Bridgewater leads Louisville to BCS

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 30, 2012 at 12:15 am •  Published: November 30, 2012
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater couldn't take a snap from under center because of a broken wrist, and had a hitch in his step because of a sore ankle.

The Louisville quarterback was too banged-up to start, but more than well enough to finish off Rutgers and send the Cardinals to the Bowl Championship Series.

Bridgewater came off the bench to throw two second-half touchdown passes, and John Wallace kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give Louisville a 20-17 victory on Thursday night in what was essentially the Big East championship game.

In a game between one team headed to the Big Ten and another bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East handed out its second-to-last BCS bid to a school that entered the league during its first massive rebuild in 2005 and watched its athletic program blossom.

The Cardinals will be going to the BCS for the second time. Either the Orange or Sugar Bowl will be the destination.

"We dropped two the last couple weeks. But for us to go on the road and win the championship, it's so special," said third-year coach Charlie Strong, who has quickly gotten Louisville back on track after the Cardinals hit a rough patch following their only other BCS bid in 2006.

"I'm just so happy for us to get a 10-win season, go win the conference title and get us to a BCS bowl."

Louisville (10-2, 5-2) will share this Big East title with Rutgers (9-3, 5-2), Syracuse and possibly even Cincinnati, but those guys only get a banner. The Cardinals get the ticket to the big game. The BCS standings will be used to break the tie and there is no doubt Louisville, with the best overall record in the conference, will be on top.

Bridgewater didn't start a week after breaking his left wrist and spraining his right ankle in a loss to Connecticut.

"He's the toughest quarterback in the nation," Louisville linebacker Preston Brown said.

Strong went with senior Will Stein as the starter because Bridgewater could only take snaps from the shotgun. But it quickly became apparent Louisville could not win without their star quarterback.

"Once I saw that we weren't finishing drives, I was just ready," Bridgewater said. "I had a good feeling deep down inside."

He entered for the first time against in the second quarter and finished 20 for 28 for 263 yards and threw a pair of TD passes in the third quarter to wipe out a 14-3 deficit.

"He came up to me midway through the first quarter. I said to warm up," Strong said. "I gave our medical staff a game ball because they were able to get him ready."

Cardinals linebacker James Burgess picked off a pass that bounced off Timmy Wright's hands with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter in Rutgers territory, and Bridgewater hit Andrell Smith on a slant for 30 yards to put Louisville in field goal range. Wallace booted through the short kick to give Louisville a three-point lead.

"They have a tremendous playmaker at the quarterback position," first-year Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "We just weren't able to match him in the end."

Rutgers' last chance ended when Gary Nova threw deep, but his receiver stopped short. Terrell Floyd made an over the shoulder interception with 1:06 left. Nova bent over and grabbed his helmet in disgust.



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