowl rebound?


Florida head coach Urban Meyer hoists the Allstate Sugar Bowl Trophy after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, La., Friday, Jan. 1, 2010.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.

Confidence shaken, the offense in neutral, their last game a disaster against their arch-rival, the Florida Gators find themselves limping into the Outback Bowl against Penn State on Jan. 1.

Down through their history, the Gators have been in this kind of situation many times before at the end of the year.

For the 13th time, Florida is heading into its bowl game coming off a loss. Some of those losses were devastating, ending the Gators' chances of playing for an SEC and possible national championship.

But there is positive news for UF. The Gators are 8-5 in bowl games coming off a defeat, the most recent victory coming last season in the Sugar Bowl.

Here's a look at Florida's top five bowl performances following a loss at the end of the regular season:

1. Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 (2010 Sugar Bowl)

Loss at the end of the season: The 12-0 Gators entered the 2009 SEC Championship Game against undefeated Alabama with the ultimate goal of winning back-to-back national championships. UF had to get past the Tide first — and it didn't happen. The Alabama offense shredded the UF defense, and Tim Tebow and the Florida offense struggled throughout in a 32-13 loss that cost the Gators a conference title and a shot at the national championship.

Victory in the bowl game: Despite the crushing loss to Alabama, and all the uncertainty surrounding the future of head coach Urban Meyer, the Gators came out focused and ready to play against No. 4 and 12-0 Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. Tebow completed 31 of 35 passes for 482 yards and three touchdowns, while the UF defense limited the explosive Bearcats to a mere 246 yards of total offense in the Gators' 51-24 victory.

2. Florida 56, Maryland 23 (2002 Orange Bowl)

Loss at the end of the season: In one of the most devastating defeats in the Steve Spurrier coaching era, the Gators were upset at home by Tennessee 34-32 in a loss that knocked Florida out of the SEC title game. The Gators could not protect Rex Grossman, and could not stop UT tailback Travis Stephens, who rushed for 226 yards. This game was rescheduled for the end of the season because of 9/11.

Victory in the bowl game: In what would be Spurrier's last game at Florida, Grossman came off the bench and sparked the Gators' to the 33-point shellacking of the ACC champion Terrapins. Taylor Jacobs caught two touchdown passes and Grossman, suspended for the first quarter for missing a curfew earlier in the week, finished with 248 yards passing.

3. Florida 31, Syracuse 10 (1999 Orange Bowl)

Loss at the end of the season: A victory in Tallahassee over FSU and walk-on quarterback Marcus Outzen likely would send the Gators to the 1998 national championship game. But instead of a win, the Gators had a frustrating 23-12 loss pinned on them by the fired-up Seminoles. Spurrier's offense was thoroughly throttled in the second half.

Victory in the bowl game: The Gators lost defensive coordinator Bob Stoops to Oklahoma after the loss to FSU, but the UF defense rallied around interim defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and shut down Donovan McNabb and the explosive Syracuse offense in Miami. The Gators held the Orangemen to a season low in yards (321) and points. It was a breakout game for UF wide receiver Travis Taylor, who had TD receptions of 26 and 51 yards.

4. Florida 27, Georgia Tech 12 (1967 Orange Bowl)

Loss at the end of the season: Miami All-America defensive end Ted Hendricks was all over Heisman-winning UF quarterback Steve Spurrier throughout the game, and Spurrier could never get the offense in rhythm at Florida Field. The result was a downer of a 21-16 loss to the Hurricanes. It was a rough day for Spurrier in his last home game.

Victory in the bowl game: Spurrier's storied UF career ended with an impressive victory over Georgia Tech. But Spurrier was not the star. It was sophomore tailback Larry Smith, who rushed for 187 yards on 23 carries. His 94-yard TD run in the third quarter is one of the most famous plays in UF history.

5. Florida 17, Penn State 7 (1962 Gator Bowl)

Loss at the end of the season: The Gators traveled to Miami at the end of the 1962 season looking for their seventh victory, but the UF offense was stymied most of the day in a 17-15 loss to the Hurricanes. Still, the Gators were headed to only the fourth bowl game in school history.

Victory in the bowl game: Defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson came up with the idea of putting a confederate flag decal on the UF helmets, and the motivational ploy worked. The fired up (and physical) Gators dominated both lines of scrimmage to pull off the upset. Left-handed quarterback Tommy Shannon threw two touchdown passes, one to tailback Larry Dupree, and the UF defense held Penn State to a mere 139 yards.

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