Louisville grounds Hurricanes in Bridgewater's likely finale
Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - In what was likely his final game at Louisville, junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater put an exclamation point on a stellar collegiate career with the Cardinals.
Bridgewater threw for a career-high 447 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a score, and the Louisville defense stifled Miami-Florida en route to a 36-9 triumph in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday.
Billed by most as the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft, Bridgewater completed 35-of-45 passes and became Louisville's all-time leader for TD tosses in a single season with his 31st scoring strike of the year.
"As of now it's not about me, it's about this team," Bridgewater said when asked of his status for next year. "We want to celebrate tonight's victory and each of us, whether it's seniors or underclassmen -- we all have decisions to make. But for tonight we wanted to focus on this game and get this game out of the way. Celebrate it and enjoy this moment."
Bridgewater was named the game's MVP, marking the second straight year he's taken home MVP honors in a bowl game after last year's 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
Louisville (12-1) held the Hurricanes to just 174 total yards, including a minuscule 14 on the ground, and an 0-for-11 mark on third down, as the Cardinals secured their second 12-win season in school history and first since 2006.
Louisville's stout defense caused problems for Stephen Morris throughout the game, with the senior signal-caller completing just 12-of-27 passes for 160 yards for the Hurricanes (9-4), who were making their first postseason appearance since 2010 following a self-imposed two-year bowl ban due to improper benefits from a booster.
"Obviously it wasn't the performance I wanted to have being my last game but give credit to Louisville," Morris said. "They had a great defensive plan going."
Gus Edwards found the end zone from two yards out early in the fourth for Miami's only offensive score of the game.
"Obviously disappointed we got beat in all three phases," Hurricanes head coach Al Golden admitted. "There's no excuses. We didn't play well enough, give a lot of credit to Louisville they played really well, executed well."
The only points Miami managed in the first half came on Louisville's second play from scrimmage, as defensive back Deon Bush blitzed off the edge and brought down Bridgewater in the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead.
John Wallace capped each of Louisville's next three touches with a field goal, connecting from 36 and 43 yards in the first frame before burying a 42-yarder early in the second to make it 9-2 Cardinals.
Following a Miami three-and-out, Bridgewater completed all four of his passes on a seven-play, 80-yard march that he finished with his 28th TD pass of the year.
DeVante Parker pulled in three of Bridgewater's tosses on the trek, including a 26-yard scoring strike in the front of the end zone that made it 16-2.
Miami moved inside the Louisville 10 on its next touch thanks in large part to a 15-yard taunting penalty against Louisville's Charles Gaines following an incompletion on 3rd-and-5 from the Hurricanes' 49.
However, three plays later, defensive end Marcus Smith hit Morris from behind and stripped the ball, which Louisville pounced on at its own 13-yard line.
After the teams exchange punts, Bridgewater completed the final five passes of a six-play series that he capped with a 12-yard TD pass to Michaelee Harris.
Wallace missed the extra point, though, leaving the Louisville lead at 22-2 heading into halftime.
Louisville increased its cushion by opening the second half with a lengthy 12- play, 85-yard scoring sequence.
Bridgewater converted all three third downs on the trek, including a 3rd-and-4 from the Miami 24 that saw Senorise Perry catch a short screen and bounce off a defender as he rumbled 24 yards into the end zone for a 29-2 lead.
After the Hurricanes' next touch ended in a turnover on downs, Bridgewater capped a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard TD surge that made it 36-2 early in the fourth quarter.
Edwards scored from two yards out on Miami's ensuing possession to account for the final margin.
Bridgewater broke Brian Brohm's single-season record of 30 touchdown passes set back in 2007 ... Wallace set a Louisville bowl record with three field goals ... Miami was held without a touchdown or field goal in the first half of a game for the first time since a 23-20 loss to South Florida on Nov. 27, 2010 ... The Cardinals and Hurricanes will meet as ACC opponents next season when Louisville switches to the ACC ... Louisville's defense finished the regular season ranked second in the FBS overall (257.9 yards per game) and against the run (86.3) ... Miami leads the all-time series 9-2-1, though Louisville has taken the last two meetings ... Miami's Allen Hurns caught two passes for 25 yards to give him 1,162 receiving yards on the season, breaking Leonard Hankerson's single-season school record ... Louisville made its 18th bowl appearance, while Miami made its 35th bowl and 37th postseason appearance.
12/29 00:17:25 ET