Tampa, FL (Sports Network) – Teddy Bridgewater threw for 241 yards with three touchdowns, as Louisville earned at least a share of the Big East Conference football championship Friday with a 34-24 win over South Florida.
Dominique Brown added a score on the ground for the Cardinals (7-5, 5-2 Big East), who won five of their last six to conclude the regular season and will now wait to find out if they will be the Big East representative for a BCS bowl game.
The Cardinals sit atop the Big East by one-half game over Rutgers, but own the two-team tiebreaker over the Scarlet Knights by virtue of a 16-14 win on October 21. Cincinnati, West Virginia and Pittsburgh are also still in contention.
Bobby Eveld got the start at quarterback in place of an injured B.J. Daniels for South Florida (5-6, 1-5), which needs to beat West Virginia next Thursday to become bowl-eligible. Daniels was sidelined because of a bruised right shoulder and Eveld completed 20-of-35 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The Cardinals trailed 24-20 heading into the fourth quarter, but Bridgewater engineered a 57-yard drive for the go-ahead score. He hit Eli Rogers for 30 yards to convert 3rd-and-5 and capped the series with an 11-yard scoring strike to a wide open DeVante Parker.
A trade of punts left USF at its own six-yard line with 5:43 remaining, but the Bulls turned the ball over when Andre Davis fumbled after a reception. Brown cashed in two plays later with a nine-yard touchdown run to seal the contest.
Eveld was picked off by Hakeem Smith on a desperation heave to end the contest.
Louisville entered the second half down 17-10, but forced a three-and-out from South Florida to start the third quarter and pulled within four on a 31-yard field goal from Chris Philpott. The Cardinals got the ball right back when South Florida again failed to produce a first down and Bridgewater capped a nine-play drive with an 18-yard scoring strike to Josh Chichester to put Louisville in front.
It didn’t last long.
Lamar Lindsey returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Louisville 37 and the Bulls ran a halfback option pass that worked to perfection despite Demetris Murray’s wobbly throw that found Deonte Welch behind the secondary for the score and a 24-20 USF lead.
South Florida was dismal on offense in the second half, producing just two first downs and 61 total yards until its final possession with the outcome already decided.
Louisville’s first offensive series came up empty when Philpott missed a 33- yard field goal try, but Philpott connected from 30 yards away in the final minute of the first quarter for a 3-0 lead.
South Florida countered with the next 17 points, starting with Eveld’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Lindsey just 90 seconds into the second period. The Bulls got the ball right back after a Louisville punt and drove far enough for a 40- yard field goal from Maikon Bonani. The Cardinals fumbled away their next possession and South Florida drove 59 yards for another score, as Murray scored on a one-yard run with 35 seconds left in the half.
A 54-yard kickoff return by Senorise Perry gave Louisville a chance for a late score and the Cardinals cashed in two plays later when Bridgewater found Parker with a 17-yard TD pass to make it 17-10 at the break.