Louisville-Kentucky Preview

The Associated Press

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is making the most of his bevy of receivers, and each week reveals how deep No. 7 Louisville is at the position.

The Heisman Trophy candidate already had veterans DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland, Eli Rogers and tight end Ryan Hubbell to throw to, but Bridgewater has blended junior Kai De La Cruz and transfers Robert Clark and Gerald Christian into the mix.

Bridgewater has thrown for 752 yards, an FBS-best nine touchdowns and a 76.7 percent completion rate in leading the Cardinals' 2-0 start. Louisville's newest contributors have combined for four TDs and 280 yards.

The additional options could present problems for Kentucky (1-1) in Saturday's rivalry game.

"I felt like in the spring that we were helping and contributing and whatever happens in practice would transfer to the game," said Christian, who caught five passes for 74 yards including an 11-yard touchdown in last Saturday's 44-7 win over Eastern Kentucky.

"Not saying I was going to catch three touchdowns, but I felt like I would be able to contribute, being on the field."

Clark, Christian's friend since childhood who transferred with him from Florida, certainly thought the tight end could have a big game after his own debut in a season-opening 49-7 win against Ohio.

The 5-foot-9 junior had four receptions for 43 yards including a 25-yarder for his first career TD. Clark added 24 yards on four catches against EKU and is just one reception behind team co-leaders Parker and Copeland.

"At first I was thinking with so many good receivers here, how is everybody going to get catches," Clark said. "But Teddy does a great job to spread it out to everybody."

De La Cruz established his offensive presence in the opener after returning punts last season. He ended with a team-high 114 yards on four catches with two TDs including a 40-yarder.

De La Cruz's production has backed up the praise Louisville coaches lavished on him in fall camp. Even on a unit featuring deep-threat Parker (207 yards, 3 TDs), Copeland (130 yards, 3 TDs) and Rogers (134 yards), De La Cruz was someone the coaches believed could be just as explosive as his teammates.

"My talent's always been there and my athleticism too, so all I really needed was the playbook, which helped me tremendously," said De La Cruz, who has five receptions for 128 yards. "They've always treated me the same, not as the new guy. ... Basically, all I've done is stay on the right path."

Although De La Cruz, Clark and Christian have worked their way onto the field, they're still amazed by Bridgewater's ability to consistently work everybody into the strategy. Of course, it helps that the quarterback has been sacked just once this season and often has plenty of time to scour the field for choices.

Most important to Bridgewater is having the targets just where they're designed to be.

"Those guys just do a great job of playing to detail," he said. "We have pictures in our books of how the routes are supposed to look, but you turn on the tape and those guys have run their routes just like the drawings."

Despite two impressive performances statistically, Bridgewater and his receivers note that the Cardinals have room to grow. He lamented not getting a touchdown for Rogers against EKU and took responsibility for some incompletions despite hitting 23 of 32 attempts for 397 yards.

Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards last season as Louisville beat visiting Kentucky 32-14. He went 10 of 18 for 106 yards and two TDs in a 24-17 victory in Lexington in 2011.

"He's so fast and so patient," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "He doesn't hurry anything. He plays fast without being in a hurry, if that makes sense. He's very cool, and he's got a very live arm and he can make any throw. You could just see the confidence in him the more he's played."

The Wildcats beat Miami of Ohio 41-7 at home last Saturday, and this matchup begins a four-game stretch against ranked teams including contests against No. 18 Florida, at No. 13 South Carolina and a visit from top-ranked Alabama.

Kentucky running back Jonathan George believes playing the school's biggest rival is a good way to begin.

"Not saying I don't realize that the schedule is not going to get any easier from here on out, but we're just moving week by week and going week by week," George said. "Right now, we're just going to focus on Louisville and focus on preparing for those guys because they do have a good ball team."

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