Cardinals Must Play Strong Against Experienced Bulls
Entering Saturday’s home matchup with USF (3:30 p.m., ET/ABC Regional), the 14th-ranked Cardinals are expecting a big challenge from the athletic and experienced Bulls’ defense. Louisville’s answer offensively will start with playing strong up on the offensive line. Louisville sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made it clear following Tuesday’s practice what the Cardinals’ mindset will be on Saturday.
“We have to come out and be physical,” said Bridgewater. “That’s kind of our identity now — that we’re a physical and tough team. The offensive line does a great job of protecting me and opening holes for the backs. We’re going to rely on those guys. USF has about 25 seniors and a majority of those seniors are on defense. Those guys have a lot of experience and a lot of playing time. They have a lot of leadership on their team.”
Bridgewater in Command of Offense
Bridgewater has accumulated some pretty impressive statistics during the first six games of the season having completed more than 71 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and more than 239 yards per game. In last week’s win at Pittsburgh, he was equally impressive on the stat sheet throwing for 304 yards on 17-for-26 passing and a pivotal 75-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker. However, it is his grasp of the offense and his leadership that impresses his coaches the most.
“That was probably his best game,” said Cardinals’ offensive coordinator Shawn Watson of his performance against the Panthers. “He is doing a lot of things that, to the naked eye, you don’t see. He is running so many different cadence tempos at the line of scrimmage. He’s really managing our huddle and leading. He is doing a lot of things in the signal game, with our kill game and our check game. He is running like a pro right now. He is playing the best football I ever had a quarterback play. I’ve never had one play like this. He is playing great ball.”
Parker Fights Through Bump for Big Day
The 75-yard touchdown reception for Parker highlighted a career day for the talented sophomore receiver. Overall, he finished with four catches for a career-best 153 yards and the career-long scoring strike. The big performance came against a Pitt squad that used bump coverage against the Louisville receivers, which may not have been as effective as expected.
“They made the mistake of trying to come up and bump our guys,” Watson explained. “Our guys are pretty good when it comes to bump coverage. I’m very confident in them with bump coverage and he was able to take advantage of that. What he’s (DeVante) become is a technique player — a technician. He executed really well in this ballgame in terms of winning at the line of scrimmage, creating separation and creating wins for us. His ability to catch the football is impressive. He made some catches in practice last week and then did it in the game. We tell our guys all of the time that it’s the law of frequency. What you do in practice is what you’re going to do in a game. He’s playing lights out. It was fun seeing him get going because we needed him to get going.”
Experience Leads to Confidence for Louisville
With nearly every player on the Cardinals’ offensive depth chart having at least two years of experience in the program, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Louisville’s offensive numbers have improved significantly from last season. After averaging 21.9 points per game and 333 total yards of offense (121.5 rushing/211.5 passing) per outing in 2011, the Cardinals have averaged 33.3 points per contest and more than 409 yards of total offense (167.0 rushing/242.2 passing) through the first six games this season.
“What’s happening is we’re growing up,” Watson said. “We’re starting to mature and there is consistency. The guys know what we’re doing. They’re confident in what we’re doing and they believe in it. They know how to execute it. They’ve done a great job going into every week of studying the opponent. It’s been fun to be around this group of guys because they’ve upped the ante from a year ago, when they were just learning what we do. Now, they know what we do and they’re applying it to what a defense does. It’s fun to be around them.”
Return Home Creates Excitement for Cardinals
With 35 days passing between home games for the Cardinals, the Louisville players expect a terrific atmosphere in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday for the BIG EAST matchup with the Bulls. Along with playing in the familiar surroundings at home, Louisville is also embracing a weekend without a travel itinerary.
“It’s a great feeling to be home and that we don’t have to get on a plane and fly an hour-and-a-half or two hours,” said Bridgewater. “And just knowing we will be back in front of our home crowd and our fans, and being able to give them something worth watching. I think there is going to be a lot of excitement with the fans. We have been gone for a month and our fans can’t wait to see us play.”