The No. 23 Cardinals (11-2) boasted 34 players from the Sunshine State on their roster, and it was obvious that playing the Gators (11-2) brought out their best.
Cornerback Terell Floyd (Fort Pierce) intercepted a tipped pass on the first play from scrimmage and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown. The Cards would never trail.
"They kind of thought we were going to come in and lay down and give them the game," Floyd said. "But Coach (Charlie) Strong always preaches that we're better than any team in the nation if we come out and play hard. Coach Strong believed in us and our coaching staff believed in us, and we came in and believed in ourselves."
Receiver Eli Rogers (Miami) converted a third down on the Cards' first possession with a 25-yard catch. On the same drive, defensive end B.J. Butler (Kissimmee) lined up at fullback and made his first career pass reception, rumbling 23 yards to the 1-yard line.
Jeremy Wright (Clermont) ran in from there to make it 14-0. His score meant the Cards never really would have to sweat a close outcome.
Receiver Andrell Smith (Miami) recovered the Gators' onside kick to start the second half. And two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties against Florida on the play set U of L up at the Florida 19.
From there, Damian Copeland (Bradenton) hauled in a 19-yard reception from Teddy Bridgewater (Miami) to give the Cards a touchdown on the first snap of each half. That made it 30-10, and the Cards could begin to believe their lead would hold up.
Above all there was Strong, who served 15 years in Gainesville as an assistant under Galen Hall, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. In many ways he molded the Louisville program he took over three seasons ago in the image of the teams he helped coach at Florida.
Strong played it cool in the month leading up to this game, but privately he was confident his team could pull off a landmark victory.
"We physically matched up and were able to overpower the No. (4) team in the country," he said. "I told them, 'Don't worry about who we're playing. Win every play.' They weren't a team that produced a lot of points. ... We knew we had to make them drive the ball down the field."
The outcome was never really in doubt, although it helped that Andrew Johnson (Miami) halted a fourth-quarter Florida threat with an interception in the end zone.
Louisville scored on its first play of the second half thanks to the Gators' desperation. The onside kick was recovered by Smith, and during the scramble for the ball, Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy and Chris Johnson were both whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct. Johnson also was ejected for throwing a punch at Zed Evans.
The combination of penalties put the ball at the 19. Bridgewater, who was 20 of 32 for 266 yards and two scores, immediately connected with Copeland. That made the fact that the Cards squandered two red-zone opportunities later in the third quarter a nonfactor.
Safety Calvin Pryor (Port St. Joe.) created the second of the Cards' three takeaways when Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel didn't see him coming on a blitz. Pryor jarred the ball loose, and teammate Brandon Dunn nearly caught it in the air. Lorenzo Mauldin eventually recovered the ball but fell at the Florida 4, and three straight negative plays ended with John Wallace missing a 43-yard field-goal attempt.
Both teams matched field goals early in the second quarter, thanks to defenses that tightened up in the red zone.
Florida made its deepest penetration to that point by reaching the Louisville 10. After a false-start penalty, cornerback Adrian Bushell - who played his first two seasons at Florida before transferring - broke up a third-down pass to former roommate Frankie Hammonds Jr., forcing the Gators to settle for three points.
Louisville faced a similar situation on third-and-goal from the 9. Butler, who lined up at tight end, bumped into teammate Nate Nord (Boca Raton) on a crossing pattern, throwing off the timing of Bridgewater's pass to Nord.
But on the Cards' ensuing possession, Bridgewater's timing was just fine as he connected with DeVante Parker for a 15-yard touchdown and a 24-3 lead.
The Gators were able to answer in their two-minute offense, marching all the way to the Louisville 1. Jeremaine Reve (Miami) knocked away a would-be touchdown pass to Neiron Ball. But on fourth down, the Gators broke from their formation, sending half of the linemen wide left. Matt Jones took a handoff and scored as the Cards appeared unsure of how to line up but had no timeouts left to sort things out.
"I look at this performance tonight and I sometimes wonder, why didn't we do this the whole season?" Strong said. "We said this at the beginning: We just take care of our job and do what we're supposed to do. Don't worry about who we're playing."
Brown writes for The Courier-Journal in Louisville.