No. 23 Louisville 35, Missouri St. 7
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)
Bridgewater again provided the spark, completing 30 of 39 passes for a career-high 344 yards and touchdowns to tight ends Nate Nord and Ryan Hubbell. Like last week's win against Kentucky, he got everybody involved early and often, with seven of his 10 targets catching at least three passes.
''He's what, 19?'' Nord said. ''He plays like he's in his 30s. He's just fun to play with. Everybody wants to help him.''
Despite nine penalties, Louisville coach Charlie Strong ended the week generally more encouraged than he began it.
''I am very pleased with the victory, but what's frustrating is that we played hard but did not play smart,'' he said. ''If you look at last week, our offense ran pretty well and then this week we sputtered in the first half. ... Defensively, we were able to make some plays.''
More important was that Louisville's defense redeemed itself a week after allowing 373 yards to Kentucky. The Cardinals (2-0) held FCS Missouri State (0-2) to 249 yards, including just 156 through three quarters.
Missouri State quarterback Ashton Glaser accounted for just 125 yards on 14 of 23 passing, and was sacked and intercepted once. The Cardinals defense also returned a late fumble to the 1, setting up the last score.
''We knew we hadn't played well last week, so we knew coming out this week was another opportunity to get better,'' said sophomore free safety Calvin Pryor, who intercepted Glaser in the second quarter. ''We wanted to come out and silence all the doubters who thought our defense wasn't very good. I think we really stepped it up today.''
The Bears got a break on the second drive of the game when Nord dropped Bridgewater's pass at the back of the end zone, forcing the Cardinals to settle for Matthew Nakatani's 19-yard goal and a 3-0 lead.
But Louisville broke through on the next possession, driving 70 yards in 12 plays mostly on the Bridgewater's arm. He completed four of seven passes for 53 yards, including a 21-yard sideline throw to Andrell Smith, leading to Senorise Perry's 3-yard scoring run.
The Cardinals kicked it up a notch from there with a 13-play, 83-yard scoring drive capped by Bridgewater's 14-yard play-action pass in the right flat to Nord, who leaped the final five yards for the goal line. Bridgewater continued to spread the ball around but the key play was a third-down shovel pass to Gaines for nine yards just as he was hit.
Louisville's defense meanwhile was did well holding Missouri State's spread offense in check. The Cardinals didn't allow the Bears inside the 40 for most of the first half, and safety Calvin Pryor intercepted Glaser's deep pass at the 15.
But when Louisville didn't take advantage - a failure compounded by a personal foul when it interfered with MSU's Julian Burton as he fair-caught a punt - the Bears did. Glaser completed five consecutive passes to a trio of receivers for 57 yards, capping the 73-yard drive with a 6-yard score to Cadarrius Dotson with 51 seconds left in the half for their first - and so far, only - touchdown this season.
''I think they are very deserving of their top-(25) ranking,'' Missouri State Coach Terry Allen said. ''Great control of the line of scrimmage defensively, which kept their offense and our defense on the field way too long in the first half.''