TAMPA — In the days leading up to its matchup with No. 18 Louisville, USF's defense talked about what it needed to do to contain quarterback Teddy Bridgewater: create pressure and force him out of his comfort zone.
Saturday, the Bulls forced the junior out of the pocket on numerous occasions and sacked him three times.
It wasn't enough.
Bridgewater, among the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy, finished a near-perfect 25-for-29 for 344 yards and three touchdowns in Louisville's 34-3 rout.
"I see him being the No. 1 quarterback taken (in the NFL draft)," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said of Bridgewater. "He's so poised. He's tough, and he's smart. You watch his team, and they play for him. That's a smart quarterback. That's a guy who understands his offense."
USF middle linebacker DeDe Lattimore finished with two sacks. The senior and junior linebacker Reshard Cliett got to Bridgewater within a span of three plays during the first quarter. That and a Cardinals penalty for interfering with the punt returner helped USF take possession at the Cardinals 45, leading to Marvin Kloss' 50-yard field goal.
"It just comes with film study," Lattimore said. "Just knowing what Teddy was going to do and just knowing his moves. We tried to get as much pressure as we could. But a lot of times, it didn't make it there."
USF tackle Todd Chandler, a teammate of Bridgewater at Miami Northwestern High, finished with three tackles, including one for a loss. He chalked the loss up to Bridgewater's overall knowledge of the position and ability to find open players.
"He can sense pressure, and he knows when to get rid of the ball at the right time and does a real good job of throwing it to the check-down guy," Chandler said.
"Teddy's a brilliant quarterback. And to be able to stop Louisville's offense, you've got to get in the head of Teddy. And we just fell short."