It's almost two years to the day when the first chapter of the Teddy Bridgewater story was written.
It was a beautiful summer night at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 17, 2011. The Wildcats had the upper hand in the series, winning the last four encounters. Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, quarterback Will Stein, the team's starter, directed the Cardinals on a 72-yard drive that culminated in a 38-yard pass to Andrell Smith for a 7-3 lead.
On the first play of the next UofL drive, Stein scrambled out of pressure and was dragged down on his shoulder and was lost for the rest of the game. Cue in Bridgewater, and what would be the beginning of an outstanding career.
Having thrown an interception against Murray State on his first-ever pass play and completing two passes the following week versus FIU, Bridgewater came into the game in front of 68,170 screaming Kentucky fans and looked as cool "as the other side of the pillow," to quote a famous ESPN sportscaster.
After forcing the Cardinals to punt on his first possession, Bridgewater gave the fans a glimpse into the future on the next possession when he completed 4-of-5 passes and hit teammate DeVante Parker in the corner of the end zone with a 25-yard strike to put Louisville ahead 14-3 right before the half.
"I was just ready to go," Bridgewater said. "At the time, I was a back-up. As a back-up, you go into each game with a starter's mentality. I went into that game and was ready for whatever was going to happen."
With UK continuing to come after the Cardinals, Bridgewater remained calm and pushed the Cardinals' lead to 24-10 with another 25-yard strike to Josh Bellamy in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals held on to win 24-17, and the rest is history. Bridgewater finished 10-of-18 for 106 yards in the win, but more importantly, was calm, cool and collected, which he has shown in every game since en route to 6,599 yards passing and 50 touchdown throws.
"I pretty much had confidence in myself since I first started playing football," Bridgewater said. "That game [versus Kentucky] showed me that maybe I can throw at the Division I level. I was glad that I had that opportunity."
As the seventh-ranked Cardinals head into Commonwealth Stadium this weekend, Bridgewater is firmly entrenched as the starter and one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. Even though the Cardinals are one of the top-ranked teams according to the major polls, Bridgewater knows he is in for a huge battle.
"UK is just very physical," Bridgewater said. "They are well-coached. Those guys on defense have a nose for the football. Their defensive line has a couple of guys with experience."
The Cardinals need to play better on offense, especially in the running game after rushing for 78 yards.
"We are going to do the same things we have been doing since spring ball and fall camp," Bridgewater said. "We aren't going to change a thing."
The Cardinals definitely don't need to change that much since they are averaging 46.5 points per game and 545 yards per game. They especially don't need to much change at quarterback, where Bridgewater is directing the offense with precise efficiency.
While the game two years ago was the starting point in the Bridgewater story, he hopes to add another chapter this Saturday when he makes his a final appearance in the place where it all began for him.