Nothing about Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's performance Friday night is going to lead to any kind of major opinion change about his draft stock. But opinions about his team are another matter.
UCF is the new team to beat in the AAC after its 38-35 upset at Louisville, ending Louisville's long-shot national title hopes and almost certainly ending Bridgewater's Heisman campaign.
Bridgewater (6-foot-3, 196 pounds) was 29 of 38 for 341 yards and two TDs; he led the Cardinals on a nine-play, 88-yard drive for a TD and a 35-31 lead with three minutes left. He was 5 of 7 for 66 yards on the drive. But UCF junior quarterback Blake Bortles then guided the Knights on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Bortles' second TD pass of the night with 23 seconds left. Bortles (6-4, 230) was 6 of 8 for 65 yards on the drive.
Louisville (6-1) led 28-7 midway through the third quarter, but UCF rallied with three TDs in a 4:20 stretch of the period to tie it going into the fourth.
Louisville went into the game No. 2 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 229.5 yards per game. But UCF -- by far the most complete team Louisville has played -- finished with 446 yards. Bortles threw for 250, and junior tailback Storm Johnson ran for 109 yards and a TD on 18 carries; Johnson (6-0, 215) also had a touchdown catch. Backup tailback William Stanback ran for 65 yards and two scores on nine carries as UCF's offensive line dominated the final 22 minutes of the game.
It was Bridgewater's fifth 300-yard game of the season -- and just the second 300-yard game against UCF in the past 21 contests -- and he now has 20 TD passes and two interceptions. He also is completing 71.9 percent of his passing attempts, for 2,213 yards. He was on target most of the night and was effective from the pocket and both rolling to his left and rolling to his right. He completed passes to nine different receivers, but UCF did a nice job limiting big plays. The longest pass play was a 34-yarder to tight end Ryan Hubbell. Bridgewater's biggest problem Friday night was that Louisville's defense fell apart in the final 20 minutes.
UCF (5-1), which earlier this season won at Penn State and lost by three at home to South Carolina, looks to have two tough games left, with "tough" being a relative term. The Knights play host to unbeaten Houston on Nov. 9 and to Rutgers -- which lost last week at Louisville -- on Nov. 21. They now have the inside track to the AAC's automatic BCS bid.
As for Louisville, worth noting is that the Russell Athletic Bowl, in Orlando, has the first pick of the AAC teams not in the BCS. Thus, Friday night's loss to a team from Orlando could end up sending the Cardinals to Orlando for the postseason.