BOZICH | Teddy Icewater Returns for Louisville -- And Cincinnati - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Teddy Icewater Returns for Louisville -- And Cincinnati Suffers

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Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw three touchdown passes against Cincinnati Thursday. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw three touchdown passes against Cincinnati Thursday.

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WDRB) – It was a performance that confirmed why so many National Football League people believe that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be the inspired choice with the first pick in the NFL Draft next April.

It was the return of Teddy Icewater, the quarterback who believes he can make any throw from any angle in any circumstance, regardless of the degree of difficulty.

A twisting, nearly blind, sidearm 22-yard floater to Damian Copeland in one corner of the end zone, followed by an equally difficult and poised 4-yard fade pass to DeVante Parker in the other corner six minutes later.

Both in the fourth quarter. Both with Louisville trailing Cincinnati. Both with defenders in his grill. Both absolutely essential to getting the Cardinals into overtime.

Dominique Brown and the Louisville defense took it from there, lifting the Cards to 31-24 overtime victory over the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium Thursday night.

Louisville finished the regular season with an 11-1 record. The Cards also retained the Keg of Nails and earned an invitation to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28. Representatives of the bowl waited outside the Cards' locker room, shaking hands and distributing pins.

"It just means a lot," Bridgewater said. "First time in school history we've had 11 wins in back-to-back seasons. What Coach (Charlie) Strong is doing here is absolutely amazing, to turn the program around in four years."

Selling tickets to football fans in Orlando should be easier with Bridgewater to promote, in what could be his final college game. All they'll have to do is roll the highlights of three plays he made in the fourth quarter that pushed Bridgewater to the top spot in ESPN Sports Center's Top 10 plays.

His performance, which also included another touchdown pass to Parker on Louisville's fourth offensive play, won't be enough to push Bridgewater back into serious contention for the Heisman Trophy. But ballots aren't due until Monday – and by playing with the nerves of a safecracker, Bridgewater should at least earn more votes.

He finished the game 23 for 37 for 255 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Those aren't numbers that scream: Strike the Heisman Pose.

But you have to remember time, score, distance and all the football essentials. Midway through the fourth quarter, Louisville faced a fourth-and-12 at the Cincinnati 38. Bridgewater is a thrower not a runner. Johnny Manziel could not have handled that fourth-down play better than Bridgewater.

He scrambled out of the pocket, wiggled away from two defenders, danced along the sidelines, dragged a defender and then shuffled backwards for the final four yards of a 14-yard scamper.

"He put the team on his back with that one," Louisville safety Hakeem Smith said.

"That had to be the play of the game," said U of L athletic director Tom Jurich. "It might be the play of the year."

Bridgewater was not finished. Three plays later, on third-and-eight, Bridgewater slipped away from a five-man rush, by changing directions twice. One tackler was at his ankles, another was bearing down on his left side. He was starting to be tossed to the turf when he dropped his right arm to his side and tossed the ball high and deep into the right corner of the end zone, at the end of the stadium filled by the wall of noise created by the Cincinnati students.

It came down in Copeland's hands – and he came down with one critical foot in the end zone. The adrenaline returned to the Louisville sidelines.

That pushed Louisville ahead 17-14, but not for long. Cincinnati scored in two plays.

Enter Bridgewater. He marched the Cardinals another 60 yards in 11 plays, the last four on the third down pass to Parker.

Cincinnati kicked a field goal to force overtime with seven seconds to play. But Louisville dominated that – getting five powerful runs from Dominique Brown, the last two for a touchdown. Cincinnati lost four yards on its four overtime snaps.

When the final pass by UC quarterback Brendon Kay fell to the soggy turf, Louisville celebrated with more joy than this team has shown since September.

"Because of the expectations that everyone had for us, everyone expected us to run the table or have an undefeated season," Bridgewater said. "When we were winning, we were receiving a lot of attention.

"We lost that one game (to UCF in October) and everyone pretty much counted us out. We've been on the backburner here lately. We still have a lot to play for."

INJURY UPDATE – When the season kicked off, running back was one of the deepest positions on the Louisville roster. Charlie Strong had five options. Not any more.

Michael Dyer has not carried the football since the Central Florida game. Assistant coach Kenny Carter said earlier this week that Dyer has been injured. Corvin Lamb has missed the last 10 games with a torn ACL.

Senorise Perry left the UC game in the second quarter with what appeared to be an injury to his left wrist. Perry had eight carries for 31 yards and was Louisville's top rusher in the first half. Perry returned in the second half to run for another 50 yards, but left with injury to his right leg on a kickoff return.

Dominique Brown ran 19 times for 79 yards.

SPECIAL GUEST – Other than Johnny Unitas, Tom Jackson is the most famous football player in U of L history. He lives in Cincinnati and usually attends football or basketball games when the Cardinals are in town. Thursday night was no exception. Jackson, one of the stars of ESPN's Sunday pre-game show, was a visitor in the box of Cards' athletic director Tom Jurich.

Jurich said that both he and Jackson were convinced that Bridgewater was throwing the ball away on his touchdown pass to Copeland.

KEEPING AN EYE ON TEDDY – Peter King of Sports Illustrated nominated  Bridgewater as the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft again on Monday.

Nine teams sent scouts to the game – the Bengals, Steelers, Raiders, Giants, 49ers, Buccaneers, Packers, Rams and Lions.

THE END – This was the final game for the press box at Nippert Stadium. An $86 million renovation to the facility is scheduled to start Friday. The press box will be torn down and replaced with a five-story pavilion that will also include club and patio seats as well as an upgraded concourse.

Cincinnati will play at Paul Brown Stadium downtown next season and return to Nippert in 2015.

WHERE'S GUNNER? – Cincinnati's search for a quarterback should end next season. Former Columbus (Ind.) all-American Gunner Kiel is sitting out this season with the Bearcats after transferring from Notre Dame.

Kiel originally committed to Indiana in 2011. After de-committing from the Hoosiers, Kiel was scheduled to attend Louisiana State. He changed his mind again and enrolled at Notre Dame, where he was red-shirted last season when the Irish advanced to the BCS title game.

UC announced a crowd of 35,097, the Bearcats' second-largest home crowd this season. They drew 36,007 for the season opener against Purdue.

UP NEXT – That's a wrap on the regular season for the Cards. Louisville is headed for the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando. The Cards will play an opponent from their new home – the Atlantic Coast Conference, likely Duke, Miami or Virginia Tech.

"I'm just glad it's warm weather," safety Hakeem Smith said.

"It's important for us to show the ACC what we're about," Jurich said.

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