Louisville 3-0 after Kentucky
By Noah Allison
After the first three games of the 2013-2014 collegiate football season, the Louisville Cardinals are all that Card Nation could ask for at this point: 3-0.
Heading into U of L’s first and last season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the strength of schedule proved to be quite concerning for a fan base that will put their team up against the best in the nation, without getting to play the best in the nation to back up their claims.
Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater no longer needs such an introduction, simply referring to the Heisman hopeful and possible NFL No. 1 overall draft pick as Teddy gets everybody on the same page. With all the expectations of greatness awaiting Teddy on the first game of the season against Ohio University, that’s all that fans got with his 355 yard and five touchdown passing performance in the 49-7 victory. Teddy did not throw an incompletion on either of his opening drives against Ohio or Eastern Kentucky, and both drives culminated in a Damian Copeland touchdown.
In his return to Commonwealth, Teddy had a shakier start in a shaking environment, yet resilience, a couple of well timed runs and a toss up to DeVante Parker that went for six got Teddy his third career victory against UK. Teddy has thrown for 1,002 yards, ten touchdowns and is 62 of 88 with only one interception through his first three games.
Parker’s touchdown put him at nine straight games with a touchdown reception dating back to last season. This year Parker is leading the team with 257 yards and four touchdowns from 13 receptions. One of the deadliest red-zone combinations in the nation, Bridgewater to Parker is a ring that gets catchier and catchier every time Card Nation hears it.
The run game features three running backs that were limited or did not play at all last year. Senior Senorise Perry returns from tearing his ACL last year against Syracuse, red-shirt junior Dominique Brown returns from missing all last year with a torn MCL, and junior Michael Dyer had to sit out last year as a transfer from Auburn.
All three backs could be potential starters, but all three backs see relatively the same amount of playing time as offensive coordinator Shaun Watson distributes carries evenly amongst them. Perry has 206 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries, Dyer has 135 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries and Brown has 99 yards on 25 carries. Each back playing crucial roles on particular drives of the season.
The defense is one that last year did not live up to expectations, talent at every position but the execution just didn’t seem to be there as the Cardinals won by games by five points or less. Last year Lorenzo Mauldin led the team in sacks with four-and-a-half, this year through the first three games of the season Mauldin has two sacks, two forced fumbles and four tackles for loss.
A defense that had trouble making things happen last year has dominated this season. The defensive as a total has only given up 27 points, only a touchdown in each of the first two games. It has forced 6 fumbles, has three interceptions and has 23 tackles for loss. Led by three seniors along the defensive line the trenches have allowed linebackers Preston Brown with 24 and James Burgess with 22 to lead the team in tackles.
Despite an offense that gets all the attention, Vance Bedford’s defense is setting the tone for the season. When Teddy and the offense struggled in the hostile UK environment it was the defense that forced three turnovers to keep the game close enough for the offense to open things up in the second half.
The Cardinals are perfecting their craft in an imperfect game, despite how talented Teddy is a pass will still sail on him here and there, despite how sure-tackling Calvin Pryor III is he will miss a few tackles here and there. The Cardinals aren’t living up to their own expectations yet, but it truly is a luxury to be able to expect so much.