Associated Press photo. Teddy Bridgewater throws against Ohio University.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- He was the last guy off the bus, the last player walking through Card March, and, actually, the last guy you'd predict would have the quote of the day.
But Sunday was the start of Teddy Bridgewater's junior season, and he did just about everything for the University of Louisville. There was no rush, just patient precision.
He completed his first nine passes. His tenth bounced off the hands of Damian Copeland. It was, to be honest, thrown at Copeland's back shoulder and the senior wideout had to turn around to try to make a play on it down the middle.
"I told Cope, you gotta catch that ball," Charlie Strong said after a 49-7 victory over Ohio University.
Bridgewater's first and only real mistake -- an interception thrown early in the second quarter -- wasn't really his. DeVante Parker was supposed to go under the defender and he went over. The ball was in the right place; the receiver wasn't.
If it felt at times like Bridgewater was in a video game, it felt that way to Bridgewater too. With one exception.
"I'm better on the video game," Bridgewater said.
It's hard to imagine how. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns. (Bridgewater said he was 25 of 28 when he played the video game vs. Ohio). He hit seven different receivers. He extended plays. He was nearly flawless in his line of scrimmage decision-making.
And with the weapons around him, he was throwing to wide-open receivers all day. When asked about it, he chimed in with his quote-of-the-day candidate: "I was like a kid in a candy store," Bridgewater said. "I just had to decide which flavor I wanted."
Twice, he went with honey mustard. Damian Copeland had a career day in the first quarter alone, matching his career total with two touchdown receptions.
About the only obstacles Bridgewater faced on Sunday were penalties. The Cards repeatedly backed themselves up with illegal procedure calls, and even a few holding calls. But where those were drive-killers a season ago, this year they were merely opportunities for Bridgewater to rack up more yardage.
His ability to overcome setbacks, the time he got from U of L's offensive line and the ability of U of L's receivers to get separation from Ohio defenders made for an easy day.
"Michalee Harris made a comment to coach Watson that if we don't score every drive, then something is wrong," Bridgewater said. "Today our goal was to keep the punter off the field. I think we punted once or twice, but the entire unit performed at a high level."
While Bridgewater and the first-team offense were on the field, there were no punts, and there were only two drives that ended without a score -- plus one at the end of the first half when U of L was running out the clock.
If there's a difference between Bridgewater this season and last it may be his ability to consistently diagnose defenses, make the right decision with the ball, and keep the offense going even when it threatens to send itself to the sidelines.
He also has gained an ability to move subtly in the pocket, to economically evade pressure to buy himself another couple of seconds to find the open receiver.
"He has great poise," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "He's got excellent height. He moves well and never gets frustrated, and has a great arm. He seems to know the offense extremely well, so he really has the whole package."
He might've had the coaches on edge late in the third quarter when he checked to a sprint draw that got him hit hard. But he pointed out that two plays later, with Ohio bringing heat again, he was able to check to max protection and find Robert Clark for a 25-yard TD pass.
Of Bridgewater's effort, Copeland said: "He does that day-in and day-out. Teddy is like a pro."
Kai De La Cruz, who caught a pair of touchdown passes, including the career first for back-up Will Gardner, said, "I felt like we just did what we've done all summer. It's not a statement, we just played how we've practiced."
Even before the game was over, Bridgewater was getting more national attention in connection with the Heisman trophy, and his draft status. ESPN host Colin Cowherd said that he's a better pro bet than South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney via Twitter.
When asked about the Heisman discussion, Bridgewater said, "I can't talk on that right now."
His play, however, continues to speak pretty loudly. I asked him, given his receivers, if he gets as much time to work as he did on Sunday, what he foresees for the season. He replied, "A long season for a lot of secondaries."
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
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