LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The eighth-ranked Louisville Cardinals may need to start earning some style points to go along with their victories.
Coach Charlie Strong certainly wants more.
Teddy Bridgewater threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and Louisville routed Eastern Kentucky 44-7 Saturday on a day the Cardinals’ defense just missed a shutout for a second straight week.
“You’d like to see that happen just because we feel like we have made a move and we’ve raised the standard and we’ve taken another step and we would have gone out there today and taken care of business, which we didn’t do,” Strong said.
Linebacker Preston Brown had two of Louisville’s four sacks, and Calvin Pryor had an interception as Louisville limited Eastern Kentucky to 76 yards of offense in the first half. The Cardinals weren’t happy about losing the shutout.
“Through the first three quarters, we pretty much had a shutout,” Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin said. “They ended up getting a score at the end of the second half.”
The Cardinals (2-0) needed the defensive plays. Following the noon kickoff, Louisville settled for a pair of field goals from John Wallace after turnovers gave the offense short fields. The Cardinals also settled for a third field goal in the third quarter despite reaching Eastern Kentucky’s 4.
“You always talk about raising the standards and what you have just potentially on offense and you know the weapons we have and when you get the ball down in the red zone you like touchdowns instead of field goals,” Strong said. “We missed opportunities there.”
Bridgewater hit his first five passes to continue his strong start on his season and Heisman Trophy candidacy. He tossed TD passes to Damian Copeland and Gerald Christian, and two to DeVante Parker while connecting with eight different receivers. He wound up 23 of 32 with no interceptions after throwing for five touchdowns with one interception in the opener.
The Cardinals never were threatened by a instate program from the Football Championship Subdivision that upset Louisville 45-21 in 1985. Louisville led 14-0 after the first quarter and 27-0 at halftime in improving to 11-3-1 in this series playing on its own field. The Cardinals wound up outgaining Eastern Kentucky 475-206 in total offense.
Now Louisville can turn its attention to a bigger in-state rival with a visit to Kentucky up next.
The Colonels, whose campus is about 100 miles away, had hopes of joining the eight FCS teams who pulled off upsets of FBS teams in the opening week. They played Louisville close in a 2010 loss in the last meeting between these teams.
Louisville is at a much different level now than 2010 with three straight bowl games, including a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl to cap last season.
“We played a top-10 football team, and they showed it,” EKU quarterback Jared McClain said.
Bridgewater capped the opening drive with an 8-yard TD to Copeland, and the rout was on. The junior quarterback also hit Parker on TD passes of 19 and 42 yards and an 11-yarder to Christian for his third career game with at least four TDs.
“Teddy Bridgewater is an awesome quarterback, and he has a lot of really good talent surrounding him,” Eastern Kentucky linebacker Ichiro Vance said.
With others promoting his candidacy with items like a “Teddy Heisman” T-shirt, Bridgewater finished his day after his fourth TD pass with 9:08 left and a 44-7 lead before being replaced by Will Gardner to mop up. Bridgewater even tried to wave the punt team off the field on fourth-and-2 late in the first half before Strong told the quarterback he has enough coaches on staff.
“He can’t call off the punt team, not in that situation where the ball was,” Strong said.
Eastern Kentucky did win the toss at the beginning of the game only to defer to the second half, putting the ball into Bridgewater’s hands.
The Cardinals missed out on a shutout in the 49-7 opening win over Ohio. Against Eastern Kentucky, they had 11 tackles for loss with the Colonels losing 99 yards on run plays and finishing with 50 yards net on 42 carries.
They were protecting a 37-0 lead and had held Eastern Kentucky to 142 yards through three quarters when the temperature rose to the high 80s. McClain drove the Colonels 87 yards, and he found Devin Borders for a 15-yard touchdown with 12:45 left.