|Garry Jones / Associated Press|
|Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater passed for 300 yards for the 10th time in his career Thursday vs. Rutgers.|
If a 310-yard, two-touchdown passing performance can be termed "ho-hum," Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater turned in a ho-hum performance Thursday night in a 24-10 victory over Rutgers.
Twenty-five scouts representing 20 NFL teams were in attendance -- three general managers were scheduled to attend -- and they saw a workmanlike performance from Bridgewater, a junior who numerous analysts think will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. He finished 21-of-31 for the 310 yards, two touchdowns -- one in each half -- and an interception, which came in the end zone late in the first half. He also fumbled after being hit on a blindside blitz in the red zone in the fourth quarter.
Thursday's performance marked the 12th time in 13 games that Bridgewater (6-foot-3, 196 pounds) threw at least two touchdown passes and the 10th time in his career he reached 300 yards.
Bridgewater showed off his arsenal of throws and generally was on target while standing in the pocket, rolling left, and rolling right. He showed good touch and threaded a few passes into tight coverage. But he also missed badly on three throws, including what would've been a sure touchdown pass on a go route along the sideline early in the fourth quarter. All this came against a secondary that had surrendered 484 passing yards to SMU, 456 to Derek Carr and Fresno State, and 335 to Eastern Michigan. Carr threw for five TDs.
Jacksonville was one of the teams that had scouts at Thursday's game, and Jags GM David Caldwell was expected to attend. Given the state of the team overall, specifically the quarterback play, it would surprise no one if the Jags were to take a quarterback should they have the overall No. 1 pick.
Some of the things Bridgewater did Thursday had to impress the Jags' scouts. For one, he plays with confidence, something the Jags haven't seen from their quarterbacks in a while. And, for the most part, he threw a lot of extremely catchable balls, again something the Jags haven't seen from their quarterbacks in a while. Still, Bridgewater's performance Thursday wasn't what you would expect from a slam-dunk overall No. 1 selection.
Louisville was without its best receiver, junior Davante Parker, who sat out with a shoulder injury. The Cardinals also lost starting receiver Kai De La Cruz in the third quarter to what appeared to be a minor leg injury. But the Cardinals have one of the deeper receiving corps in the nation, and Bridgewater completed passes to nine receivers. Louisville was 9-of-13 on third down and rolled up 461 yards.
Obviously, one game doesn't make or break a prospect, and Bridgewater, for the most part, played well. But while Rutgers is one of the best teams on Louisville's schedule, the nationally televised game was expected to be a Bridgewater coronation of sorts. Instead, there was some nail-biting on the Louisville sideline and in the stands, and the Cardinals didn't put the game away until Bridgewater's second TD pass, which came with 2:27 left in the game.
Bridgewater wasn't even the best Louisville player on the field Thursday. That honor went to junior free safety Calvin Pryor (6-2, 208), who had an interception and finished with 14 tackles.
The team's performance gave some credence to critics who say Louisville has no place in the national-title discussion. The Cardinals' schedule is an easy one, and when they get a chance to put on a show on national TV, they need to come through. They get another chance next Friday at home against UCF, which won at Penn State and lost a close game at home to South Carolina.
Maybe next week will be that true stellar performance, from Bridgewater and from the team.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.