Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium (nicknamed the oven) was pre-heated on Thursday night and ready for a scorching performance from Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a high-powered offense but it was the Cardinal defense that roasted the Scarlet Knights. The Louisville Cardinals (6-0, 2-0 ACC) entered the game a 19 pt favorite against a Rutgers (4-2, 1-1 ACC) team that boasted the 3rd best run defense in the country.
I first want to applause MOST of the fans at PJCS. MOST of them where standing up and making noise to do their part in this game! They showed up for their team!!! There are a few, many of them in Sec 234 rows A – L, that did not. If you want to sit, watch, and not participate – stay at home! This is a new time for Cardinal sports and requires a new kind of fan, one that is involved! To the rest of you – it was amazing! The noise, the towells, the noise makers – GREAT JOB!!!
Fans expected to see Bridgewater, a Heisman Contender, put on a clinic in front of a reported 20+ NFL scouts and more than 55,000 fans but it was the likes of Calvin Pryor and Marcus Smith that stole the show. The Louisville defense recorded 4 interceptions (all by different players), 8 sacks (3 by Marcus Smith), and choked out a Rutgers offense that racked up 55 pts and almost 500 yrds a week before vs. SMU, holding them to 240 yrds in total offense.
The defense bailed out the Louisville offense that was uncharacteristically mistake prone throughout the game. The Louisville offense turned the ball over 3 times, with #5 accounting for two of them. Bridgewater (21/31 310, 2 TD, 1 Int, 78 pass rtg) left a few passes on the field I’m sure he would love to have back including an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter and overthrowing a wide open Damien Copeland in the end zone. These miscues and poor performance inside the 30 made it obvious that the Louisville offense can’t fill the void left by injured DeVante Parker (shoulder). The Louisville running game also helped Bridgewater, putting down 151 yards with Sr. Senorise Perry leading the charge with 104 yards, finishing with an average of 8 yrds per touch.
So what’s the takeaway? As much as fans wanted it, Bridgewater didn’t need a dominant performance against Rutgers, but Louisville, as a team, did. Less than a year ago the Cardinals were 9-0 before dropping a pair of Big East games to Syracuse and UConn. They were head-scratching losses, and ones that suggested that while Louisville was still a year away from making a splash on the national scene. Scouts may have come to see Teddy Football, but left adding names from the Louisville defense to their top watch lists.
Bridgewater’s NFL Draft stock is set, the Cardinals’ BCS stock is not. Thursday night’s performance gave the naysayers plenty of material, and only raised the bar for next week’s contest against a good UCF team. If Louisville again fails to dominate against a respectable opponent, it will be a hard reputation to shake come late November.
Louisville fans leaving the stadium late Thursday night were not ecstatic about the win. I would say some were down right deflated. I think many fans feel like their hopes for a National Championship opportunity are fading if not gone and Bridgewater’s chances for winning the Heisman have been dashed. I believe fans are clinging to a bold statement by former Coach Howard Schnellenburger in May of this year when he reaffirmed his belief that “Louisville is on a collision course with the National Championship”, and added “now is the time.” To these fans I will quote the timeless classic by Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” and add there is a lot of football left to be played and anything is possible.
These sour facts remain in the back of the minds of fans, the Cardinals may not have been able to control their schedule but they can control how they play it. The last 6 quarters of football have been uninspiring and predictable. I would like to see the Louisville coaching staff start getting more creative inside the red zone and let Bridgewater take control of the offense. And for God sake, get 6’5″ Matt Milton involved in the offense.
Tags: Bcs Calvin Pryor Charlie Strong Hakeem Smith Heisman Louisvile Cardinals Louisville Cardinals Louisville Cardinals Football Louisville Defense Louisville Football Marcus Smith Matt Milton National Championship Teddy Bridgewater