One of the biggest post-game topics of discussion after U of L's 32-14 victory over UK has been what was going on with the removal of Teddy Bridgewater with the offense humming late in the third quarter? Bridgewater said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson told him on the headset that they were going to turn to Stein to protect Bridgewater from injury.
The issues (and I'll weigh in at the end of each with whether I thought it was a right move -- just for that single issue -- or a wrong move, knowing of course that they're interconnected, etc., etc.):
1). Was it wise given the game situation? UK's offense had success driving the ball against U of L all day, and in fact was driving to pull within two scores when a fumble at the 2-yard line gave the ball back to U of L. Even after that, the Wildcats got another shot in Cardinal territory. If UK scores, there was an eternity of time remaining, and now you've given the Wildcats momentum and put your own team under undue pressure. Sure, that scenario didn't happen, but it very easily could have. Probably should have. Verdict: Wrong move.
2). Was it wise given the way national perception is determined? Right or wrong, a majority of AP voters don't know much more about a team than the margin they see. And while 32-14 is plenty big, again, a smaller margin could've hurt U of L in national polls at a time when the Big East is scratching for every bit of national respect it can get. Verdict: Wrong move, but to advocate for running up the score is distasteful, I know. I'd take a shower, but after walking back to my car, I don't need to.
3). Was it a good thing to do for Will Stein? Absolutely. No question. I'm not even going to debate it. Stein is a great guy, deserves the opportunity, and since it all worked out, it's a positive. Verdict: Right move.
4). Was it the right thing to do for Bridgewater? I keep flashing back to Michael Bush having his season tragically ended while the Cards had a big lead -- though it was the first series of the second half and no coach could be reasonably expected to pull a guy that early. So from a protection standpoint, yes. But Bridgewater also is just a sophomore. He and the receivers might well have benefited from a couple more series in game situations. Verdict: Right move. If you're going to err (and still win), do it on the side of caution.
5). Was Strong doing Phillips a favor? Nobody will ever say so for the record. One thing that made me wonder -- not only was Bridgewater pulled, but the zone pass coverage seemed to soften up a great deal once the lead went to 32-7. If the U of L secondary had given any more cushion or played a zone any softer, they'd have had to replace the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium FieldTurf with memory foam. We'll never know truly what happened on this question, but we all know how it looks. Verdict: As long as you win, it's the right move. I don't have much sympathy for all the fans wanting blood and to run it up, certainly none for any who booed late. But it was a risk, and a bigger risk than the final score indicates.