Bears Drop to 0-2 With 35-7 Setback to No. 23 Louisville
 
Caleb Schaffitzel
 
Caleb Schaffitzel
 

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -Despite another competitive performance against a Top 25 FBS opponent, the Missouri State Bears fell victim to a career passing day by Louisville quarterback Terry Bridgewater in a 35-7 setback to the 23rd-ranked Cardinals Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Bridgewater, who completed 30-of-39 passes for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns, connected with 10 different receivers in surpassing previous career highs for completions and passing yardage to help keep the Cardinals in control throughout the day. Louisville racked up 475 yards of total offense and was a combined 11-of-17 converting on third and fourth downs.

The Cardinal defense did its part as well, holding the MSU offense to just 249 yards of total offense on the day. U of L was particularly effective in grounding the Bears' rushing attack, limiting MSU to 99 yards on 31 carries.

The combination of Bridgewater and a stingy Louisville defense was dominant early, as the Cardinals scored the first 18 points of the game before taking an 11-point lead into intermission. The U of L defense allowed the Bears just 111 yards of total offense and five first downs in the opening stanza, while Bridgewater completed 21-of-26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown.

Louisville (2-0) got the ball rolling on its second offensive possession of the day, capitalizing on a 55-yard Bridgewater completion to Charles Gaines to set up the Cardinals deep in MSU territory. After Louisville converted a fourth and one opportunity at the 11, the Bears' defense stiffened, stopping Bridgewater at the three on a third-down rush attempt to force a 19-yard field goal by Matt Nakatani.

The Bears appeared to catch a break midway through the first quarter when Gaines muffed a punt return, and MSU's Anthony Leepounced on the loose ball at the Cardinal 30 yard line. But the call was overturned after an official review concluded that the ball was untouched, giving Louisville a first down heading the other direction instead.


 

 

The Cardinals took advantage of the reprieve, marching 70 yards in 12 plays over 4:08 to reach the end zone and ultimately take an 11-0 lead. Bridgewater led the charge, coming up with a trio of third-down conversions to keep the drive alive, the biggest of which was a 21-yard hookup with Andrell Smith that gave Louisville a first-and-goal at the five yard line. Senorise Perry punched it in from three yards out two plays later, and Will Stein connected with Marcus Smith on a two-point conversion with 0:36 to play in the period.

Following another three-and-out for the Bears' offense, Bridgewater powered the Cardinals on another long scoring drive to increase the margin to 18 points. The sophomore punctuated the 13-play, 83-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown strike to Nate Nord with 8:39 left in the half.

Missouri State, which wouldn't register a first down until midway through the second period, finally got its offense in gear in the closing minutes of the half to find the end zone for the first time in 2012 and narrow the halftime gap to 11 points. Ashton Glaser engineered the Bears' late push, completing all five of his pass attempts for 63 yards on the drive. The junior signal-caller found Cadarrius Dotsonon a six-yard scoring toss with just 0:51 to go in the half, capping a 73-yard drive that covered eight plays in just 2:27.

But that would be as close as the Bears would get, as Bridgewater led the Cardinals on an 11-play drive covering 75 yards on their opening possession of the second half to push the lead to 25-7. Ryan Hubbell was the recipient of a Bridgewater touchdown pass on a third-and-goal call from the two yard line. Louisville tacked on a 45-yard field goal by Nakatani on its next drive, then salted the game away in the closing seconds when Corvin Lamb plunged in from one yard out following a 74-yard fumble return by Jordon Paschal.

Glaser finished the day 14-of-23 for 125 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception, while redshirt freshman Ryan Heastonled the Bears with 38 yards on nine rushes.

Sophomore Caleb Schaffitzel and junior Ryan Callenderposted career best days for the MSU defense, finishing with 17 and 10 tackles, respectively.

The Bears (0-2) will welcome Murray State to Plaster Field next Saturday (Sept. 15) to open their 2012 home slate. Tickets for 7:05 p.m. contest are available online at MissouriStateTix.com or by calling (417) 836-7678 or (888) 476-7849.

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