As the Louisville Cardinals began their season last week, Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t shy about expectations for his offense.
“We should score every possession.” Louisville’s quarterback told the press.
Bridgewater showed his immense abilities in the second week of his 2013 campaign, going 23/37, 397 yards, and four touchdowns. However, at times it was clear the Cardinals weren’t firing on all cylinders.
Altough the Louisville passing attack remained masterful, the Cardinals running game never truly got going. The Cards’ three headed rushing attack combined for a mediocre 71 yards with no back averaging more 3.1 yards per carry. The superior offensive line was unable to establish supremacy, and Bridgewater was left to do the leg work.
The ground game failures led to UofL settling for field goals twice in the red zone, including one possession where the Cardinals were halted on the four yard line.
“We are chasing perfection and today wasn’t near perfection,” Bridgewater told the media after the game.
Despite issues with the running game, Bridgewater continued to show off his passing prowess. The Cardinal passing attack was excellent and the relationship between Bridgewater and wide receiver DeVante Parker has become one of the nation’s elite. It truly felt like Bridgewater and Parker could score at will, with Bridgewater placing the ball in places only the massive Parker could catch it.
Bridgewater was relentless in his pursuit of offense, even waving off the punt team with a minute left in the first quarter. Coach Strong later joked about telling the quarterback to come back the field, “sometimes you gotta take the keys away.”
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Cardinals was who would lead their rushing attack, and after two weeks tat question remains. While Senorise Perry took nearly half of Louisville’s carries, he failed to impress. There was no repeat of last week’s home run performance from transfer Michael Dyer. The Louisville offensive line was simply unable to create lanes for the UofL backs.
Defensively Louisville was solid. The Cards allowed only 206 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. The Cardinals were able to get more pressure this week, and were consistently in the face of Eastern Kentucky quarterback Jared McClain.
One huge bright spot for Louisville was the marked improvement in penalties. The Cardinals were able to keep the flags down to a minimum reducing the whistles from 11 last week to four on Saturday. Despite the improvements, the Cardinals never appeared to be firing on all cylinders. If Louisville is to make a name for itself in the National Championship discussion more consistency must be shown against inferior competition.
The Cardinals must now shift focus to rivalry week, with a trip to Lexington coming on Saturday.
“Its really a good game to correct, we can go back to work tomorrow and get ready for Kentucky,” Coach Charlie Strong told the press.
Strong agreed that opportunities were missed for the Cardinal offense, and hoped that the Cardinals would show improvement in Commonwealth Stadium next week.
Commonwealth can be a tricky place for highly ranked teams, and Strong should expect a Wildcat team looking to define their season. While the Cardinals should be able to make short work of Kentucky, tuning up the running game would surely make Charlie Strong rest a little easier as he inches closer to conference play.
At this point in the season, tuning up remains the focus. With the continuing disintegration of Louisville’s strength of schedule, its unclear if or when a true challenge will come. Louisville’s competition was 3-8 in its first week, with some teams taking embarrassing losses.
Louisville’s biggest competition, the Cincinnati Bearcats, took a huge blow Saturday with starting quarterback Munchie Legaux taking a gruesome leg injury. It appears doubtful he will return this season.
The object for the Cardinals remains simple, dominate each week. If the Cardinals can shore up the running game UofL will be near-invincible.
Expect Teddy Bridgewater to remain near the top of the Heisman power rankings, but Cards fans have a right to have some questions. The Cardinals running game remains shaky and must improve, if Bridgewater’s number were to fall to Earth for a few quarters Louisville currently have no proven backup plan.
However, a dominant performance at an SEC school should help quiet some naysayers.