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Bridgewater leads Louisville to rout of Miami

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There were at least four occasions during the Russell Athletic Bowl when Louisville Cardinals fans stood and saluted the team's quarterback with chants of "Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!"

It will be no surprise if the next time that quarterback -- Teddy Bridgewater -- hears that chant, it's coming from the fans of an NFL team.

Bridgewater solidified his status as the premier NFL-eligible quarterback by passing for three touchdowns and running for a fourth as No. 18 Louisville routed the University of Miami 36-9 on Saturday.

Bridgewater, who grew up in Miami and originally committed to sign with the Hurricanes, completed 35 of 45 passes for 447 yards. He was sacked in the endzone for a safety, but otherwise handled the Hurricanes as though it was a school yard pick-up game.

"This game really means a lot, not just because I was going against my hometown school, but also a quality opponent," Bridgewater said. "We always hear that our schedule wasn't that tough, but we competed against a quality opponent and handled them pretty good."

Often, it was Bridgewater's footwork, the ability to avoid the Hurricanes pass rush, that made the Cardinals offense unstoppable the whole night. When he had to, Bridgewater would elude one, two, sometimes three Hurricanes, then find a target downfield to keep drives alive.

"He made some really excellent plays where it looked like we had him for a sack and he breaks the tackle and completes a pass," Miami Coach Al Golden said. "There were a number of those plays. He's obviously an excellent quarterback who threw the ball really well."

Louisville's defense could easily have shared the Most Valuable Player award that Bridgewater collected after the game. The Cardinals defense allowed the Hurricanes only 174 yards of total offense, sacked Miami quarterback Stephen Morris four times and had eight tackles for loss against the fleet Miami running game.

"We knew if we could disrupt the rhythm of their offense, we would have a chance to win," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "We gave them a lot of issues to deal with on third down by moving guys around, creating some confusion for the quarterback and our guys executed it. Championship teams play great defense and we did that tonight."

Miami's offense never got untracked against Louisville. The Hurricanes were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions and the running attack contributed just 14 yards to the attack.

"I don't think there is any question we didn't protect as well as we needed to and then you get to a point where you're pressing and trying to make some plays you probably shouldn't make," Golden said. "Give Louisville's defense credit. They really executed well against us."

Bridgewater had scoring passes of 26 yards to junior wide receiver DeVante Parker, 12 yards to junior wide receiver Michaelee Harris and 24 yards to senior running back Senorise Perry. Parker had nine receptions for 142 yards, while teammate Damian Copeland had six catches for 90 yards.

"We wanted to earn some respect tonight," Copeland said. "We came to play on a big stage and we felt like all of America was against us. You saw what we did to Miami. Today we got some respect back."

Bridgewater, who tied the Louisville record for touchdown passes in a season in the first half when the Cardinals built a 22-2 lead, wasted no time breaking the record in the second half.

He hit Perry for a 24-yard scoring pass on UL's first possession of the second half, capping a 12-play, 89-yard drive. Bridgewater was 6 of 7 for 73 yards on the drive that pushed Louisville's lead to 29-2.

If the rout wasn't already fully on, the game's next two possessions assured that it would be a runaway.

Miami moved the ball to the Louisville 17, where it tried to change momentum by going for it on fourth-and-9. The Louisville defense, which had held Miami to 0-for-9 on third-down conversions and 0-for-1 on fourth-down plays to that point, kept the shutout going.

Cardinals defensive end Marcus Smith rolled right through the middle of Miami's offensive line and sacked Morris for a 13-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.

Bridgewater trotted back on the field and went for the kill on the first play, but he underthrew Parker, who had gotten behind the Hurricanes secondary. Unruffled, the Louisville quarterback took his team on a methodical, 10-play, 70-yard drive that ate up 5:07.

Fittingly, it ended with Bridgewater bootlegging the ball around the defense and beating a pair of defenders to the pylon on a fourth-and-goal from the 1. The extra point made it 36-2.

Cardinal fans responded with another chant of "Teddy, Teddy, Teddy!"

Hurricane fans responded by leaving the stadium with 12 minutes to play.

Bridgewater was sacked in the end zone on the Cardinals' first possession when Miami safety Deron Bush blitzed untouched.

Louisville's defense limited Miami to just 83 yards and 0-for-6 conversions on third downs. The Cardinals sacked Morris three times, forced him to lose a fumble on the lone Hurricane drive of the half and dropped two interceptions that easily could have turned into touchdowns.

Bridgewater, meanwhile, quickly took command after the safety. The quarterback completed 19 of 26 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

He drove the Cardinals to John Wallace field goals of 36, 43 and 42 yards on three straight possessions after the safety, then piled it on with the three touchdown passes.

The scoring throw to Harris was Bridgewater's 30th this season, tying Brian Brohm's school record. It completed a 60-yard drive that featured a 21-yard floater to Damian Copeland on third-and-5. Bridgewater appeared to be trapped twice on the play but eluded the Miami rush and hung the ball perfectly for Copeland to run under and keep the drive alive.

NOTES: Howard Schnellenberger, who coached Miami's first national championship team in 1983 and two years later took over the University of Louisville and revived that program, performed the ceremonial coin flip before the game. ... Louisville is playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl for the first time. ... Miami was playing its fourth game in the Russell Athletic Bowl, all under different sponsoring names. The Hurricanes beat Virginia in the 1996 Carquest Bowl, beat North Carolina State in the 1998 MicronPC Bowl and lost to Wisconsin in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl. ... Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native, is 22-3 as a starter. ... Miami holds a 9-2-1 edge in the series against Louisville. ... Louisville will join Miami in the ACC for the 2014 season.
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