On New Year’s Day, the nation fell in love with freakish South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Many of us had a well-established crush already, but when he used his 6’7”, 260-pound frame to destroy a Michigan running back with unimaginable force in the backfield, sparks flew.
A little more than 24 hours later, college football fans developed another stable man-crush, although this time it had absolutely nothing to do with carnage.
In fact, nothing about Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s game is destructive. He doesn’t run people over, isn’t all that animated and would much rather sit back and throw darts than create viral videos in the open field.
His throwing motion is compact—a beautiful flick of the wrist that causes the ball to leave his hand in an instant. His game isn’t loud, but it speaks volumes.
In the 2013 Sugar Bowl, the nation got an up-close glimpse at one of the game’s most exciting players, against one of the nation’s best defenses.
Bridgewater more than looked the part, and the national man-crush was on.
As more than a two-touchdown underdog, Bridgewater led Louisville to a shocking 33-23 win over the Florida Gators. It was an easy victory as anticipated, only we had the wrong side pegged.
Louisville intercepted Florida QB Jeff Driskel’s opening pass for an touchdown, and the Cardinals didn’t look back from that moment.
The Cardinals defense played incredibly well, but it was Bridgewater who carved up the nation’s No. 5-ranked team in total defense. He was an absolute surgeon from the get-go, and his 181 first-half passing yards set the tone. To put it in perspective, Florida gave up an average of 186 passing yards a game all season.
The second half featured more domination, more Florida mistakes and more Bridgewater magic. Florida flirted with a comeback at the end (hate you, prevent defense), but it was not to be. Bridgewater finished the evening with 266 yards passing and two touchdowns, often making it look far too easy.
Louisville’s production on third down—especially early on—broke the Gators’ back. Charlie Strong’s group finished 9-of-14 on third downs for the game and started the game 7-of-9. Louisville’s first punt of the game came with just a shade over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, and that pretty much says it all.
An unexpected takedown of a one-loss SEC team will turn some heads, and Louisville did that. In terms of how this impacts Teddy Bridgewater—who is only a true sophomore and will be back come spring—the sky appears to be the limit.
As a freshman, we saw the talent. He was incredibly raw when he was tossed into games early on in his career, but that was to be expected. He developed as last season progressed and you could tell he would be an elite talent in time.
This year you could see the massive improvements right out of the gate. His mechanics were developed and he clearly had a better sense of the game. While his play was exceptional throughout 2012, Bridgewater’s moment—and this a performance I will never forget—came in the final regular-season game against Rutgers.
Playing with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle, and with a BCS berth on the line, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to a massive second-half comeback. He couldn’t take snaps under center, could barely move in the pocket, carried his non-throwing hand gingerly throughout the game, and yet, Louisville came away with a massive win.
After the game he shared a moment with his offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, and this is what brought the man-crush to the forefront. Absolutely beautiful.
Bridgewater’s backstory is even more genuine and heartwarming. He almost gave up football altogether as a 15-year-old to spend more time with his mother when she was diagnosed with cancer. He plays, typically, with four pieces of Bazooka bubble gum in his socks, two in each leg, because it “relaxes” him.
If you were wondering what those lumps were in his lower legs, now you know.
He’s not all smiles on the football field, but the way he plays shows just how much fun he’s having out there. And goodness am I having fun just watching.
Teddy Bridgewater is the complete package, and his performance in the 2013 Sugar Bowl will only elevate his status and the status of his team heading into next season. When asked about the Heisman hype he will deservedly receive heading into the fall in an on-field interview following the game, he quickly deflected and thanked his teammates.
No flash, no carnage, just wins and touchdowns with a little flick of the wrist and some bubble gum to soothe the soul.
Let the man-crush grow.