Teddy Bridgewater passed for 256 yards and ran for 74 in U of L's win over South Florida
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jittery? Teddy Icewater doesn't do jittery. He also doesn't do pep talks or comedy. That's why Teddy Bridgewater keeps playing like Teddy Icewater for the University of Louisville football team.
First drive, last drive, the kid just plays – and wins, the way he and U of L won against South Florida, 27-25 Saturday.
"I've been fortunate to be around Tim Tebow (at Florida)," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said.
"They're two totally different quarterbacks. (But) they're someone who can take the ball and want the ball in their hands at the end. Teddy, that's what he wanted today, he wanted the ball in his hands."
"Teddy is just Teddy in the huddle," said U of L receiver Damian Copeland. "The situation doesn't matter."
It might not matter to Bridgewater, but it absolutely mattered to the group of 50,167 fans who lingered in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium early Saturday evening. Favored by a touchdown against a 2-4 South Florida team, the Cardinals trailed, 25-21.
The Cards were given the ball at their 25-yard line. The clock was on 3:09. There was considerable reason to fret that Louisville's perfect season as well as its drive to play in a Bowl Championship Series game was on the rocks.
A field goal was worthless. The Cardinals needed a touchdown. They had failed to score a touchdown in three of their previous four drives.
Jittery? I already said that Icewater doesn't do jittery.
Jermaine Reve is a University of Louisville defensive back who has played with Bridgewater since junior high school in Miami. Reve said he has never seen Bridgewater nervous. Not once.
"Not the Teddy Bridgewater I know," Reve said. "He's always cool, calm and collected."
"I never get nervous," Bridgewater said. "Some guys will try to juice the team up, but sometimes it's just fake. The team knows that when I'm quiet or anything like that, I mean business.
"It was one of those moments where the offensive line bolted their cleats together, tied their shoes tight and we all just grinded it out."
Believe the man. He threw an incompletion on the Cards' first snap. Big deal. Bridgewater shrugged.
Then he led the University of Louisville on a what certainly looked like season-saving drive, a poised and determined 75-yard performance that inspired Strong to deliver the highest of quarterback praise – the Tim Tebow comparison.
The circumstances of the drive didn't shake Bridgewater, but the comparison to Tebow did. More on that later. I promise. But, first, an explanation why Strong invoked the T-word -- the play-by-play from the game-winning drive.
Pass to Eli Rogers for a dozen yards. Pass to Jeremy Wright for 14. The Cards were in South Florida territory that quick.
Pass to Damian Copeland for five yards. No wonder it was so difficult to stop Bridgewater. He was using all of his receivers.
A false start cost the Cardinals five yards. Big deal. Just another reason for Bridgewater to deliver. He looked for Rogers, his best buddy from Northwestern High School in Miami. Incomplete.
So Bridgewater went back to Wright for 16 yards. Then he scrambled for another 11 yards – and drew an 11-yard penalty from USF for a late hit. Now it was back to Rogers for the final 11 yards of an eight-play, 75-yard push that required only 94 seconds.
Louisville 27, USF 25, a score that stuck because the extra point was blocked.
Bridgewater was 5 of 7 for 58 yards passing – and ran for 11 more. For the record, Bridgewater finished the game 21 of 25 for 256 yards and two scores. He also led Louisville in rushing with another 74 yards. Mark down his 84 percent completion percentage as fourth time this season Bridgewater has completed better than 76 percent of his throws.
The only thing Bridgewater did not do perfectly was drain enough of the clock. South Florida had 95 seconds to position itself for the game-winning field goal.
Didn't happen. So the Cardinals march to 7-0, hold their place in the Top 25 of the BCS standings and position themselves for the sexiest game this program has played since the 2006 Orange Bowl – an 8 p.m. Friday matchup against Cincinnati that ESPN2 will televise. Yes, the Bearcats lost at Toledo Saturday, but they're still 5-1 and dangerous on offense.
After a season of playing in a mostly empty stadium in Miami, in a relentless rain in Hattiesburg, Miss., and at 11 a.m. in Pittsburgh, the Cincinnati game will be Bridgewater's chance to show the country that he can lead U of L the way Tebow led the University of Florida.
Bridgewater was informed that Strong had invoked Tebow's name in his description of the way his quarterback directed the game-winning drive.
"It's a great comparison," Bridgewater said. "I feel special now, hearing that Coach Strong felt that way about me. I can't even explain how that feels, hearing it now."
Bridgewater really did seem flustered by the praise. Odds are that he'll be back to being Teddy Icewater by Friday night.