Bridgewater, No. 19 Louisville beat Cincinnati

Teddy Bridgewater gave No. 19 Louisville a fantastic farewell to

its Ohio River rivalry and its latest conference.

The elusive quarterback pulled off a couple of great escapes

during a fourth-quarter rally, and the Cardinals made their

farewell to the American Athletic Conference by beating Cincinnati

31-24 in overtime on Thursday night.

”Coach tells us all the time to ride the wave,” said

Bridgewater, who was 23 of 37 for 255 yards with three touchdowns

on a wet, raw night. ”We rode it. Then Cincinnati rode it for a

while, but we knew we would ride it again and we did.”

The comeback gave No. 15 Central Florida the first AAC title and

its BCS bowl berth. Louisville (11-1, 7-1) lost only one game all

season – at home to Central Florida – and that decided it.

The Bearcats (9-3, 6-2) had a very slim chance of winning the

title, but that ended in overtime along with their six-game winning

streak.

”You couldn’t have asked for any more out of this team,” coach

Tommy Tuberville said. ”You could tell tonight how much we’ve

grown up.”

Five things learned from the final game in a long-standing

rivalry:

IT WAS SOME RIVALRY: The Cardinals and Bearcats have played

since 1929, a rivalry that developed its own trophy – the Keg of

Nails – and a lot of close finishes. The last two went to overtime

in the rain, and Louisville won both of them. The Cardinals won

34-31 in Louisville last year, and got to keep the keg by pulling

out another one on Dominique Brown’s 2-yard run in overtime.

Brendon Kay’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete to end it.

Louisville heads to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season while

the Bearcats stay behind in the AAC.

BOWLS ARE LINING UP: Louisville won the last Big East title and

beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals were picked to win

the first AAC title, but a 38-35 loss to Central Florida made the

difference. Instead of a BCS bowl, they’ll play in the Russell

Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 28. The Bearcats could be

headed to the Belk Bowl.

”It was great to see this team finish the way they finished,”

Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. ”You talk about a team with

a lot of resiliency and a lot of heart. There were high

expectations this season.”

BRIDGEWATER CAN AMAZE: With Louisville trailing 14-10 midway

through the fourth quarter, Bridgewater slipped out of three

tackles and ran 14 yards on fourth-and-12 to keep a drive going. He

then slipped away from several defenders and made an off-balance

throw for a 22-yard touchdown to Damian Copeland. Not many

quarterbacks can do that.

”The plays Teddy made in that fourth quarter,” Strong said

with admiration. ”I thought he was sacked. Then he breaks free and

gets the ball to Damian Copeland.”

Bridgewater made the difference.

”We’re athletic at defensive end, and we were grabbing air a

lot of times,” Tuberville said. ”We had him in our grasp. That

fourth-down run, that was obviously the one that took the air out

of our defense.”

KAY’S TOUGH: The sixth-year senior has played through injuries

all season. He took several more tough hits, including one that

left him with an injured left ankle at the start of the second

half. He stayed in and limped around, keeping up with Bridgewater

until the end. Kay was 22 of 40 for 304 yards with two touchdown

runs and two interceptions. He went for an MRI on the ankle after

the game.

”That’s how tough the kid is,” Tuberville said. ”You can’t

say enough about him. I’m proud he was my quarterback for the last

nine games.”

BEARCAT GOODBYE: It was quite a way for Cincinnati to close out

its schedule at Nippert Stadium. The Bearcats will move to Paul

Brown Stadium next season while their on-campus stadium undergoes a

major renovation. They’ll return to campus for the 2015 season.

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: twitter.com/apjoekay