LOUISVILLE - If there's a standard-bearer for the tattered, battered Big East Conference this season, it's No. 25 Louisville. Based on Sunday's season opener against Kentucky, the Cardinals seem capable of carrying that flag.
Jeremy Wright scored three touchdowns and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater picked the Wildcats' defense apart as Louisville ripped its in-state rival 32-14 in front of a Papa John's Cardinal Stadium record crowd of 55,386.
Wright rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries for the Cards, while Bridgewater hit on 19-of-21 passes for 232 yards before sitting out the last quarter and a half. Louisville finished the day with 467 total yards.
Bridgewater set the tone on his first pass, a 23-yard dart to a well-covered Damian Copeland on 3rd-and-9 from the Cards' 2 that kick-started a 15-play, 99-yard scoring drive. Wright extended the march with a 5-yard run on 4th-and-2 at the Wildcats' 6 and plunged in on the next play to conclude an 8-minute, 21-second drive.
That was followed by touchdown marches of 85 and 93 yards on which Louisville continued its run-pass mix.
The Cards' experienced offensive line, led by Rimington Award nominee Mario Benavides at center, consistently blew open gaping holes in the Wildcats' front seven.
It was evident on Senorise Perry's 47-yard scoring run with 11:03 left in the first half, when he bounced off a pile at the scrimmage line, found open space around right tackle and sped untouched to the end zone. Perry ended with 108 yards on 16 tries.
Kentucky's offense showed spark at times behind sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith, who hit 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But the Wildcats simply didn't have enough possession time, keeping the ball for only 23 minutes and 39 minutes.
Kentucky could have made the game closer, but failed to convert on four possessions that ended inside Louisville's 25. Raymond Sanders fumbled at the 22 following a 17-yard run late in the first half. It then recovered an onsides kick to start the second half, but Craig McIntosh pushed a 42-yard field goal wide right.
At 11:44 in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats drove to the Louisville 5-yard line, but CoShik Williams coughed the ball up on a run up the middle, and Adrian Bushell recovered at the 3. The Wildcats' next possession ended at the Cards' 12.
NOTES: Kentucky lost its season opener for the first time since 2007 ... Wildcats coach Joker Phillips and Louisville coach Charlie Strong worked under Lou Holtz at South Carolina in 2002. Phillips oversaw wide receivers and Strong was the defensive coordinator ... Cardinals tight end Nate Nord, who caught three passes, is the nephew of Kentucky assistant coach Greg Nord.