Teddy Bridgewater’s performance against Florida creates high expectations for 2013

In the middle of the season, Louisville officials started their Heisman campaign for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

They sent out postcards with his picture, stats and added a couple pieces of bubble gum as a tribute to the pieces he keeps in his shoes during games.

But that was it.

The campaign was short-lived after and he during the second half of the season, he faded from the conversation.

On Wednesday, in a stunning 33-23 upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Bridgewater completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and got back on the Heisman radar.

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From the opening drive, Bridgewater was nails, finding his targets with precision and throwing to open space in anticipation of his receiver’s arrival. His elusiveness kept Florida’s strong defensive line at bay, and with the exception of a tipped ball that led to an interception, Bridgewater was mostly perfect.

He was especially dangerous on third down where the Cardinals converted 9 of 14 tries. Louisville didn’t punt the ball until there were 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

What made Bridgewater so effective was his poise. For weeks he’s had to hear about Florida’s defense, it’s speed and its triumphs over other quarterbacks, including Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. But the pressure never fazed him. Not only did his offensive line play well, he was always aware of what was going on around him. He stepped up when he could and got rid of the ball when he could. Several times when Florida appeared to have Bridgewater dead to rights, he’d float the ball over the pass rusher’s head and turn it into a screen pass for a long gain.

Terell Floyd, who picked off Florida’s opening pass and ran 38 yards into the end zone, probably helped Bridgewater’s confidence by giving him a 7-0 lead before the Cardinals first possession. Bridgewater also capitalized on another Florida mistake at the beginning of the second half when the Gators attempted a surprise onside kick that was recovered by Louisville. During the play, Florida was assessed two personal foul penalties, which put Louisville in the red zone to start the half. Bridgewater threw a touchdown on his first touch.

Prior to the game, Florida called Bridgewater the best quarterback the Gators would face this season and that included Manziel. The country saw – perhaps for the first time – what Bridgewater brings to the table against a top defense and all eyes will be on him in 2013.

Louisville better order more bubble gum.

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