Teddy Bridgewater, RBs make it look easy behind dominant U of L line

mmaloney@herald-leader.comSeptember 2, 2012 

LOUISVILLE — As a freshman, Teddy Bridgewater made steady progress in leading Louisville to a 7-6 record and a bowl berth last season.

By spring, the game had "slowed down" as his knowledge of the Cardinals' offense became more intimate.

Sunday, he showed the end result, shredding the Kentucky defense with a school-record completion percentage.

Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes (90 percent) — one was thrown out of bounds to avoid a sack — for 232 yards in No. 25 U of L's 32-14 Governor's Cup romp over the Wildcats.

A Papa John's Cardinal Stadium-record crowd of 55,386 saw the surgeon at work.

"I've progressed a lot" since last year, said Bridgewater, who won the Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award. Coach Watson (Shawn, U of L's offensive coordinator), he trained me well. ... Last year, I tended to play fast and rush things, but now you just have to let things come to you."

Bridgewater spread the ball around, connecting with nine different receivers.

DeVante Parker caught three passes for 57 yards, while Damian Copeland had four catches for 51 yards.

"You watch (Bridgewater) in the pocket and he has such good pocket presence and is so poised," Coach Charlie Strong said. "He can just release the football. Then he can find the open receivers. ... He studies the game, so he is able to get us in the right spots and make the throws. A year ago, I don't know if he was really locked in."

He's locked in now.

Add to that a pair of 100-yard rushers in Jeremy Wright (105 yards on 22 carries, including three touchdowns) and Senorise Perry (108 on 16 with one TD).

U of L got 466 yards of total offense — 247 passing, 219 on the ground.

At times, Bridgewater had the Cards slicing up the Cats with such efficiency that it seemed downright easy.

"Oh, yeah, it did," Bridgewater agreed. "But it's all due to the offensive line. Those guys open holes. It starts with the run game, and it starts up front."

After losing four in a row to UK, the Cards have won back-to-back games to cut the Cats' all-time lead to 14-11.

Bridgewater did all his damage in less than three quarters of action.

Will Stein took over late in the third. He lost the starting job in last year's UK game when he hurt his shoulder.

Stein's success Sunday was modest — 3-for-5 for 15 yards.

Bridgewater broke the U of L completion record set in 2004, when Stefan Lefors went 12-for-14 (85.7 percent) against East Carolina.

What's more, Bridgewater went 4-for-4 for 77 yards in third-down situations.

The biggest of those came on third-and-9 from his own 2-yard line, when he hooked up with Copeland for a 23-yard diving catch along the UK sideline.

That sparked U of L's 15-play, 99-yard touchdown drive for the opening score.

"I was thinking 'just get a completion to ... give our punter a good chance of changing the field position,'" Bridgewater said. "But when the corner walked up and tried to press Damian Copeland, we just took advantage of that."

And the Cards continued to take advantage all day.

Wright became the first U of L rusher to get three TDs since Brock Bolen in 2008 against Middle Tennessee.

"I just give all the credit to the O-line," Wright said. "You just don't want all those guys out there blocking and not give them something in return, so I just wanted to return that favor for them."

After the 99-yard drive, the Cards had TD marches of 85 and 93 yards, a field-goal drive of 71 yards and a short 38-yard TD march after foiling a UK fake punt.

"We practiced it and we executed it so, yes, it felt easy to us," Perry said. "The holes were huge. They were opening wide for me and Jeremy and I was just excited to run through them, because I wasn't expecting them to be that big."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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