|Teddy Bridgewater led a 75-play drive in the final minutes to help Louisville improve to 7-0. (US Presswire)|
LOUISVILLE WON. The Cardinals survived a dogfight with South Florida, getting a clutch touchdown drive in the final minute to escape with a 27-25 win and improve to 7-0. The Bulls have now lost five in a row, though they didn't play like the eighth-best team in the Big East during a second half charge that gave them an opportunity to win the game in the final minute.
HOW LOUISVILLE WON: Louisville survived a second half in which it was outgained, and "out-possessed" by USF. Teddy Bridgewater had another fantastic statistical performance, completing 21 of 25 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, but it was his game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes that will stand out when looking back at the Cardinals season. The sophomore quarterback completed 5 of 7 passes on the drive, extending plays with his feet and evening scrambling for 11 yards to put the Cardinals in the red zone. Bridgewater looked calm and cool through the entire eight-play, 75-yard drive and in 94 seconds was able to correct what had been a frustrating half for Louisville.
South Florida controlled the pace of the game in the second half, leaning on Louisville for long drives that nearly doubled the Cardinals' second-half possession time. Lindsey Lamar entered the game with only 220 rushing yards but delivered a career-high 110 yards on 15 carries to lead an impressive USF rushing attack.
But after Bridgewater's go-ahead score, the Bulls became one-dimensional, and desperate. B.J. Daniels was able to march the offense to midfield thanks to a couple of short passes and a Louisville holding penalty, but the Bulls were unable to get close enough to give Maikon Bonani a shot to kick the game-winning field goal.
WHEN LOUISVILLE WON: With Daniels' arm strength and ability to extend the play, the game was not over until the quarterback's final pass was intercepted and the clock hit 0:00. Louisville's defense hadn't stopped a Bulls' drive since a goal-line stand in the third quarter, and if it wasn't for the situation -- no timeouts, needing to score quickly -- they might have been able to run at the Cardinals one last time.
WHAT LOUISVILLE WON: Bridgewater is not the focal point of Louisville's offense the way a pass-happy quarterback might be, and his stat lines are normally more impressive for their efficiency than yardage totals. But in the game-winning drive, Bridgewater showed the leadership and calm under pressure that Louisville will need in order to survive the Big East gauntlet and accomplish its goal of a conference title.
WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: USF dominated the second half and did everything it needed to do in order to pull off the upset. Some questionable clock-management decisions were made in the final minutes, but in my opinion the key play was Kayvon Webster's late hit on Bridgewater in the final drive. It was not game-changing, but it was an example of the way USF has been losing these close Big East games. The Bulls almost always fight, but too many times in recent years the final efforts have been set back by costly penalties. The seven penalties on Saturday did not cost them the game, but with little margin for error against the undefeated Cardinals they were definitely NOT in the game plan.
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