LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Teddy Bridgewater got his Heisman Trophy campaign under way Sunday, throwing for 355 yards and five touchdowns as ninth-ranked Louisville thumped Ohio University 49-7 at steamy Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Bridgewater, a junior, declined an offer by the school's sports information department to launch a preseason publicity campaign touting him for the Heisman, saying he was more concerned with devoting his energy toward working for the team's success. Sunday's game was a good first step down that path, and he certainly served notice that his Heisman candidacy is vibrant.
Bridgewater completed 23 of 28 passes. He was intercepted once and had another pass dropped before was removed after three quarters with the Cardinals holding a 42-7 lead. Bridewater's TD passes covered 34, 19, 27, 40 and 25 yards.
"Teddy was great," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "He's such a student of the game. He makes the right reads, throws the ball where it's supposed to go. On the interception, the receiver ran an out when he was supposed to go in."
Said junior Kai De La Cruz, who caught two TD passes: "Teddy is like a pro. He does that day in and day out. We all know that Teddy is going to be on the money. If you run the right route, the ball will be there."
Ohio senior cornerback Travis Carrie offered added, "I would say he's on the same level as (reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny) Manziel."
Louisville, which received the opening kickoff, scored the first three times it had the ball, on drives of 75, 55 and 86 yards. In between, the Bobcats went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The Cardinals led 21-0 early in the second quarter before Ohio recorded a first down.
It was 28-0 at the half, with Louisville having limited the Bobcats to 88 yards of offense, including just 11 yards rushing. Ohio averaged 203.3 yards rushing a game last season, with Beau Blankenship piling up1,604 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Blankenship is back for his senior season, but he was held to 22 yards on 12 carries.
The Bobcats returned 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 last year, a season that included an opening-game victory at Penn State. Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 2,844 yards last year, managed just 140 yards Sunday, completing 11 of 23 passes.
Louisville, which was coming off an 11-2 season capped by a victory over No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, returned 19 starters. The Cardinals' No. 9 Associated Press ranking their highest-ever preseason rating.
"They're a top-10 team, maybe even a top-five team," Tettleton said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they did today. They have a great defense, (but) we just weren't clicking. ... We just didn't execute. Obviously this one hurts. but I think the guys realize there is so much more football to be played."
Damian Copeland, a Louisville senior known as "Honey Badger" because of his dyed-blonde Mohawk haircut, caught Bridgewater's first two TD passes. He caught six passes for 98 yards in all.
Devante Parker, a sophomore who led the Cardinals with 10 touchdown receptions last season, then hauled in a 27-yard scoring pass, and De La Cruz had a 40-yard TD catch with 3:26 left in the first half. De La Cruz finished with four catches for 116 yards.
Ohio received the second-half kickoff and went three-and-out, and Louisville responded by going 68 yards in six plays for a TD to make it 35-0. Junior Michael Dyer, who transferred to Louisville late this summer after playing for two seasons at Auburn, scored on a 46-yard run. Dyer was the Most Valuable Player in the 2010 national championship game. After being dismissed from Auburn and sitting out a season, he was immediately eligible at Louisville, which accepted Dyer on probationary status.
The Bobcats then mounted a 51-yard drive but came up empty, and Bridgewater drove the Cards 82 yards for a touchdown. Bridgewater's 25-yard TD pass to junior Robert Clark, a transfer from Florida, made it 42-0 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
The Bobcats drove 58 yards to make it 42-7 on a 10-yard run by senior Ryan Boykin on the final play of the third quarter.
Redshirt freshman Will Gardner replaced Bridgewater at quarterback to begin the fourth quarter and led a 74-yard TD drive, capped by his 30-yard touchdown pass to De La Cruz.
"He's made tremendous improvement," Strong said, "the biggest improvement of any receiver on this team. He's just grown up. I told him he's going to catch a lot of balls this year.
"I was very pleased with the entire team -- offense and defense. We shut them out until we put the second unit in and they scored. We just need to eliminate the penalties (Louisville had 11 penalties for 90 yards), but we have a long ways to go. This was just one game. We can get better."
Louisville finished with 615 total yards, 199 rushing and 416 passing. Ohio finished with 273 yards, 81 rushing and 192 passing. Ohio managed 273 total yards, 192 passing and 81 rushing.
The Cards converted 13 of 16 third-down attempts, while the Bobcats went 5-for-15.
NOTES: Louisville earned its third consecutive season-opening victory. The Cardinals play host to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. ... Ohio's string of three straight opening-game victories ended. The Bobcats return home to play North Texas on Saturday. ... A crowd of 55,332, the second-largest in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium history, was on hand on a steamy afternoon.