December 28th, 2013 will be remembered for the University of Louisville football team’s domination of the University of Miami, 36-9, in the Russell Athletic Bowl, obliterating anything else that may have occurred that Saturday.
The iconic image, one that be replayed incessantly in the minds of Cardinal fans, will be the sight of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater extending his UofL helmet to his mother Rose in the stands. Bridgewater may well have played his best game in what may have been his last one in a Louisville uniform. A player who loves his mom, his teammates, his coaches and his university possibly saying goodbye, having left an indelible mark on UofL football history.
The 25-point victory matched the largest margin of victory for a UofL team since the Cardinals defeated Alabama 32-7 in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. This one, over a future Atlantic Coast Conference foe, signaled that UofL is ready for the next move. The Louisville defense holding the Hurricanes to a mere 107 yards of total offense, depriving them any third down conversions, embarrassing the Canes in their home football-worshipping state.
Bridgewater would be sacked on his very first play from scrimmage, having fumbled the football had it not rolled out of the end zone. Fortunately, costing UofL only two points instead of six or seven. A start closely resembling his first series in the Sugar Bowl a year ago when a Florida defender flattened him, knocking his helmet off, terrifying his fans. Those kinds of plays come with the territory for Teddy, they only serve to motivate him, as he would prove over the next 56 minutes of play.
The more pressure the better, as far as Teddy is concerned, providing him more open receivers. Make them available and he’ll find them. Making good on 35 of 45 passes for a personal best of 447 yards, including three touchdown passes. He would also unveil a new running game, picking up 31 yards and a touchdown as a statistical footnote in what may have been one of the most impressive quarterback performances at Quarterback U.
It was the kind of game UofL fans had been wanting to see from their team all season long but forced to endure the grind-it-out performances week after week. The difference may have been that Coach Charlie Strong and Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson had almost four weeks to prepare for Miami’s idiosyncrasies. That is much too long, as another Florida team learned during the last bowl season. The week-to-week approach not so pretty but resulting in the second 12-win season in the school’s history.
Strong and Watson unloosened the reins on Bridgewater, allowing him to pass at will against a Miami defense that couldn’t defend him or catch him after the opening sack. Enjoying every other minute of what may have been his final college football game, Bridgewater was just having fun, finding his favorite receivers time after time. Nine to DeVante Parker for 142 yards and a touchdown. Damian Copeland six for 90 yards. Ten receivers in all, including, welcome back. Michalee Harris for four, 54 yards and a touchdown.
With his 24-yard touchdown pass to Senorise Perry in the third quarter, Bridgewater set a new Louisville record for single season touchdown passes with 31 surpassing the previous record of 30 set by Brian Brohm in 2007. He also set a new career high for single season passing yards finishing 2013 with 3,970 yards, the third highest total in school history.
Teddy Bridgewater, the kid with the natural smile, the one who shunned a Heisman Trophy campaign, the one who often gets emotion after games, shedding tears at times, the one with broad smile, the one who is having a tough time deciding whether he wants the millions over returning for another year.
That’s the one who will be remembered, the name that will be respected, and the one that has added an invaluable piece of lasting tradition to the program. His pivotal role in a resounding win over Miami is just his latest contribution.