Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was once committed to play football for his hometown Miami Hurricanes.
Now he is preparing to play against Miami in the Hurricanes’ first bowl game in three years.
At 6:45 p.m. Dec. 28, the former Miami Northwestern star will lead his 18th-ranked Louisville Cardinals (11-1, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) against the Hurricanes (9-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the Russell Athletic Bowl at the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.
“We are absolutely thrilled to accept an invitation to play in such a great game,” UM coach Al Golden said in a written release. “We’ve sat out the last two seasons and our players are thankful for the opportunity to play in a bowl game so close to home against a great opponent like Louisville.
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“…We have tons of alumni within driving distance of Orlando and we look forward to a great game.”
The Hurricanes are 9-1-1 all-time against Louisville, the Cardinals’ lone win coming at home in their last meeting in 2006.
Louisville was ranked 12th by the Associated Press that day in September; and Miami, 17th. The 31-7 Louisville victory was televised nationally and left the Canes with a 1-2 start for the first time in nine years. That game began UM’s precipitous fall from the rankings and in national stature.
More than seven years later, this bowl game will precede Louisville’s first season in the ACC in 2014. The Cardinals are replacing Maryland in the Atlantic Division (Miami is in the Coastal), and they are scheduled to play Miami next season at a date to be determined.
The Cardinals, whose only loss in a weak conference came to No. 15 UCF, are ranked among the nation’s elite in several NCAA statistical categories. They are second in the nation in total defense, rushing defense, turnover margin and defensive third-down conversion percentage.
They rank eighth in passing yards allowed, fifth in team passing efficiency defense and third in scoring defense.
Offensively, Louisville is 29th in scoring, 18th in passing and 80th in rushing. The Cards also rank second in third-down conversion percentage, an area that has plagued Miami defensively and offensively all season.
Bridgewater, one of 23 Louisville players from Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties, is second nationally in completion percentage and fifth in passing efficiency.
The Hurricanes practiced Sunday, but were unavailable for interviews. On Saturday, however, some of the players were asked what it would be like to face Louisville and Bridgewater.
“You know he’s going to play hard because he’s from down here,’’ said backup quarterback Ryan Williams, who played against [and lost to] Louisville as a freshman at Memphis. “He knows a lot of us. He grew up with a lot of us on the team. He’s played great all season. I’m sure he won’t play any less against us.”
Said Miami starting quarterback Stephen Morris: “Obviously Louisville is a great program and Teddy is a great quarterback. I think it would be a great opportunity for two Miami kids to shine on a big stage. I wish him all the best.”
The last time the Hurricanes played in the Russell — formerly known as the Champs Sports Bowl — was on Dec. 30, 2009, when they lost 20-14 to Wisconsin on a nasty, cold night.
Miami has been allotted 13,500 tickets for the Russell.
Tickets are $77 and $82 and can be purchased through the UM Ticket Office online at CanesTix.com, in person at the BankUnited Center (Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 5 p.m.) or by phone at 1-800-GO-CANES.
The Russell Athletic Bowl also has tickets available. Go to www.russellathleticbowl.com. Groups of 20 or more can call the Florida Citrus Sports offices at 407-423-2476.