Bears Score Late, Still Trail No. 23 Louisville at Half, 18-7
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The combination of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a stingy defense proved to be too much for the Missouri State Bears to overcome in the first half of Saturday's non-conference matchup, as the 23rd-ranked Cardinals took an 18-7 lead into intermission.
Bridgewater completed 21-of-26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown, while the U of L defense limited the Bears to 111 yards of total offense and just five first downs in the opening stanza at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
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 Dotson on 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.
Louisville 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 Lee pounced 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.
Glaser finished the half 10-of-16 for 87 yards, while junior lineback Ryan Callender posted a career-high 10 tackles for the Bears in the half.