CRAWFORD: Bridgewater's studies lead to high passing marks - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD: Bridgewater's studies lead to high passing marks

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© photo by Shelley Feller © photo by Shelley Feller

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson spent the summer giving sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a guided tour of offensive football theory. Or maybe it was a correspondence course, given that Watson couldn't actually be around for the lessons.

Now, as the season has unfolded for Bridgewater, Watson is getting to watch the student put much of that learning into practice.

When Bridgewater came to the sidelines after overthrowing DeVante Parker on a deep ball in the first half of Saturday's win at Pittsburgh, Watson didn't have to tell him what he did wrong. Bridgewater already knew.

Those of us in the press box and stands had a simple explanation -- "he overthrew him."

But Bridgewater got into more detail than that. He immediately told Watson that he'd taken too deep a drop for the throw. And Watson couldn't help but smile as he was relating that story.

There's a lot of that going on right now with Bridgewater. For instance, U of L has already rushed for 17 touchdowns this season -- two more than it ran for all of last season. In fact, with its next TD run, U of L will have bettered or matched its rushing TD total from each of the past four years, with half a season still left to play.

That's a credit to running backs Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry, and to an offensive line that has played extremely well. But it also is a credit to Bridgewater, who is making a lot of calls at the line that we might not see in the press box or stands, but which leave Watson pretty fired up in the coaches' box.

"He is doing a lot of things that, to the naked eye, you don't see," Watson said. "He is running so many different cadence tempos at the line of scrimmage. He's really managing our huddle and leading. He is doing a lot of things in the signal game, with our kill game and our check game. He is running like a pro right now. He is playing the best football I ever had a quarterback play. I've never had one play like this."

In fact, sometimes Bridgewater is studying defenses a little too hard for head coach Charlie Strong's liking. He'll run deep into the playbook trying to diagnose what is happening on the other side.

"He's like, 'Coach, I'm trying to see where the pressure is coming from because I know they're coming from somewhere,'" Strong said. "I'm looking at the play clock. I want to make sure we get that ball snapped."

In addition to studying, Bridgewater spent the summer beefing up after taking some punishment from rushers at the end of last season. More than once, this year, a rusher looking for a sack has found himself upended by a stiff-arm instead.

"If a defending comes on him, he feels like he's strong enough to get the guy off," Bridgewater said. "And if one guy comes on him, he feels like he can make him miss. . . . You have to have more than one guy and try to confine him."

About the only thing confining his passing game has been the weather.

Bridgewater is averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, tied for 10th nationally with Geno Smith of West Virginia, Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. The last time a U of L quarterback averaged that many yards per attempt for a season was Brian Brohm with 9.7 per pass in 2006.

Bridgewater is also No. 5 in the nation in completion percentage (71.8) and No. 14 nationally in efficiency rating (160.42) despite playing back-to-back games in stormy conditions that made throwing the ball nearly impossible. As a result of those games, and because U of L has been protecting fourth quarter leads in several others, he ranks 72nd nationally in attempts per game at 27.2. That number still comes in as the most pass attempts per game at U of L since 2008, however.

Likewise, it's been awhile since the U of L offense has averaged more than 30 points (33.3 this season) and 400 yards (409.2).

"What's happening is we're growing up," Watson said. "We're starting to mature and there is consistency. The guys know what we're doing. They're confident in what we're doing and they believe in it. They know how to execute it. They've done a great job going into every week studying the opponent. It's been fun to be around this group of guys because they've upped the ante from a year ago when they were just learning what to do. Now they know what we do and they're applying it to what a defense does. It's fun to be around them."

Bridgewater is doing everything at the moment but running the ball himself, and that's largely because the coaching staff hasn't asked him to.

"A couple of times (at Pitt) I thought he could've scrambled and gotten some runs instead of looking for the pass first," Watson said. "But those are just subtle reminders with Teddy. . . . He had some great creative throws. He can really extend some plays and finish with some really creative oddball throws. He's capable of scrambling, too. The kid can run. We don't use him as a runner, but we could run that style of offense with him because he's really talented in terms of what he brings as an athlete."

Right now, Bridgewater is talented, comfortable and confident.

"I've had confidence in Coach Wats since Day 1," Bridgewater said. "He's been here for me since the day I got here on campus."

Bridgewater is not only a lot more seasoned now, but growing more comfortable by the game, and that's important. With U of L's offensive weapons, that might be were it is most likely to break away from a competitive bunch at the top of the Big East. Regardless, so far Bridgewater's summer studies are leading to very high passing grades.

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