Teddy Bridgewater has had a phenomenal 2013 with the Louisville Cardinals. It started last season when he led the Cards to an upset of the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl and launched himself into the conversation as the top college quarterback in the country. So far this season, he’s done little to change that thinking and is considered by many the leading prospect for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That speculation led to 26 scouts from 20 different NFL teams flying to Louisville for the Cardinals’ Thursday night AAC showdown with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, where Bridewater had a rough night. Did the pressure finally get to him?
Lauded for his accuracy and decision making all year long, Bridgewater was off the mark and looked uncomfortable for most of the night. He overthrew receivers on multiple occasions, including late in the game when he missed a wide open Damian Copeland with a throw that ended up five yards out of bounds. Bridgewater also had some issues with turnovers, fumbling the ball on a sack in the fourth quarter and throwing an interception in the endzone. It wasn’t the performance you would expect from a player that’s considered a lock to go first overall next spring.
He was bailed out by his defense and the running game and ultimately salvaged his stat line with a late touchdown pass to put the game out of reach. He finished the night completing 21 of 31 throws for 310 yards and two touchdowns with the one interception. Bridgewater admitted after the game that he “left a couple of throws on the field” but insisted that it was still a “decent performance.” Perhaps this is all a product of Bridgewater falling victim to his own success, but “decent” isn’t what the scouts came to see.
So the question becomes whether Bridgewater was just having an off night, which happens to everyone, against an AAC rival that tends to play Louisville tough or if having those NFL scouts in the stands got into Bridgewater’s head. Maybe he was pressing and trying to be too perfect to impress all those scouts that had his future employment in their hands and that resulted in a very un-Bridgewater-like performance from the Cardinals’ quarterback. Playing Louisville’s 2013 schedule hasn’t exactly been a pressure-cooker for Bridgewater so we haven’t seen what he’s been like under duress since the Florida game.
If it was nerves caused by the pressure of playing in front of NFL scouts, can Bridgewater play with the confidence that has made him so good at Louisville next season in the pros?