Cats plan to pester Cards QB Bridgewater

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 12, 2013 

UK-UL

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards, connecting with nine different receivers. The sophomore threw no interceptions and was only sacked twice.

BILL LUSTER FOR THE LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER — Bill Luster for the Lexington Herald-Leader

  • Louisville at Kentucky

    When: Noon Saturday | TV: ESPN | Records: Louisville 2-0; Kentucky 1-1

  • Saturday

    Louisville at Kentucky

    When: Noon

    Records: Louisville 2-0, Kentucky 1-1

    TV: ESPN

Teddy Bridgewater is cucumber cool.

The Louisville quarterback makes James Bond seem like a sweaty mess.

Bridgewater slices and dices opposing defenses.

"He's darn good," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said this week. "He's just an exceptional player."

Even the Cats' offensive coordinator is a Bridgewater admirer.

"I haven't seen him shook," Neal Brown said. "Even watching him last year, just kind of as a fan, he never got shook."

Kentucky is hoping to be the team to shake and stir the 6-foot-3 junior quarterback, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and a potential early first-round NFL Draft pick.

If UK wants to have a chance to play with seventh-ranked Louisville on Saturday, it's going to have to find a way to get to Bridgewater. Not just once, or twice like it did last season, but multiple times and from multiple positions.

"We feel like if we can come in and get a lot of pressure on him, get his feet jittery in the pocket, try to cut him out, run him out of the pocket, we feel like we can shut him down," UK senior defensive tackle Mister Cobble said.

In his 65 pass attempts in two games this season, Bridgewater has been sacked only once (eighth-best percentage nationally) in the opener against Ohio University, but the quarterback did fumble on that play.

UK ranks 18th nationally in sacks and is hoping to see those numbers grow at Commonwealth Stadium this week.

"He hasn't seen any pressure in his face," senior linebacker Avery Williamson said of Bridgewater, who is averaging 376 yards in his first two games, including nine touchdown passes. "It gives us an opportunity to see how he reacts when he does have pressure on him."

Kentucky cornerback Nate Willis said the defense will be leaning heavily on its four guys up front: senior tackles Cobble and Donte Rumph as well as junior ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith. Smith had four sacks in the Cats' last game, one shy of the school record.

"Those guys are the key to everything," Willis said. "We need those guys to be successful in the passing game. If they get there in three seconds, we'll be great. Those are the biggest keys for us in the secondary."

But getting pressure on Bridgewater, who has 6,599 career yards and 46 touchdowns, is easier said than done, Stoops said.

"That takes a complete defensive effort, not just the front," Stoops said. "You have to play good coverage. If there's guys wide open, he's going to just get rid of the ball very quickly.

"He could certainly pick you apart if you give him time."

Bridgewater has loads of weapons around him and distributes the ball effectively, completing passes to eight different receivers in all but one game last season (mainly because Louisville was playing in a torrential downpour). He's hit eight or more in both games this season and 11 different Cardinals have caught passes so far.

"He can get the ball to all the spots on the field, make all the throws," Stoops said. "He's got great vision; he sees everything on the field and he seems to always get the ball to the open spot. He sees what you're doing very quickly and obviously that comes from the experience that he has. He's played an awful lot of football games."

Stoops said watching Bridgewater on film, it seems like the game is moving in slow motion for the junior.

"He plays fast without being in a hurry, if that makes sense," the UK head coach and longtime defensive guru said. "He's very cool, and he's got a very live arm and he can make any throw. You could just see the confidence in him the more he's played."

Bridgewater has a history of playing well against Kentucky, too.

The Cats helped jump-start his career in 2011 when he came in to relieve Will Stein and led Louisville to a 24-17 win, going 10-for-16 for 106 yards and two scores.

Last season, Bridgewater threw for a school record completion percentage (90.5), going 19 of 21 for 232 yards. He didn't throw for a touchdown in that game, but has passed for one in 14 straight games since then.

This season, he'll present an even bigger challenge.

"He's just an exceptional player," Stoops said. "You see each and every time he takes the field, he's just more and more comfortable."


Louisville at Kentucky

When: Noon Saturday | TV: ESPN | Records: Louisville 2-0; Kentucky 1-1

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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