Published November 24, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville's second straight loss is a minor concern compared to Cardinals' quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's ability to play the rest of the season.
Bridgewater injured his non-throwing left wrist while being sacked late in the second quarter Saturday against Connecticut. But he returned with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter and orchestrated a game-tying, 92-yard drive ending with a 6-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker to force overtime.
The Huskies won 23-20 in the game's third extra period on Chad Christen's 30-yard field goal. Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson's interception of Bridgewater set up the game-winning kick.
Bridgewater also came out of the game in the first overtime with a left ankle issue but returned to throw a 25-yard touchdown to Parker on the first play of the second extra frame.
"The leg injury is fine," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said after the game. "I would say he either fractured or broke his wrist."
Bridgewater finished the game 30 of 53 for 331 yards and two touchdowns. He was receiving treatment after the game and unavailable for comment.
While his teammates went to the locker room at halftime, Bridgewater went for an X-ray and came back to the sidelines as the second half began, with his left arm in a cast.
Bridgewater operated solely out of the shotgun after the wrist injury but Strong said his sophomore signal caller would be able to play in five days in the game that should determine the Big East title.
"He's a tough soldier. I know he'll be out there for this last game," wide receiver Damian Copeland said. "He just showed me how much he wants it."
The Cardinals (9-2, 4-2 Big East Conference) dropped their second straight after their first 9-0 start in school history. But the team's preseason goal of a BCS bowl bid is still possible with a win Thursday at first-place Rutgers.
"We're still alive. Rutgers end up getting beat today so we're still alive," Strong said of the Scarlet Knights' 27-6 loss at Pittsburgh.
The Huskies' defense made a 10-0 lead stand for more than three quarters before the Cardinals regrouped in the fourth behind Bridgewater. Although Louisville outgained Connecticut 401-241, the Huskies made the stand they needed at the right time.
"We were just looking for a few points in the second half and weren't able to come up with points in the third and fourth quarters," Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I thought our guys hung in there on pride and with character and how hard they fought in this game."
Bridgewater was sacked four times along with the game-changing interception.
Louisville, which lost leading rusher Senorise Perry two weeks ago with a torn ACL, gained 27 yards rushing.
"The way we were blocking, no running back could have been a difference-maker," Strong said of being without Perry.
For Connecticut, stopping the run was nothing new. The Huskies entered the game with the nation's ninth-ranked defense and was No. 11 against the run at 108 yards allowed per game.
And they applied those strengths early and often against the Cardinals, who had the conference's top scoring offense.
Louisville was outgained 160-88 in the first half while being shut out in the opening 30 minutes for the first time since Pittsburgh did it here a year ago. Bridgewater's timing and mechanics looked particularly off with passes either underthrown or overthrown.
His receivers didn't help him by dropping passes, either. One flub by a wide-open Parker on the second drive brought an angry Strong on the field to yell at his players.
"We hurt ourselves a lot," senior center Mario Benavides said. "Typical game when things aren't going your way, you stop yourself."
And while Connecticut's offense wasn't great, the Huskies took advantage of their few opportunities.
After two three-and-out drives, Connecticut moved 51 yards in eight plays to set up Christen's 39-yard field goal. Two drives later it was 10-0 as the Huskies drove 66 yards in 10 plays ending in Williams' 3-yard touchdown run.
The lead stood until Bridgewater's return inspired the Cardinals and the crowd of 45,618 late in the third quarter. After John Wallace's 19-yard field goal early in the fourth, Bridgewater directed a 92-yard, 13-play drive kept alive by a 28-yard pass to Eli Rogers and a 9-yarder to Wright for first down at the Huskies' 26.
A 14-yard pass to Wright and a face mask foul penalty on Connecticut set up first-and-goal at the 6, and Bridgewater found a wide-open Parker in the end zone.
"It's tough when you lose one like that, the way we battled back to get the game into overtime," Strong said.