Last Thursday night, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights traveled to take on the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals in a game that was closer than many people expected.
The Cardinals won the game 24-10. However; the stats show that Louisville completely dominated the game behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Louisville put up 461 yards of total offense, with Bridgewater throwing for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Cardinals defense was up to the task, holding Rutgers to just 240 total yards and star wide receiver Brandon Coleman to just five catches for 66 yards.
Rutgers came into the game looking to build off of a gut-wrenching win over SMU 55-52 in overtime a week before. The Scarlet Knights stood tall in the first quarter and kept the score tied, but ultimately Louisville proved to be the better team. Rutgers is now 1-1 in the American Athletic Conference and will get back to work during their bye week.
Let’s take a look back at the critical takeaways from the Cardinals’ victory that put them in the driver's seat of the AAC.
Teddy Bridgewater is the Real Deal
Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com reported that there were 26 scouts from 20 different teams attending the game—all to watch junior quarterback Bridgewater. He is considered by many to be the best player available in the 2014 NFL draft and a CBSSports.com mock draft has him as the first overall pick.
Bridgewater lived up to the billing with his play on Thursday night. He looked mature, had command of the pro-style offense and threw the ball exceptionally well.
The most important stat that will stick out to NFL scouts is Louisville’s third-down conversion rate of 69 percent. Bridgewater never looked uncomfortable in the pocket and always put his receivers in a position to make a play.
The Heisman hopeful finished the day 21-of-31 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Louisville will not face a ranked team all year, so when it plays in prime time, Bridgewater must put up big numbers to impress the voters.
Multiple Running Back Threats
The Cardinals were able to pile up over 150 yards on the ground against a solid Rutgers defense. Senior Senorise Perry led the way with 13 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown.
However, Louisville's offense also uses junior Dominique Brown and junior transfer Michael Dyer extremely effectively.
Perry leads the team with 67 carries for 402 yards and five touchdowns on the season, but both Brown and Dyer have gotten their fair share. Brown has 45 carries for 271 yards and two touchdowns while Dyer has 43 carries for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
Between these three backs, the Cardinals are averaging 5.7 yards per rush.
The Cardinals' run game is vital, as it opens up the play-action pass game for Bridgewater. If Louisville can continue to establish itself on the ground, it will roll over opponents.
The opposition must make the Cardinals one-dimensional if it wants to pull off an upset. So far this year, teams have failed to do so.
The Defense Is No Joke
The Cardinals defense is currently No. 1 in the country, allowing just 7.3 points per game. While it hasn't faced many offensive juggernauts, this is still extremely impressive.
The defense gets lost in the discussions about Louisville because of Bridgewater, but it is one of the best in the country.
Louisville’s most impressive win of the season came against Kentucky. While the Wildcats are bottom-dwellers in the SEC, Louisville dominated the game and gave up only 13 points.
If the defense can consistently play at this high level, Louisville will go unblemished in AAC play. With Bridgewater and the offense putting up 41 points per game, the rest of conference will be forced to throw the ball to keep pace.
The Cardinals defense forced four interceptions against Rutgers. Expect that to become the norm for the rest of the season.
The Louisville defense has kept up with the offense and. If both sides of the ball are firing on all cylinders, like they were against Rutgers, watch out.