Teddy Bridgewater had a chance to pad his Heisman resume against winless Connecticut.
He didn’t do that Friday night, though he did throw for 288 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 20 Louisville to a 31-10 victory, and keep the Cardinals in the hunt for a conference title.
The junior completed 21 of 37 passes. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes this season and has at least one scoring pass in 21 straight games.
”I’m pretty tough on my performances and everything,” he said. ”I do kind of critique myself in a certain way. But, any day that you can get a win, that’s what it’s all about.”
The win kept the Cardinals (8-1, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) a game out of first place in the AAC, behind the winner of the game Saturday night between Houston and Central Florida.
Tim Boyle threw three interceptions and had only 113 yards passing for Connecticut (0-8, 0-4). The Huskies also had a fumble inside the Louisville 10 yard line and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
”The only chance we have is not to beat ourselves,” UConn interim coach T.J. Weist said. ”We turned the ball over, gave them early points on the punt, and gave them momentum on offense and defense. We didn’t have a chance.”
The Huskies are 0-9 since upsetting the Cardinals in three overtimes last November in Louisville.
Louisville had 369 yards in offense and held the Huskies to 237. The Cardinals have allowed only 95 points this season.
It was a methodical, but not spectacular performance for Bridgewater before a national television audience and representatives from six NFL teams in the press box. He came into the game completing almost 74 percent of his passes. He might have been close to that Friday, but was victimized by numerous drops, as his receivers seemed to struggle catching a hard ball with the temperature hovering in the 30s.
”That’s meaningful to me,” Bridgewater said. ”That’s one thing, I strive to be one of the top passers in the nation in the decision-making category. I still have three or four games left, so those things can go back up.”
Bridgewater threw just his third interception of the season in the third quarter when UConn’s Andrew Adams stepped in front of a pass. But cornerback Terell Floyd got that back on the next play, intercepting Boyle’s pass and taking the ball back 17 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. It was the first of two picks for Floyd.
Cardinals cornerback Charles Gaines, who had an interception for a touchdown against South Florida, also scored. He blocked a punt after a muffed snap, scooped it up and ran 7 yards to open the scoring. The Cardinals have outscored opponents 75-6 in the opening 15 minutes of games this season. Gaines added a second-quarter interception.
Bridgewater said he’s dubbing his teammate the ”Black Badger” because his play reminds him of Tyrann Mathieu, who was known as the ”Honey Badger” at LSU.
”He’s scored on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams again,” Bridgewater said. ”He’s just remarkable the level that he’s playing at.”
UConn’s Boyle has eight interceptions and no touchdowns in his four games since taking over from junior Chandler Whitmer.
The Huskies lone TD came on a 14-yard pass from backup Casey Cochran to Kamal Abrams with 35 seconds left in the game, in front of a mostly empty stadium.
Bridgewater led two second-quarter scoring drives. The first went 64 yards, with the junior hitting all four of his passes, including a 28-yard score to DeVante Parker, who found himself wide open over the middle after cornerback Byron Jones fell down in coverage.
The second, a 56-yarder, took just six plays. It opened with a 35-yard pass to tight end Gerald Christian, and ended with Senorise Perry’s 5-yard sweep around the right side. That gave the Cardinals a 21-3 lead, and sent many of Connecticut’s fans to the exits at halftime.
UConn took the game’s opening drive inside the Louisville 10 before tailback Martin Hyppolite fumbled. The Huskies also had a 14-play first-half drive, which ended in a 35-yard field goal with 14:54 left in the first half.
But the Cardinals held them to 58 yards rushing.
Louisville running back Dominique Brown, who ran for 125 yards on just 18 carries in his first career start two weeks ago, had only 29 yards against UConn. Perry added 27 and Bridgewater had 21.
”We put so much pressure on him,” Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. ”And everyone expects so much out of him. When he plays, he plays well.”