Posted: 10:24 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013
By Mark Ennis
Since he was forced into the starting lineup, Louisville has been Teddy Bridgewater's team. The Cardinals have gameplanned for him and as he has played, they have fared. As long as Teddy played well, it didn't matter how well the defense played, it didn't matter how productive the running game is, and it definitely didn't matter what the score was at any time. Saturday, Louisville showed it was more than Teddy Bridgewater and that bodes well for this season and beyond.
Most of the credit for Teddy's uncharacteristically shaky start on Saturday goes to a Kentucky defense that showed marked improvement from the opener against Western Kentucky to now. The defensive line was extremely aggressive as was the scheme Stoops and defensive coordinator DJ Eliot employed. In the second half, Louisville's offensive line began to assert itself, and with Teddy and the receivers more bottled up than most expected, Louisville's rode its three-headed running back group to wear down Kentucky and put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
Teddy, DeVante Parker, and Damian Copeland, the real keys to this passing attack over the past year, will almost assuredly be gone next year. But all the running backs and all of the offensive linemen will be back. For Louisville to be able to grind out a win on the ground after the way the running game was stifled in games against Rutgers and UConn last year is a very good thing.
Even more important than the running game was the play of the Louisville defense. Despite the rough defensive start, Kentucky didn't struggle to move the ball against Western Kentucky or Miami (OH). Louisville held Kentucky to season lows in yards per play (5.3 compared 9.1 the week before against Miami), pass efficiency, rushing yards, and third down conversions (where Kentucky was a whopping 0 for 13).
The Louisville defensive line dominated for the duration of the game. Lorenzo Mauldin, Brandon Dunn, Marcus Smith, BJ Dubose, and Roy Philon were lights out. Charles Gaines showed why he was moved into the starting lineup. Young linebackers Keith Kelsey, James Burgess, and Keith Brown played extremely well (outside of a handful of garbage time plays). Neither of Charlie's previous two wins over Kentucky came from a smothering defensive effort. This year, it did.
Teddy will be gone before we know it. Saturdays win showed that Louisville is on its way to being a program that can handle his departure. A physical team that runs the ball effectively and plays elite level defense. With the vast majority of the defense and all of the offensive line returning in 2014, this is what Louisville football will be. It looks like it'll work.