Leading 24-3 after three quarters, Louisville looked well on its way to its 10th win of the season. Memphis stormed back in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns and stopped the Cardinals offense to get the ball back late before a roughing the punter penalty cost them a final shot at tying the game. A game that was far from action-packed lost some of its luster before kickoff when it was learned Louisville junior safety Calvin Pryor would not play, which we later learned was due to a violation of team rules.
(JR) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (#5), 6’3, 205
The unquestioned top quarterback prospect entering the season, Bridgewater has been competing with Marcus Mariota for these honors throughout the season. Neither had their best game this weekend, with Mariota’s Oregon team getting blown out by Arizona and Bridgewater’s average performance against Memphis (26-for-36, 220 yards, 1 touchdown). By no means did Bridgewater play badly, but a few of his flaws that have been noted among scouts showed up again versus the Tigers.
Operating a controlled short passing game that saw him throw very few balls down the field, Bridgewater wasn’t very accurate when he did attempt to stretch the field and played the role of game manager against a middle-of-the-road Memphis pass defense. On one drive early in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater had three straight incompletions on intermediate and deep passes that forced a Louisville punt. The first was a nice ball down the left sideline just out of the reach of DeVante Parker, who probably could have laid out for the ball. His next pass was well overthrown on a deep post and his third-down pass was catchable, but also thrown high.
Bridgewater still has a tendency to sail short and intermediate throws, which he showed a few times against Memphis. He also struggled with a back injury that limited him, especially in the third quarter when it was obvious that moving around in the pocket was painful for Bridgewater. We’ve seen him fight through injuries before and his toughness is not in question, but many scouts feel that his rail-thin frame could make him more susceptible to injuries in the NFL, something he hasn’t exactly disproven at Louisville.
This is serious nitpicking on Bridgewater’s game, but it deserves to be mentioned on a prospect many feel should go #1 overall. Despite missing a few throws high, he still showed the ability to fit passes into tight windows on a rope and place the ball to lead to yards after the catch for his receivers, as he did on a short curl that turned into a 39-yard touchdown to Parker. But if scouts have serious issues with his tendency to sail passes and suffer minor injuries and the same scouts salivate over Marcus Mariota’s dual-threat potential, it could lead to a serious debate between the two quarterbacks if they both declare. Bridgewater is expected to enter the draft, while Mariota is still very much undecided.
(JR) Jamon Brown, OT, Louisville (#79), 6’6, 350
The left side of Louisville’s offensive line is strong this season with Brown and junior guard John Miller, who was discussed a few weeks ago here at Optimum Scouting. This week’s matchup between Brown and Memphis defensive end Martin Ifedi was one scouts were looking forward to, as Brown is considered a mid-to-late round offensive line prospect while Ifedi is one of the nation’s leaders in sacks.
While Brown did allow an early sack to Ifedi, he shut him down afterwards as Ifedi had just one tackle the rest of the game. Brown consistently washed Ifedi out of rushing plays, using his 85-pound weight advantage to dominate the Memphis pass rusher in the running game. Brown also did well to keep inside leverage and force Ifedi to take wide angles on the rush, knowing Ifedi doesn’t have the elite edge speed needed to get around him. Brown did a good job of controlling Ifedi once engaged and showed the strength to turn him where he wanted to create holes in the running game. He won the battle with Ifedi on this day and kept the Memphis star away from Bridgewater, an even more important feat considering one awkward sack could have ended his quarterback’s day. His size, slow feet and domination in the run game makes Brown a better strong-side tackle prospect than a left tackle but he did nothing to hurt his stock in the eyes of scouts on Saturday.
(JR-RS) Martin Ifedi, DE, Memphis (#97), 6’3, 265
Brown may have won the overall battle against Ifedi, but the Memphis defensive end did show some ability that could put him on the late-round/priority free agent radar heading into his senior season. It’s highly unlikely he would declare instead of trying to boost his stock even further after upping his sack total from 7.5 last season to 11.5 so far this season. His early sack came not thanks to power or speed off the edge, but good technique and developed pass rush moves. Engaged early by Brown and unable to break free, Ifedi made a nice outside spin move to break free of a slow-footed Brown and get to Bridgewater. He does a nice job of keeping his eyes up and on the quarterback when engaged and can get off his blocks to follow a scrambling QB before the lineman reacts.
Ifedi was inconsistent against the run but showed a few flashes there as well. Recognizing overextension by Brown, Ifedi pushed Brown’s head down to flash in the hole for a stop. On the next play, he was pancaked by Miller on an outside run. Later in the game after being washed out by Brown, he against showed good hands to get by Miller and hurry Bridgewater. More of a technician than an athlete, Ifedi relies on guile to make an impact on games. Improving his playing strength and first step off the line should be a priority for him heading into his senior season.
-Along with Ifedi, Louisville senior defensive end Marcus Smith is one of the nation’s leader in sacks. Similar to Brown, he struggled to make a big impact on this game outside of one sack. Even his sack came on a busted play, as Smith came in off the edge and brought down Paxton Lynch after not biting on the fake reverse. Smith got off the line quickly from his stand-up position on the edge and showed a strong armbar later in the game to distance himself from the tackle and put pressure on Lynch. Smith lost contain on a fumbled snap early though and had little impact in the running game. At just 252 pounds, Smith will likely end up as a situational pass rusher if he gets a shot in the NFL.
-Louisville linebackers Preston Brown and James Burgess were all over the field and while Burgess is just an athletic sophomore who needs to add some weight to his 215-pound frame, he and Brown are a great combination thanks to their differing skill sets. Brown, who led the team with 9 tackles (8 solo) and returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown, lacks the speed and suddenness of Burgess but stacks and sheds well, keeps his head up when engaged and shows the skill set to fit very well on the inside of a 3-4 defense. Brown’s willingness to engage frees up other defenders to make plays and at 260 pounds, he has the strength to get off blockers and make tackles on his own as well, making the senior a solid pick in the middle rounds.