Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater Steals Spotlight in Allstate Sugar Bowl

Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The star of the Allstate Sugar Bowl was Louisville sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who made the vaunted Florida defense look as bad as any quarterback has all season long in the historic upset from New Orleans.

Bridgewater was on the college football periphery heading into 2012 but emerged from the shadows after the Cardinals started the 2012 season 9-0, but after this sensational Sugar Bowl performance should enter 2013 on the short list for the Heisman trophy and the right to be the first quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL draft.

Bridgewater displayed precision-like accuracy and picked apart the Gators defense all night as his team looked far from the double-digit underdog as the odds makers had labeled them heading into Wednesday night’s contest.

The 6-3 218-pound Florida native was a recruiting coup for head coach Charlie Strong who stole Bridgewater away from Miami after Randy Shannon was fired from the Hurricanes and LSU decided to go in another direction. After two seasons that decision looks brilliant as he is poised to continue his rapid ascent as a junior in 2013 under the guidance of Strong.

He has great size, accuracy, pocket mobility, an arm that can make all the throws, strong leadership skills, a winning background and the ability to make his teammates elevate their game. Sounds like a future first round pick and long time starter in the NFL to me.

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Bridgewater improved in every passing category and finished the regular season completing 69% of his passes for 3452 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 161.6, which ranked him seventh in the nation. That ranking was one spot below Geno Smith and four ahead of Matt Barkley who figure to be the top two quarterbacks taken in this year’s draft and eight spots higher than Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

When Manziel faced Florida, the eventual Heisman winner only totaled 173 passing yards and zero touchdowns through the air. Bridgewater had 180 yards and a touchdown–in the first half.

No quarterback had thrown for more than two touchdowns vs. the Gators–Bridgewater had two after the first play from scrimmage to start the second half. The most yards given up to an opposing quarterback was 257 yards by Tyler Bray and Bridgewater eclipsed that mark with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter and finished with 266 yards on 20/32 passing and two touchdowns.

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Many had questioned how good Louisville really was because of their tissue-like softness to their schedule which was ranked 113th out of 120, but after facing the No. 3 Gators and eviscerating their top ranked passing defense, those doubters have been silenced as Bridgewater has put the rest of college football on notice with his play Wednesday night.

Florida safety Matt Elam said prior to the game that Bridgewater would be the best quarterback they faced all year, and Bridgewater certainly didn’t make Elam a liar after leading Louisville to perhaps their biggest win in the program’s history as the Cardinals program is in “good hands” with Bridgewater

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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