The music was blaring when Teddy Bridgewater knelt down in between the hashes of the 27-yard line. Down on one knee, he tied his shoe with the football by his right side. Coaches and teammates alike stood behind him while reporters stood on the sideline, all revering. Then everything seemed to stop; the cheering, the note-taking, the warmups, the music, and it all became a part of Bridgewater’s universe prior to the game against South Florida (a game Louisville would eventually win with ease, 34-3). It was the sort of image and control of the environment that you expect to be projected from likely the top quarterback in next May’s NFL draft, and possibly the first overall pick.
Soon after, Bridgewater warmed up with his teammates. He walked away from them initially and quietly toward the left sideline, simultaneously putting his gloves on before saying hello to a friend. Then he lightly jogged back, got under center and started making on-point curl, out, seam, and comeback throws.
Each time he made a throw, he’d walk away to the same sideline to consult a friend, a coach, or vibe to rapper DJ Khaled. He did this at least five times by my count, distancing himself from his teammates after each throw to zone in on the task at hand before lightly jogging back to the 30-yard line to huddle up and make another spiraling throw. It was moments like these when a non-scout got the closest to judging his character, but even then there could be only so much to be made from it.
The cliched statement of ice running through his veins wasn’t fit enough for Bridgewater; it was more like a budding avalanche, one that would occur repeatedly at the sound of a whistle. Each time he stepped onto the field, he was bound to lead a lengthy drive.
His first drive was “silky smooth,” as NFL Networks’ Daniel Jeremiah would aptly tweet. It went nine plays and he went 4-4, concluding it with a 20-yard touchdown pass that saw him take a three-step drop while staring to his right before lobbing a well-placed, high-arching throw to wide receiver Damian Copeland to his left. Afterward, Bridgewater simply walked away like Gilbert Arenas in his prime after a jump-shot. He wasn’t amused with the destruction of the USF defense; it was just something he had to do.
That first touchdown extended his streak with a scoring pass to 20 straight games. And then he extended his touchdown total on the day from one to two, and then three.
The second came on a blown coverage by the USF defense. Defenders were set on sacking Bridgewater, but forgot that he could make them pay despite the blitz. With pressure incoming, he threw a 69-yard pass to Gerald Christian, who stiff-armed a defender and took it to the house roughly 45 yards after the catch.
A third and final score came five yards from the end zone with almost 11 minutes left in the game. From a pistol set, he took a one-step drop, pumped his shoulders while securing the ball with both hands, and then climbed the pocket. Pressure came from the edge and he hitched twice in tight quarters before making a sidearm throw to outlet Dominique Brown for six. He handled the pressure perfectly, keeping his eyes up and going through all of his reads before getting the ball out.
Overall, there was no stopping Bridgewater on this day. The only help the defense had was from the referees, who made Bridgewater sit out two plays on separate occasions after his helmet flew off following a sack and scramble. He remained cool despite their efforts, however.
He went 25-29 and threw for 344 yards in total. There were rare moments of blemishes, including two sacks that he could have avoided had he not tried to spin out or juke defenders like Michael Vick does, but he dominated overall, picking apart the USF defense with ease. He went through his reads on many plays, throwing shallow crosses and daggers in the seam. When forced to move, he scrambled outside the pocket and picked up yards on his own.
A big performance was what scouts were looking for following last week’s letdown against the University of Central Florida. Bridgewater and Louisville lost 38-35 to UCF despite him completing 29 of his 38 pass attempts, with two touchdowns and 341 yards. Scouts wanted to see how he would respond mentally on the road an hour and a half from UCF. He did in a way that only he could: driving up and down the field without being rattled.
“We hate to talk about the past, but last year we lost to Syracuse and then came right back and lost to UConn. We told ourselves that we didn’t want to let last year’s UConn happen this year,” Bridgewater said after the game.
His ability to handle all sorts of situations, whether under pressure or 3rd-and-long or taking care of his mother while she battles breast cancer, is what will appeal to NFL scouts the most. They know he’s confident and they know he’s tough, having played with a broken wrist and a highly sprained ankle in the past. They also know he can play it cool and run the show as if it was his own universe.