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Football: UCF prepares to face off against Louisville

By Jason Clary and Chris Gros
On October 16, 2013

The Louisville football team has become synonymous nationally with one name, Teddy Bridgewater.

The junior quarterback from Miami Florida has helped lead the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals to a perfect 6-0 record, has thrown 18 touchdowns (compared with just two interceptions) and has done so under an intense media microscope. Many NFL draft gurus peg him as the top quarterback prospect in the 2014 draft class.

“He has great poise, good arm strength and good awareness of coverage,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “He knows where he’s going with the ball before the snap.”

Meanwhile, in Orlando, UCF football is beginning to become known for its own signal caller Blake Bortles. The redshirt junior quarterback has thrown nine touchdowns so far and has been instrumental in the Knights beginning the year 4-1.

The two will face off for the first time Friday night when UCF travels to Louisville to take on the No. 8 ranked Cardinals in an American Athletic Conference showdown. Bortles is looking forward to competing against a quarterback of Bridgewater’s caliber.

“He’s obviously a great player and they’re obviously a great team. We’re just looking forward to having the opportunity to play against them and share the field with them. My job is to execute our offense, move the ball, score points and put points on the board,” Bortles said. “I’m not necessarily playing against Teddy Bridgewater but it is very cool to play against a quarterback of his caliber.”

O’Leary wouldn’t compare Bortles and Bridgewater, but he did say that both quarterbacks have a trait of being able to escape when the pocket breaks down. On top of that, Bridgewater has shown an ability to get rid of the ball quickly, making it difficult for the defense to get pressure on him.

O’Leary also gave a lot of credit to the Louisville receiving corps – a group that has been consistently reliable for Bridgewater and the Cardinals. He said the group is very good and can catch anything that Bridgewater throws at them.

Louisville’s top four receivers combine to average over 17 yards per reception.

The pressure will be on UCF’s young secondary to not give up big plays and to limit the yards after the catch. O’Leary said the secondary has played better than he expected, and put the pressure on his front seven to be stout against whatever Louisville throws at them. They need to tackle well in space, he said.

Louisville’s top three rushers on the season are averaging nearly 5.8 yards per carry, proving that the Cardinals are not just a threat through the air, but on the ground as well.

Also stout is the Louisville defense, which exploded for eight sacks and four interceptions against Rutgers in a 24-10 win last week.

“Louisville is strong up the middle. If you’re strong up the middle, you have a chance,” O’Leary said.

UCF has experience playing against some of the nation’s best in hostile territory, especially after playing at Ohio State last year and at Penn State this year. Experience is everything, O’Leary said.

Louisville Athletics released a video earlier this week of defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin encouraging Cardinals fans to wear red for the nationally televised game.

Just like any other week, the Knights are preparing for a tough test, but at the same time, they don’t put any team on a pedestal.

“We’re going up there to win,” senior defensive back Sean Maag said.

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