Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had mixed results in his first two collegiate games.
His highly anticipated debut was not really much to write home about -- he played in one series each against Murray State and FIU, generating little production.
So when starter Will Stein went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter against Kentucky two weeks ago, Bridgewater had to play the rest of the game. Would a player with three career passes and an interception on his stat line be able to guide his team against bitter in-state rivals? Against a team that had beaten the Cardinals four straight times?
Bridgewater stepped into the huddle with calm and poise. The first few drives stalled, but Bridgewater looked far from overwhelmed. He threw his first career touchdown pass to DeVante Parker later in the quarter, and directed the Cardinals to the upset win.
Now as Louisville prepares to return from its bye with a game against Marshall on Saturday, Bridgewater figures to get more playing time and could potentially start. Coach Charlie Strong said Stein is questionable for the game, and Bridgewater has gotten plenty of reps in practice.
Bridgewater, perhaps hardest on himself, says of his game against Kentucky, “I think I did pretty good. I could have played better -- had a couple mental errors -- but other than that I had a great night.”
How long did it take for the magnitude of what he did to sink in?
“Well, it hit me a couple days later,” Bridgewater said. “The night of the game, I treated it as another game, another opponent but later during the week, it hit me that I beat a rival we hadn't beaten in five years. It made me feel good, because I had the team support also.”
Bridgewater said the experience he gained in his first two games helped him realize he had to finish drives. He also learned patience, that he could be called upon to play at any moment. The pregame script called for Bridgewater to go into the game on the drive after Stein got hurt. So he was already preparing to get into the game.
He just didn’t realize he would be relied upon for all of it. Bridgewater finished 10-of-18 for 106 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
“What's been great -- you always tell a player they’re a play a way and a lot of times they don't understand that,” Strong said. “Teddy did that. He showed poise on the road as a true freshman, was able to come in and lead our offense. He managed our offense, didn't turn the ball over and it was great to see him come in and see what he did.”
That is what Bridgewater has wanted since he enrolled at Louisville in the spring as one of the more highly touted prospects in the nation. Bridgewater had committed to Miami before changing his mind and signing with the Cardinals. He and Stein competed for the starting job, and although Stein became the starter, the plan was always to get Bridgewater into games.
There never has been a question about Bridgewater being the future leader of this team. Louisville just got a glimpse of the future a little early.
He may start this week. He may come off the bench this week. But regardless, Bridgewater knows his opportunity is coming.
“Patience is a virtue,” he said. “You have to be patient to get good things in life. I have that mentality.”