LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has advanced to the point in his collegiate career where his coaching staff has given him the freedom to not only make pre-snap adjustments but call his own plays when the Cardinals go uptempo or in no-huddle two minute drill situations.
One of the first things head coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday that needs to improve from the Ohio game is the offense getting to the line of scrimmage with more time on the play clock to allow Bridgewater to survey the defense and make his checks.
"Attention to detail, tempo, where we get up on the ball," Strong said in his weekly news conference. "You're looking at a 25-second clock. We were down to like 11, 10 before we ever got the ball snapped. We like to get up on the ball quicker, so Teddy can get a read on the secondary, get a read on the front, and get the play checked to who we need to get it checked to."
If that sounds a lot like Peyton Manning in the NFL, you'd be right. And it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Bridgewater told a fan on Twitter this offseason Manning is his favorite NFL quarterback.
"You see it within him," said Strong, when asked if he can draw comparisons between Bridgewater's blossoming pre-snap recognition and Manning's talent in that area.
Strong then went further in his description of Bridgewater's ability to run the Louisville offense, saying in the second offensive series of the game against Ohio, when Louisville went no-huddle, it was Bridgewater calling all the plays.
When the Cards utilize that uptempo offense, they call it "NASCAR".
"You feel so comfortable with him now, because he just knows the offense now," Strong said. "He knows the plays to get us into, because of the checks he makes."
On that second drive of the game, Bridgewater drove UofL 55 yards on 5 plays, using 3:12 of game clock, ending with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Damian Copeland. That was despite two false start penalties on the drive. Bridgewater called three run plays and two passes, completing both of his pass attempts. There was no 3rd down play on the drive.
Strong even said if UofL is in a late game two-minute offense situation, needing points to tie or take the lead, Bridgewater has the reins.
"Oh, it will be him. Yes," said Strong. "It almost happened, right before (the end of the first) half."
Strong said Louisville had a penalty that backed them up inside its own 20-yard-line. So, Strong opted to just run out the clock and get to halftime up 28-0.
This is a new freedom for Bridgewater though. Strong said this new freedom to allow Bridgewater to be the maestro of the Cards' offense in the hurry-up was not something offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and company were not quite ready to allow last year, when he was a sophomore.
"Last year we did it a little, but we weren't as comfortable as we are now compared to last season," Strong replied about Bridgewater progression.
But there is one caveat to this play-calling freedom after Sunday's win. In the third quarter, one play before Bridgewater threw his 5th touchdown pass of the day, he ran the option. The pitch to Dominique Brown gained four yards, but the option also leaves quarterbacks, let alone a Heisman candidate quarterback, vulnerable to taking a hit.
"Yes," Strong answered laughingly, when asked if it was Bridgewater that checked into that option play. "He shouldn't have checked into it. You're saying he shouldn't have? The way he got hit? I was like, ‘Yeah, let's not check into that again."
Mr. Bridgewater, call any play you'd like...just not the option.