PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Banged-up Teddy Bridgewater came off the bench to throw two-second half touchdown passes, and John Wallace kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left to send Louisville to the BCS with a 20-17 victory against Rutgers on Thursday night.
In a game between one team headed to the Big Ten and another bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East handed out its second-to-last bid to a school that entered the league during its last massive rebuild in 2005 and watched its athletic program blossom.
The Cardinals will be going to the BCS for the second time, first since 2006. Either the Orange or Sugar Bowl will be the destination.
Louisville (10-2, 5-2) will share this Big East title with Rutgers (9-3, 5-2), Syracuse and possibly even Cincinnati, but the BCS bid will go to the Cardinals. The BCS standings will be used to break the tie and there is no doubt Louisville, with the best overall record in the conference, will be on top.
Bridgewater didn't start a week after getting roughed up in a loss to Connecticut. He broke his left wrist and sprained his right ankle. He entered for the first time in the second quarter and finished with 263 yards passing and threw a pair of TD passes in the third quarter to wipe out a 14-3 deficit.
James Burgess picked off a pass that bounced off Timmy Wright's hands with 3:53 left in Rutgers territory, and Bridgewater hit Andrell Smith on a slant for 30 yards to put Louisville in field goal range. Wallace booted through the short kick to give Louisville the lead.
Rutgers' last chance ended when Gary Nova threw deep, but his receiver stopped short, and Terrell Floyd made an over the shoulder interception with 1:06 left. Nova bent over and grabbed his helmet in disgust.
The Scarlet Knights, the only team that has played in the Big East since it started playing football in 1991, probably will have only one more shot to win the conference for the first time before moving to the Big Ten.
Louisville can add one of the biggest wins in school history to an already memorable week for the school, which was in Conference USA just 10 years ago. The Cardinals clinched a spot in the Bowl Championship Series a day after announcing they were joining the ACC.
Rutgers was up 14-3 at half after Nova hooked up with his big receivers for two long TD passes - an 85-yarder to Brandon Coleman and a 68-yard play by Mark Harrison.
The Scarlet Knights were poised for another big play in the third quarter when a fake field goal turned into a touchdown pass from holder J.T. Tartacoff to DC Jefferson. It would have made the score 21-3, but an illegal man down field penalty wiped out the play and Rutgers punted from the Louisville 31.
Everything changed from there.
Bridgewater and the Cardinals put together a 90-yard drive that took 14 plays and nearly eight minutes and cut the lead to 14-10 when the quarterback flipped a pass to Jeremy Wright, who scooted 14 yards for a touchdown.
The Cardinals needed only 16 more seconds to take the lead.
Burgess stuck kick returner Jeremy Dearing in the chest, forcing a fumble recovered by Calvin Pryor. Bridgewater went right to work, floating a perfect deep ball to DeVante Parker for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Just like that, it was 17-14 and Scarlet Knights fans fell silent.
Bridgewater had the Cardinals on the move again in the fourth quarter when a high pass bounced off the hands of Eli Rogers and into the arms of Rutgers' Lorenzo Waters, who returned the interception to the Louisville 42.
The Scarlet Knights turned the turnover into Nick Borgese's tying 38-yard field goal with 7:48 left.
Fans waved white towels, and AC/DC blared from the loud speakers. But that was the last big play Rutgers could muster.
Louisville ended up tossing oranges in the air when it was over and exchanging high-fives with a small group of its fans in a corner of the stadium.
The Cardinals might end up in New Orleans instead of Miami, depending on how the rest of championship weekend plays out. Surely, they will be fine with either.