The Cards lost a tough game against Pittsburgh in front of a sold out house Saturday. Coming into the game the Cards had an opportunity to stay atop the Big East in a conference title hunt and clinch bowl eligibility with their sixth win.
The Cards did not bring their best game to the field in a game that they could have won. The offense struggled to move the ball and the defense gave up 200 yards on the ground. Pitt scored on their opening drive and carried the lead throughout the game.
The game seemed just out of the Cards reach all day, but there were some positives to take away. Teddy Bridgewater connected with nine different receivers for plays of 10 yards or more and continued his solid play at quarterback. He threw one interception early, but carried almost the entire offensive load. Bridgewater ran the ball more effectively Saturday than he has all year, using his feet to gain 54 yards on 10 carries. A bunch of his rushing attempts came because of Pitt’s coverage down field, but the Cards also called the QB’s number regularly with draws and some options.
We haven’t seen Teddy run the ball a lot lately and it was good to see him make some positive plays with his feet. Unfortunately his 54 yards led the team on the ground. Victor Anderson had 12 touches for 49 yards rushing in his final game at PJCS.
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The Cards looked to be gaining some momentum late in the fourth quarter and with the score 14-7 in favor of Pittsburgh the defense came up with a huge three-and-out. Pitt came out on fourth down and punted it away, but Eli Rogers muffed the punt and Pitt recovered it. That play took the breath out of the Cards fans and led to a Pitt touchdown that all but sealed the deal.
Over the past three weeks the Cards have found different ways to win, getting the ball to bounce in their favor, but today Pitt caught that break.
Third down was not a good down for the Cards Saturday. Pitt converted 7-14 third downs and the Cards converted just 3-11. The Cards defense has struggled on third down this season, but the real problem Saturday was the offenses inability to get into manageable third down situations. The offense went with the run on first down for little gain most of the game and often found themselves facing third and long.
Scott Radcliff caught a 25-yard pass from Bridgewater with 12 seconds left to make it a seven-point game and the Cards recovered the onside kick. It was too late for the home team however.
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The Cardinals have two games left on the schedule to gain bowl eligibility. Next week the Cards travel to Connecticut and need to win there or the following week at South Florida to get to six wins and bowl eligibility. Can the Cards win one or both of these games? Yes, but they will need to play well and catch some breaks to do it.
It has been an up and down year for the Cards and although they are down this week, next week could be completely different. Follow StraitCards this week for updates and a preview of the Cards match up with Connecticut.