Teddy Bridgewater’s likely foray into the NFL will be preceded
by a matchup with his hometown team – also the one to which he
It’s the precursor to a conference rivalry for Louisville.
Having missed out on a BCS bowl and the Heisman Trophy ceremony,
Bridgewater could end his college career with a win over Miami at
the Russell Athletic Bowl in the 18th-ranked Cardinals’ final game
before joining the Hurricanes in the ACC.
This matchup Saturday night in Orlando takes place a few hours
north of where Bridgewater became a high school star and a little
more than four months before he could become the No. 1 overall pick
in the draft.
He’s at least expected to go in the top 10, assuming he leaves
Louisville (11-1) as anticipated after a junior year which began
with Heisman expectations but failed to see him get a finalist
invite to New York. His chances in that race first took a hit Oct.
18 when the Cardinals suffered their only loss, 38-35 to a Central
Florida team which would claim the American Athletic Conference’s
His Heisman hopes further tumbled in the final four games, not
recording one 300-yard passing day while totaling just five
Bridgewater still finished as the nation’s fifth-highest rated
passer, throwing for 3,523 yards with 28 TDs and four
interceptions, but couldn’t get back to a BCS bowl after leading
the Cardinals over Florida in last season’s Sugar.
“This is a very talented young man. He has great command on the
offense,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “… He has speed, good corps
of receivers, knows how to distribute the football, doesn’t make
many mistakes with the football, can move in the pocket. It’s going
to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties.”
Bridgewater now looks to spoil the return from a self-imposed
two-year bowl ban by a school he nearly attended. The Hurricanes
had a verbal commitment from the Miami native in the summer of
2010, but coach Randy Shannon was fired after a 7-6 season, and
Bridgewater headed to Louisville instead.
With Bridgewater among 23 Miami-area natives playing for the
Cardinals, senior defensive end Marcus Smith said they were
particularly excited by the news of going to Florida to face the
“When they found out, it was like ‘We’re playing back at home
again, we’re playing basically our teammates and the people that
they play in high school,'” said Smith, a Georgia native who is the
AAC defensive player of the year. “Feeling that with them is gonna
be a great one.”
Not long after the news Bridgewater ditched the program, Miami
implemented the bowl ban due to improper benefits from a booster,
so this game is the team’s first in the postseason since 2010.
Former assistant Clint Hurtt was implicated in the scandal and is
now on Louisville’s staff.
The Hurricanes will look to post their first double-digit
victory total since 2003.
“Our kids are excited, I think they’re grateful,” Golden said.
“They’ve been through a lot the past two years, and they have not
been able to have this opportunity.
“… They’re practicing with a purpose, they’re excited, and
clearly they have a really tough opponent coming up.”
Among the most excited is quarterback Stephen Morris, another
Miami native who threw for 2,868 yards and 21 TDs. Even before this
matchup was announced, Morris was intrigued by the possibility of
squaring off with Bridgewater.
“It’d be a great challenge and a great headline for a lot of
people,” Morris said. “Teddy’s a great quarterback. …. A lot of
people would focus on that, two quarterbacks from Miami going at
These teams will be going at it a lot. Louisville is leaving the
AAC to replace Maryland in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Miami is in
the Coastal but will play the Cardinals next season.
“When we go play in the ACC next year, I think (the bowl) will
put our stamp on this season, and it will tell the world that we
can play with teams in the ACC and we can play with anybody,” Smith
Smith finished second nationally with 12 1/2 sacks for a
Louisville defense which ranked second in the FBS overall (257.9
yards per game) and against the run (86.3).
Poor defense derailed the Hurricanes’ season. They were 7-0
before losing three straight, including Nov. 2 to top-ranked
Florida State, while allowing more than 40 points and 500 total
yards in each.
The offense took a big blow against the Seminoles with top
rusher Duke Johnson suffering a season-ending broken ankle, a
possible reason the Hurricanes are converting an ACC-worst 32.8
percent of third downs since the start of November. Louisville’s
defense holds opponents to 28.6 percent, second-best in the
Miami leads this all-time series 9-1-1, though the Cardinals’
lone victory came in the most recent meeting – 31-7 in 2006.
“Two powerhouse programs going at it,” Cardinals wideout Eli
Rogers said, “that’s always a good game to watch.”