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By LARRY VAUGHT
From what Mark Stoops has seen, there’s no visible weakness in Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“He’s just very good at what he does,” said the Kentucky coach. “He has a great feel in the pocket. He eludes the pressure when and where he needs to, and the rest of the time he sits in there and distributes the football. But he’s very athletic, and he’s very live. He’s just very fast. He’s very quick with everything he does. Very, very good delivery and gets the ball there in a hurry. Again, he eludes the pressure when he has to.”
Stoops and Kentucky will find out just how good and elusive the Heisman Trophy candidate is when No. 7 Louisville plays at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday looking for its third straight win in the series.
The UK coach, a former defensive coordinator, says Bridgewater does not remind him of any other particular quarterback.
“He’s darn good. He’s just a very good player. You just see a guy who’s very confident, like I said,” Stoops said. “He’s so fast and so patient. He doesn’t hurry anything. He plays fast without being in a hurry, if that makes sense. He’s very cool, and he’s got a very live arm and he can make any throw.
“You could just see the confidence in him the more he’s played. They’re a very veteran team, though. They’re very good all around him, and they have a strong line. They have great backs. They have good wide receivers. I mean, great wide receivers. They’re very talented across the board.”
Stoops said ideally that UK’s pass rush led by ends Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree would pressure Bridgewater and impact his tempo.
“Any time, any great quarterback, I don’t care if you’re playing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or anybody, what people constantly talk about with quarterbacks is trying to make them uncomfortable. He could certainly pick you apart if you give him time. So any time you have any great defenses, it’s getting some pressure and making him uneasy,” Stoops said. “And that takes a complete defensive effort, not just the front. You have to play good coverage. If there’s guys wide open, he’s going to just get rid of the ball very quickly.”
Stoops said it would be a mistake for Kentucky to ignore Louisville’s running game.
“They’re good. They’re physical. Their O‑line is good. You start watching their team in depth, they’re good across the board, they really are,” Stoops said. “I think they do a nice job of keeping you off balance. They run it. They threaten you with their run game, and they love taking their shots and their play actions off it because they’re very skilled at wide receiver, and Bridgewater does a heck of a job with the play fakes and getting the ball down the field. They put you in a run/pass conflict all the time.”
Bridgewater has a bevvy of talented receivers led by Damian Copeland and DeVante Parker to test UK’s young secondary.
“It will be a tough matchup. It’s tough on a lot of people,” Stoops said. “Again, they put you in that conflict. If they make you play with numbers, they can hurt you outside, and they do it to a lot of people. They’re pretty skilled.”
Stoops said there is no drop in talent on Louisville’s defense.
“One thing that jumps out at you right away, they play very confident and very hard. Any defensive coordinator, that’s the biggest compliment you can give somebody. When they turn on the film and they see a bunch of guys running around playing hard and playing fast, that’s a compliment. That’s the biggest compliment I could give them is that they play hard, they play fast, they play confident,” Stoops said.
The Kentucky coach said there’s nothing about the rivalry his team needs for extra motivation other than the talent Louisville has.
“We know we’re playing a good football team really on all sides, so we’re really concentrating on ourselves and doing the best we can,” the uK coach said. “I think it’s going to take a complete game (for UK to win). They’re a very good team. They’re a top-10 team for a reason, and we’ll need to play good on all three sides to win these games.”
Stoops knows UK is a double-digit underdog, but he doesn’t see this as a chance to “steal” a win to help his program.
“We really don’t look at it that way, but obviously, any win is important. Last week’s win was important. This is our next game, and that’s always our approach. It’s boring, but it is. It’s our next game, and that’s our approach,” Stoops said earlier this week. “We’re going to approach it the exact same way we approach any other game. We’re not going to look at this game any differently at all.
“We know it’s important. We will practice with that urgency. We will coach with that urgency. But it’s the next game up, and we’re looking to get better each and every day.”