Pitt looked to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big East since 2001, taking on nationally ranked No. 16 Louisville at Heinz Field.
But Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's strong play continued Pitt’s winless streak versus the Big East, as he led the Cardinals to a 45-35 win. “I think he’s certainly a good player...wasn’t surprised by the things he did,” said Pitt head coach, Paul Chryst, commenting on the sophomore's second 300-yard performance in his young career.
Pitt has been the winner of the last four meetings against the Cardinals, and the last time Pitt played a nationally ranked opponent at home this season, they won, upsetting then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17.
Bridgewater showed the poise of a senior quarterback, avoiding turnovers and completing 17-of-26 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown.
The Cardinals have won eleven of their last twelve games and are off to their best start since 2006. They went on to finish 11-1 that season, winning the 2007 Orange Bowl over Wake Forest. Today’s win also snapped a four-game losing streak to the Panthers.
“It feels great,” said Cardinals center Mario Benavides. “Since I have been here we haven’t beat Pitt home or away.”
After one half of play, the statistics mirrored each as both teams played a closely contested matchup, with Pitt leading at intermission, 21-17.
Louisville receiver DeVante Parker would be the recipient of Bridgewater's lone touchdown pass, which occurred on the first snap of the third quarter. The 75-yard strike gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game and one they would not relinquish.
“He’s playing to the best of his ability,” Bridgewater commented after Parker’s four-catch, 153-yard and one-touchdown game. “Teddy just threw it up and I got it,” Parker said during the postgame interviews.
The Cardinals defense kept the momentum going, stopping Pitt on the next series. Then Bridgewater helped orchestrate another third-quarter scoring drive, pushing the lead to 31-21.
“Yah definitely I saw a lot of guys deflated," said Pitt receiver Devin Street, in discussing the Cardinals 14 unanswered points in less than five minutes of play.
“It feels great,” Louisville's Benavides said. “I don’t know if we played a complete game, but I will say this is our best second half of the season.”
Who can argue? The Cardinals would score 21 points in the third quarter, allowing Pitt only 15 yards of offense in their first three drives. The play of Bridgewater and the steady dose of running back tandem Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry were too much for the Panthers to handle. Both Wright and Perry would combine for 197 yards of total offense and five touchdowns.
The only real controversial play-call came midway through the fourth quarter when Chryst elected to throw on 4th-and-8 with the Panthers trailing 38-28 on the Cardinals 22-yard line, leaving kicker Kevin Harper on the sidelines.
“I felt like we could get it. I wanted to put it in the players’ hands,” Chryst said. “I felt good putting the play call in. We didn’t execute it.”
The result left Chryst during the postgame press conference saying the Panthers are at a crossroads with a 2-4 overall record. Meanwhile, Cardinals' head coach Charlie Strong said, “We were happy to have our first Big East opener on the road.
Strong and the Cardinals head home after playing their last three games on the road. They'll return to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for three straight home games.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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