|Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a star Thursday night. (US Presswire)|
The plan was to start QB Will Stein, to see what the senior could do. It's not as if Stein was short on experience. He had started numerous games before, with varying degrees of success.
But Thursday night at Rutgers, Stein wasn't getting the job done. So Louisville coach Charlie Strong looked to his starter -- the guy with the broken wrist and sprained ankle -- and sent him in to face one of the nation's most punishing defenses.
No matter. Teddy Bridgewater delivered, as he has so many time this season.
Bridgewater led the Cardinals (10-2, 5-2 Big East) back from a 14-3 halftime deficit to defeat Rutgers 20-17 in Piscataway, N.J. The Scarlet Knights (9-3, 5-2 Big East) had their chances, but dropped passes dashed their hopes of a first BCS berth.
Rutgers did, however, earn its first ever conference title, though the Scarlet Knights will have to share it with Louisville and Syracuse -- at least. Cincinnati still has a chance to get in on the party with a win Saturday over UConn. If the Bearcats win, there will be a four-way tie at the top. The BCS representative is determined by various tie-breakers, but, in short, Louisville will be headed to either the Sugar or Orange Bowl.
It didn't look that way in the beginning. Rutgers came out firing, scoring on its first play from scrimmage on an 85-yard throw from quarterback Gary Nova to wide receiver Brandon Coleman. Nova followed that up with a 68-yarder to Mark Harrison, and the Scarlet Knights appeared to be in complete control, especially since the defense -- which held Louisville starting running back Jeremy Wright to minus-3 yards on 10 carries in the first half -- would not bend.
Until, of course, it did bend -- and eventually broke.
Bridgewater started the second half, and save for a few short yardage plays, stayed in the rest of the game. And, frankly, he was spectacular. He led the Cardinals on two scoring drives -- including a quick-hitter after a Rutgers fumble on a kickoff -- and finished 20 of 28 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, but he did throw an interception.
It's safe to assume, however, the last note will be overlooked by most. And rightfully so. Bridgewater has effectively etched his name in Louisville lore, with a courageous performance in his team's biggest game. And though the term has devolved into cliche: It really was the stuff of legend.
(For more on the game, check out CBSSports.com's Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.