Banged up Bridgewater won’t change how Rutgers plays defense

By Matt Sugam

PISCATAWAY – Rutgers didn’t need Louisville head coach Charlie Strong to declare that his starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would play on Thursday night. The defense expected that to be the case despite Bridgewater suffering a fractured wrist on his non-throwing hand and a sprained ankle.

“He’s a warrior,” weak side linebacker Khaseem Greene said. “Played against the kid last year. Watched him this year. Even watching him come back in the overtime game and playing the second half with a broken wrist.

“Those things like that – the shot on his leg. The kid is a warrior. He’s their leader. Those guys follow behind him and we’re 100% expecting him to play and I know he’ll play.”

While he’ll play, he won’t be the same quarterback he usually is. No, Bridgewater is not a dual threat quarterback who makes defenses pay with his ability to run the football. He only runs when he has to.

But he is a mobile quarterback that Louisville likes to roll out and have throw on the run. However, his ability to do that will likely be hindered.

Still, that won’t change Rutgers’ preparation for Bridgewater.

“We’re going to prepare for him like we’ve seen him on tape,” safety Duron Harmon said. “That’s a guy that scrambles and makes plays.”

When healthy. But he’s not.  Which means there’s an opportunity for Rutgers to get after him early and often and get in his head.

“We’re going to have to play our defense. We’re an aggressive defense. We’re going to go after anybody no matter who it is,” middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais said, adding. “But he’s a fighter. It’s a tough kid. He’s real tough and we’ve got to stick to our game plan. If we go outside our game plan he will exploit us.”

A game plan that hasn’t seen any alteration despite Bridgewater’s status.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Beauharnais said. “We still have to keep him in the pocket because with a sprained ankle he’s still probably faster than some of our d-linemen still, so we still got to keep him in the pocket so nothing’s changed.”

However, Rutgers is prepared to change their game plan once they see if and how Bridgewater is inhibited once the game starts.

“We won’t really know until we get into the game what his status is, and we know he’s a very ‑‑ regardless of his status in the game, he’ll be a very dangerous football player,” head coach Kyle Flood said. “But I think as you get into the game, if you find he’s a little less mobile, probably means they won’t run him as much, and possibly your play calling could change a little bit defensively.”

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