COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Postseason losses not always a bad omen for Florida


Florida coach Will Muschamp saw his team outdone in last season's finale as the Louisville Cardinals took control early and held off the Gators for a 33-23 victory in New Orleans.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 9:16 p.m.

Prior to Florida's abysmal performance in the Sugar Bowl to wrap up the Gators' 2012 season, coach Will Muschamp made it clear in an interview with The Sun that he does not believe a bowl game has anything to do with the following season.

Gator fans hope he is right.

Florida's loss to Louisville is one reason the enthusiasm level isn't through the roof when it comes to the upcoming season. Some coaches will tell you that a win in the bowl game is huge for the off-season workouts. Of course, those are usually the coaches who won their bowl games.

Here are five Florida bowl losses that definitely didn't hurt the next season:

1. 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

What happened: Florida was humiliated by one of the best teams in the history of college football, as Nebraska took the 62-24 win.

The next year: Florida won its first national championship, beating Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, 52-20.

What changed: The Gators who returned for the following season were energized by the embarrassment of the Fiesta Bowl and had a dominant season.

2. 1966 Sugar Bowl.

What happened: Florida fell behind 20-0 to Missouri and scored three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Gators came up short when three two-point conversions failed.

The next year: Quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy and Florida went 9-2, a season that included an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech.

What changed: Spurrier was at his best in his senior year and so were many of the players around him.

3. 2008 Capital One Bowl.

What happened: Florida's young defense was handled by Michigan's explosive offense and the Gators lost 41-35.

The next year: The defense got older, Tim Tebow made his promise and the Gators rolled to a national title.

What changed: More than anything, it was defenders like Joe Haden, Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes simply getting better.

4. 1989 Freedom Bowl.

What happened: The Gators mailed it in under interim coach Gary Darnell, losing 34-7 to Washington.

The next year: Although the Gators were on probation, they had the SEC's best record and finished the season with a 9-2 record.

What changed: Steve Spurrier took over as coach and changed the culture as well as the offensive philosophy of a program mired in mediocrity.

5. 2001 Sugar Bowl.

What happened: Florida gave up 454 yards and three Ken Dorsey touchdown passes in a 37-20 loss to Miami.

The next year: The Gators had one of their best teams and certainly their best team ever not to get a ring. They went 10-2 with the two losses coming by a total of five points.

What changed: Rex Grossman established himself as the starting quarterback in the preseason and had a Heisman-like season.

BOWL HALF FULL?

Recent proof that losing your bowl game has little effect on the next season:

1. Ohio State 2012: The Buckeyes were beaten by a mediocre Florida team in the Gator Bowl the year before Urban Meyer took over. They went 12-0 last year.

2. Louisville 2012: The Cardinals lost the Belk Bowl to N.C. State in 2011, but rallied to win 11 games and the Sugar Bowl last season.

3. Georgia 2011: The Bulldogs suffered a humiliating loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to close out the 2010 season, but came back to win the SEC East.

4. Notre Dame 2012: The Irish lost to FSU 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2011, but came back to make the national title game last season.

BOWL HALF EMPTY?

Recent proof that winning your bowl game doesn't guarantee success the following year:

1. Missouri 2012: The Tigers beat North Carolina in the Independence Bowl 41-24 in 2011. Last year, Mizzou sank to 5-7 while Carolina won eight games.

2. Auburn 2012: The Tigers came back after their national title season to win the Chick-fil-A Bowl over Virginia 43-24. A year later, they went 3-9 and were looking for a new coach.

3. Florida 2010: The Gators finished off a 13-1 season by annihilating Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl to wrap up the 2009 season. But the next year they struggled with new personnel and went 8-5.

4. Ole Miss 2010: The Rebels seemed to have it going when they handled Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl to give them nine wins for the 2009 season. The next year, they went 4-8. The following year, coach Houston Nutt was canned.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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