By Chris Hatfield–
In front of a hostile crowd in Lexington, Ky. against arch rival University of Kentucky, freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was called upon after the injury of junior starting quarterback Will Stein. Bridgewater delivered, going 10 for 18 on 106 yards passing, additionally delivering two touchdown strikes to wide receivers DeVante Parker and Josh Bellamy.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, not this year, it was too early. Will Stein was supposed to go in front of a hostile crowd in Lexington and steal the show with his performance. Things don’t always go according to plan. Nevertheless, according to Coach Charlie Strong, Stein is still the starter. “We don’t want to create a quarterback controversy,” Strong said in a Monday press conference to the media. “Stein’s the starter, Teddy knows his position.”
The fan base of Louisville is not so sure of this, and the debate still looms. Will Stein has received a bit of criticism from the Cardinals fan base on his play in two games. However, it is not exactly warranted when you take a look at the work that the 5 feet 10 inches tall junior has posted thus far in the season.
In mostly two games of action, he has completed 62 percent of his passes for 615 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception. Not too shabby for a kid that has been said to “not be able to see over the line of scrimmage.” Stein has waited patiently for two years for a chance, and has shined at some points this season. Granted, he doesn’t have all the accolades that Bridgewater has, but he has played well when given time in the pocket. Why should someone lose their starting spot because of something beyond their control? But then again…
Bridgewater stepped into a spot that he shouldn’t have succeeded in as a true freshman. Not only did he succeed, he played very well and notched the second win of his college career. The last time something like this happened was six years ago when then freshman Brian Brohm stepped in for the injured Stefan LeFors against University of Miami in the Orange Bowl.
In the fourth quarter, Brohm filled the shoes of LeFors and drove the Cardinals up the field for a touchdown. However, Brohm showed his freshman characteristics and threw an interception that solidified the win for Miami. Brohm couldn’t win the game as quarterback – Teddy Bridgewater did – and Brohm went on to be one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the history of Louisville football.
This isn’t to say Bridgewater is going to be the next Brian Brohm, but who’s to say he won’t? Bridgewater came in and did something so rare for a freshman. He hardly flinched and showed poise that has not been witnessed by the Louisville fan base in quite some time.
Bridgewater has had all the prerequisites to be a star in the college ranks. He came in to Louisville as a five-star recruit, known for his mobility, his quickness with a 4.6 forty and his great poise. The fact of him being 6 feet 3 inches tall probably doesn’t hurt much either. The question was, could Bridgewater live up to the hype? That seems to have been answered.
With all this being said, it seems like Strong would be sending his players the wrong message if he pulled Will Stein right away. After all, Stein wasn’t pulled due to his poor play against Kentucky. He was pulled because of the injury. He could have come back in the second half if needed, according to Strong. It’s blandly obvious that Bridgewater has a very bright future ahead. The Cardinals of 2011 could take a lesson from the Cardinals of 2004 that saw Brian Brohm step up in the similar situation. They set up a rotation of sorts, where Brohm led a series each game, which may have been more favorable for his skill set. Brohm also went on to be Big East Freshman of the Year, without starting a single game. The following year, Brohm was given the reigns and led the Cardinals to a Gator Bowl. Whatever comes out of this quarterback situation, one thing is for certain. The Louisville Cardinals are headed for greener pastures.
Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal