Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sugar Bowl: Florida Gators wary of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rallies Louisville over Rutgers despite an injured ankle and left wrist. He nearly went to UF as a receiver coming out of Miami.

Associated Press

Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rallies Louisville over Rutgers despite an injured ankle and left wrist. He nearly went to UF as a receiver coming out of Miami.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tried his best to answer the question without letting his emotions get the best of him, but ultimately it just wasn't possible.

The discussion was about sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his gritty performance against Rutgers, and it caused the 30-year veteran coach to choke up as he talked about his rising star.

Playing with a sprained ankle, a fractured left wrist and what he described this week as "the worse pain ever," Bridgewater came off the bench and went 20-for-28 for 263 yards and two touchdowns to lead Louisville to a 20-17 come-from-behind win that earned the Cardinals their second BCS bowl berth.

"He's just done so much, and he really played his heart out," Watson said. "We went into that game thinking we weren't going to be able to play him. And there came a time when he just — I think it was our third series — he got on the headset and said: 'Coach, I can do this. I can go.'

"He gave it up for those guys because he knew the importance of that game. It was going to put us into this situation we're in today. That's just the kid he is. He has great character. That's what people don't know about him. And I just appreciate him. I do."

Bridgewater's performance all season is what has the Gators' attention. Florida has faced outstanding quarterbacks this year: Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, Missouri's James Franklin and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Yet, several Florida players said this week that this will be their greatest challenge.

"I feel like hands down he's the best quarterback we've faced this year," junior safety Matt Elam said. "He can move around, he can throw the ball. … He rarely makes bad decisions."

And that, Bridgewater said, is what separates him from many college quarterbacks.

"It comes easy because I'm not the kind of guy who's going to force anything; I just take what the defense gives me," said Bridgewater, the Big East offensive player of the year. "If my primary progression isn't there, I check it down. And that's what it's all about: completions and managing. If they give me nothing, then I'll just have to burn the ball or tuck it and run."

Bridgewater ranks eighth in Division I-A in passing efficiency (161.6) and has thrown for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. His teammates say his success is a product of his dedication and hard work, not just pure talent.

"I could tell Teddy was special when he came in as a freshman," junior receiver Damian Copeland said. "He wasn't an ordinary freshman. He was like an upperclassman. He stayed in the film room and he stayed in his playbook. He read coverages very well."

Bridgewater could easily have been on the other sideline in Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl. The Miami native grew up a Florida fan and was recruited by the Gators. He nearly committed to Florida as a wide receiver, he said, and did commit to Miami before former coach Randy Shannon was fired.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong convinced him Louisville was the place for him. And he has no regrets.

"Some coaches just sell the program, but these coaches here, they sell you dreams about life," Bridgewater said. "They want you to be successful in life, not just as an athlete. And that right there caught my eye and caught my mom's eye. Pretty much, I prayed about it and it was a tough decision leaving home, but it was worth it."

Sugar Bowl

Who: No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. No. 22 Louisville (10-2, 5-2 Big East)

When/where: 8:30 Wednesday; Superdome, New Orleans

TV/radio: ESPN, 620-AM

Line: Florida by 14

Sugar Bowl: Florida Gators wary of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater 12/31/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 7:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Why Ryan Fitzpatrick may solve the puzzle for Bucs at backup quarterback


    Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to leave One Buc Place following Thursday’s off-season workout and fly home to New Jersey in time to teach a class of 10 second and third grade students how to solve the Rubiks Cube.

  2. For starters: Rays vs. Angels, with Cobb leading the way


    Rays veteran RHP Alex Cobb had a lot to say Monday about the team needing to focus on getting past .500 and building a winning record.

    And after the disappointing 3-2 loss that …

  3. Family a driving force for University of Tampa pitcher David Lebron


    TAMPA — For University of Tampa junior pitcher David Lebron, baseball reminds him of family. He uses it to help honor the memory of his father, who taught him the game. One day, he hopes his career can help support his mother and allow her to rest.

    University of Tampa junior pitcher David Lebron (Courtesy of University of Tampa)
  4. L.A. delay could re-open Super Bowl chance for Tampa in 2021


    Construction delays on the NFL's new stadium in Los Angeles mean the Rams and Chargers won't be playing there until 2020, a year later than expected, and the ripple effect could give Tampa another chance at landing a Super Bowl in February 2021.

    Tampa and Raymond James Stadium last hosted a Super Bowl in 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers edged the Arizona Cardinals.
  5. Bucs' Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston honored in NFL top 100


    Helping fans pass time through the offseason each summer, NFL Network has been unveiling its top 100 players for 2017 as chosen by the players, and the Bucs' Gerald McCoy and Jameis Winston are the first Tampa Bay players revealed, coming in at No. 52 and 57, respectively.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis WInston and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, shown in the 2016 season finale against the Panthers, have both been named to the NFL Network's top 100 players for 2017.