Bridgewater leads Louisville to win, Big East championship

By Joey Gregory

Bridgewater leads Louisville to win, Big East championship

The Rutgers football team’s defense had its way with Louisville quarterback Will Stein in the early going.

But from the second quarter on last night, the Knights struggled on that side of the ball, showing shades of last Saturday’s loss at Pittsburgh.

Much of that is thanks to Cardinals normal starter Teddy Bridgewater relieving Stein and picking apart the Rutgers defense.

The Knights noticed the difference between the two, falling to Louisville, 20-17.

Stein helped generate only 64 yards of offense.

After the first quarter, Bridgewater took over and the highest-scoring offense in the conference emerged.

“[The Cardinals] trust Bridgewater more,” said senior safety Duron Harmon. “They take more shots downfield. Stein was just a changeup. [The Cardinals] knew exactly what they were going to do when they made the switch.”

Louisville added 96 yards of offense before the first half was over.

In the second half, the difference between the two quarterbacks was as glaring as ever and the defense failed to adjust.

Harmon said it came down to a lack of execution and the defensive players not doing their jobs well enough to stop the Cardinals.

While Stein failed to progress the offense significantly in the time he spent under center, Bridgewater took control and found the same holes Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri did.

“When you see some of the throws he made, I don’t think there’s anybody else in the league that can make those throws,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “The only other quarterback we saw all year that could make those throws was [Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson].”

Rutgers defensive backs could not find open receivers fast enough.

In that time, Stein rarely returned to the field and was relegated to a mainly third-down role.

The defensive line, which had one of its best performances of the season a game removed from failing to be a significant factor, was the Knights’ biggest source of defensive consistency.

“I thought we played really well up front,” said senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. “I thought we won the battle up front.”

The front four rarely ended the play on the same side of the line of scrimmage they started on, finding their way into the backfield more often than not.

Defensive linemen combined for nine tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks.

Vallone led the charge, dropping Cardinals behind the line for a total loss of 15 yards.

Often the Knights depend on special teams to help sway the game in their favor.

That did not happen against Louisville.

The Rutgers kickoff return unit, which boasts a top-10 average nationally, was far from a positive for the Knights in last night’s contest.

Junior returner Jeremy Deering had four attempts, averaging less than 20 yards per return, and had one fumble on the Rutgers 20-yard line, which led to a go-ahead score from Louisville.

His long was a 23-yard return and added a 22-yard return. The next longest return came courtesy of sophomore Miles Shuler, who went for 17 yards.

In addition, a penalty on senior tackle Devon Watkis negated a fake field goal pass that resulted in a touchdown.

“I’m disappointed we had a turnover on special teams,” Flood said. “I’m disappointed we had a penalty on special teams that ended up bringing a touchdown pass. … My disappointments are in things we didn’t execute.”

As a result, Rutgers had several long fields, most of which it failed to conquer.

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