No. 7 Louisville blows out FIU
This was one dominant performance, and Teddy Bridgewater and No. 7 Louisville think they can perform even better.
It's definitely a nice problem to have heading into conference action.
Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes and Louisville's defense allowed a school-record 30 yards during a 72-0 wipeout of Florida International on Saturday.
It was the highest scoring game for the Cardinals (4-0) since a 73-10 victory over Murray State in 2007. They matched the school's fifth-largest margin of victory while recording their first shutout since a 26-0 win over Connecticut in 2010.
Asked afterward if the Cardinals' victory was the most complete effort he has seen, Bridgewater said: "As a team, yes. But we feel we have a little way to go and continue to get better each and every day.
"We'll take this win and build off that."
The margin might have been even worse if not for a clock issue in the second half. Gerald Austin, the coordinator of officials for Conference USA, acknowledged in a statement that the clock was allowed to run at times when it should have been stopped.
FIU coach Ron Turner "made a comment to one of the officials that, given the amount of injuries and the limited numbers of players he had available, he wanted to run the ball in the second half," Austin said in a release. "One official misinterpreted that comment.
"After reviewing the tape there were five times that the clock should have been stopped and it did not. Four times were on first down and one play where the runner went out of bounds, based on a quick review of the video."
Austin and Turner both said the coach never requested a running clock.
"I did notice it was going quicker," Turner said. "First of all, I don't have the authority to request it. I wish I had the authority. I'm not saying I wouldn't have, you know, but I did not request it."
Bridgewater hit DeVante Parker for two TD passes and Gerald Christian and Eli Rogers for one apiece before Will Gardner came on and passed to Michaelee Harris for another score in the fourth quarter. Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry, Michael Dyer and Brandon Radcliff rushed for TDs.
Charles Gaines returned the second-half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, and recovered a muffed punt to set up Bridgewater's second TD pass in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Louisville's defense didn't allow a first down until early in the second quarter and just two overall, also a program record. FIU converted just 1 of 13 third-down chances.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong believes that kind of effort will eventually result in perfection.
"We try to reach that level and we're going to get there," Strong said. "The way you practice, you feel like that (being perfect). ... I tell players all the time just try to give your best, that's all we're looking for each and every down."
Bridgewater had 212 yards on 17-of-22 passing, part of Louisville's 464-yard effort against winless FIU (0-4). It was another efficient performance for the junior quarterback.
A week after tossing just one touchdown pass against in-state rival Kentucky, Bridgewater threw for three scores by halftime and added another in the third quarter.
That got the Cardinals rolling toward the offensive performance they wanted in their final game before traveling to Temple for their American Athletic Conference opener on Oct. 5.
"It was just a great overall performance in all three phases of the game," Bridgewater said. "We just went out today and competed and played a complete game."
It was a much different outcome than the previous two games in the series. The schools had split two prior meetings, with each earning seven-point road wins. Louisville won 28-21 in Miami last year.
The Cardinals were 42-point favorites for this one, with overwhelming advantages in every statistical category. And it went as expected.
Four of Louisville's eight first-half possessions began at midfield or in Panthers territory. The Cardinals converted three of those chances into a 17-0 lead.
Bridgewater hit Parker for a 3-yard touchdown pass that was initially ruled incomplete. The call was reversed after a video review showed the receiver got his right foot down in the end zone while making his second acrobatic TD catch in as many weeks.
John Wallace added a 26-yard field goal and Perry had a 26-yard run off left tackle to keep the roll going.
It was just more of the same as the game wore on. Brown's 77-yard run set up his 1-yard TD dive in the second quarter and Bridgewater completed four passes for 68 yards on another scoring drive, connecting with Parker for 6 yards for his third TD.
Another nightmarish game for FIU continued into the third quarter, with Gaines returned the second-half kickoff for another touchdown.
Louisville has 23 players from South Florida, including Bridgewater, so the Panthers were more than familiar with the Cardinals' personnel. But they lacked the talent to keep up with Louisville, which led 38-0 at the break.
"Nothing will surprise me with this team," Turner said of Louisville. "They're a great football team all the way around. There are no weak areas. They're very well coached, they play hard and they have exceptional athletes."