By Noah Allison–
U of L started their game against the Temple Owls in similar fashion to many of their other starts, keeping it close in a back and forth battle that had the game tied at 17 points early in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater responded to Temple’s early energy by leading the Cardinals to scores on five of their first six possessions and an eventual 45-17 victory. This game brings the Cardinals to a perfect 9-0 for the first time in school history.
Head coach Charlie Strong said:
“You know, the way we started off this game, I didn’t know if I would be standing here talking saying we had a chance to go 9-0. To watch that team—Temple—just open up the game with returning the kick off, then watch our offense go drive the ball. And defensively, we didn’t play well, missing too many tackles. They were able to run the ball effectively in the first half. Then you watch the second half, and we come out as a totally different defense. We were able to shut down the run and actually pitch a shutout in the second half. But this football team is a resilient team; it always finds a way to win.”
Temple senior running back Matt Brown returned the opening kick off 93 yards to the house to take an early 7-0 lead. Special teams play has become a continuing problem that the Cardinals struggle with each week.
“It’s a major concern because when you look at the kickoff, number one, we need to get the ball kicked. You look at some people that kick the ball out of the end zone, then you look at us and we usually kick it anywhere from the 15 yard line to the five. We have to do a better job kicking the ball, and once it ends up where it does, we have to do a better job at just getting down there and covering it,” Strong said.
Bridgewater responded by marching the Cards down the field, converting a fourth down with his legs and tying up the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior Eli Rogers. On the day, Bridgewater completed 19 of 28 passes for 324 yards and a career high five touchdown passes.
“It was just taking what the defense gave you. Coach Watson did a great job calling up plays, and we executed,” Bridgewater said. “We just worked hard all week in practice, and it carried over to the game.”
Bridgewater tied a U of L record with five touchdown passes in one game, with four different targets reeling in those scores. Senior receiver Andrell Smith had two touchdown receptions.
“What is unbelievable about Teddy is he able to find the open receiver. Each week there has been a different receiver to step up; today it was Andrell, and Andrell deserves it. I always talk about the seniors, and I talk about seniors that need to play their best football, and Andrell Smith is playing his best football,” Coach Strong said.
The run game accompanied Bridgewater with junior Senorise Perry rushing for 80 yards on 14 attempts and red shirt junior Jeremy Wright rushing for 100 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. U of L’s defense, led by linebacker Preston Brown with 10 tackles on the day, forced and recovered four Temple fumbles.
U of L goes on the road to Syracuse next weekend in a Big East battle with the 4-5 Syracuse Orangemen. Syracuse is a high-powered offense that can score a lot of points on any given Saturday. Syracuse is led by graduate-year quarterback Ryan Nassib, who has passed for 2,773 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. His favorite target is senior wide receiver Marcus Sales, who has 50 receptions, 722 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.
“It’s all about executing. Whenever we make a call on offense or defense, everybody is locked in. You like to see all eleven guys play with no mistakes. Sitting here on 9-0, there are still some wins to get, so let’s go get better,” Strong said.
While U of L is able to enjoy a 9-0 football team for the first time in its history, the season is by no means over and the team’s goal is nowhere close to being achieved. But for Card Nation, it’s all about keeping things in perspective and appreciating the success Charlie Strong and the football team has allowed us to experience.
“Its actually kind of exciting. At the beginning of the season, we set out some goals and being 9-0 was a long shot. But we came out, worked every game and look where we are now,” senior cornerback Adrian Bushell said. “But it’s all about finishing. Just like in games, how we have to finish each game off, we have to finish the season off. 9-0 so far, accomplished a lot, but we’re not done yet, not satisfied, we’re staying hungry.”
Photo: Nathan Gardner/The Louisville Cardinal