It was a record performance in front of a record crowd as No. 25 Louisville opened the season Sunday by winning the Governor’s Cup 32-14 over Kentucky at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
A Papa John’s record crowd of 55,386 saw Cardinals sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater complete 19-of-21 passes for 232 yards, breaking the previous record set by Stefan LeFors (12-of-14) during the 2004 season.
But it was far from just Bridgewater for the Cardinals as running backs Senorise Perry (108 yards) and Jeremy Wright (105) gave Louisville two backs over 100 yards while the defense held Kentucky to only 93 yards on the ground.
The Cardinals built a 22-7 halftime lead, increasing that to 32-7 in the third quarter on a 22-yard field goal by John Wallace and a 1-yard touchdown by Wright. That gave Louisville coach Charlie Strong the luxury of being able to pull Bridgewater — to not risk injury — for reserve Will Stein.
“Teddy Bridgewater had an unbelievable day and we had two backs over a hundred yards,” Strong said. “I told our team that I have to give credit to our offensive line because they did a great job blocking up front. They don’t get enough credit.
“Defensively, we were able to hold them to seven points [in the first half], but [I] never felt like we had control. It all goes back to running the football and we were able to do that today. If you can run that football, then you have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Wright’s third quarter touchdown was his third of the game. He had first half scores on runs of one and 14 yards. Perry added a second quarter scoring run of 47 yards in which he went down the right side untouched.
It was a totally different situation this time around for Bridgewater. Heading into this season, he’s been the man from day one. Last season, it was the Kentucky game in which he came in and led the Cardinals to victory after Stein was injured.
“Earning this win felt good,” Bridgewater said. “It means a lot. We trained hard all spring and it feels good to see our hard work pay off.”
Bridgewater took control early as on the Cardinals first series they were pinned back to the 1-yard line after a fumbled punt. Bridgewater led a 15-play, 99-yard drive that led to Wright’s first score. Louisville then reached into the trick bag as Stein, the holder on conversion kicks, raised up to throw a pass to Marcus Smith for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith completed 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards and accounted for both Wildcat scores on passes of one yard to Tyler Robinson and five yards to LaRod King. King led the Wildcats with eight catches for 77 yards.
Kentucky had a chance to make it interesting early in the fourth quarter. They were knocking on the door inside the Cardinals 5-yard line, but a CoShik Williams fumble was recovered by Adrian Bushell to end the threat.
“We’re a better team that that,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said, “but we turned the ball over and our defense couldn’t keep them off the field.”
Louisville will return home next Saturday when they host Missouri State.
“We know that we have a long way to go, but it is good to get that first one out of the way,” Strong said. “We can sit down tomorrow and go through the corrections and make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes.”
LOUISVILLE 32 KENTUCKY 14
Kentucky (0-1) 0 7 7 0—14
Louisville (1-0) 8 14 10 0—32
L — Jeremy Wright 1 run (Marcus Smith pass from Will Stein), 3:11.
K — Demarco Robinson 1 pass from Maxwell Smith (Craig McIntosh kick), 13:42.
L — Senorise Perry 47 run (John Wallace kick), 11:03.
L — Wright 14 run (Wallace kick), 4:17.
L — Wallace 22 field goal, 8:19.
L — Wright 1 run (Wallace kick), 4:37.
K — La’Rod King 5 pass from Smith (McIntosh kick), 2:43.