ORLANDO (AP) – Leading up to the Russell Athletic Bowl, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater batted back questions about whether the game would be his last in college.
If it was, he left plenty for the Cardinals to remember.
Bridgewater threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score to help No. 18 Louisville rout Miami 36-9 on Saturday night.
The Cardinals (12-1) spotted Miami (9-4) an early 2-0 lead, then dominated the rest of the way, racking up 554 total yards to the Hurricanes’ 174.
With Cardinals’ fans chanting “Teddy! Teddy!” at times throughout the game, Bridgewater, projected to be a top NFL draft pick if he comes out this summer, set a school season record with 31 touchdown passes. The South Florida native also tied the school record with his 27th victory as Louisville’s starter.
“It meant a lot not only because I and so many other guys were going against our hometown school but we were going against a quality opponent,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting for all year…That’s why you play the game, to compete. We competed in all three phases, offense, defense and kicking game.’’
He was 35 for 45 for a career-high 447 yards.
Louisville won its second straight bowl game for its second 12-win season.
On the stage during the postgame trophy presentation, Bridgewater, the game’s MVP, was showered again by Louisville fans who beckoned him with “One more year!” overtures.
He reiterated, though, that he hadn’t set any decision-making timelines on whether to submit his name for the NFL’s early entry deadline.
“As of now, it’s not about me, it’s about this team,” Bridgewater said. “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.”
So the Miami Hurricanes, who spent the last two bowl seasons watching from home, waiting for the day when they could begin trying to climb back to prominence, have to wait another year.
After being pounded by Louisville, a future Atlantic Coast Conference foe, it’s clear that rebuilding process is not yet complete.
Miami coach Al Golden said despite the setback the Hurricanes aren’t going to stray too far from the foundation they’ve been trying to build.
“We got beat in all three phases. There’s no excuses,” Golden said. “I’m going to evaluate the whole program, just like I do every year. It’s not going to be any different. … We’re going to keep moving it forward. We’re going to be resolute in that and we’re not going to flinch with that.”
Miami, playing in its first bowl game since 2010, hasn’t had a bowl victory since 2006, losing four straight. The Hurricanes were returning to the postseason following a two-year self-imposed ban during an NCAA investigation.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the performance I wanted to have being my last game but I give credit to Louisville,” said Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, who was 12 for 27 for 160 yards. “They had a great defensive plan going. They were in the right spots at the right time.”
Golden said he’s already ready to turn the page.
“Again, at the end of the day, we’re going to continue to recruit, continue to develop but, in terms of the young kids in our program and everything, I don’t want to trade the young kids. I want to keep going. I want to keep moving forward,” he said.