- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Judging from his accuracy during much of Louisville’s spring game, Will Gardner isn’t worried about filling the huge void left by Teddy Bridgewater’s departure.

Gardner threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half, and Michael Dyer ran for two scores to help the Red squad rout the White 56-13.

Bobby Petrino’s first spring in his second stint as Louisville’s coach drew 27,500 for the Cardinals’ first night scrimmage in three years. His first-team offense proceeded to provide a promising look at life after Bridgewater, their star quarterback expected to be a first-round selection in next month’s NFL draft.

Gardner completed his first seven passes en route to finishing 32 of 37 for 542 yards - 356 by halftime.

“We had good pass protection and guys getting wide open,” Gardner said, “and when guys are wide open, you can’t miss them.”

Dyer, the former Auburn star, rushed for 99 yards on 10 carries for the Red, and added 51 yards and a 27-yard TD on four carries for the White.

James Quick caught five passes for 152 yards and a TD.

White team tailback L.J. Scott had 92 yards on 13 attempts.

The scrimmage was an important test run for the Cardinals and Petrino, who returned in January to the program he first led to prominence from 2003-06 before leaving for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and subsequent college stops at Arkansas and Western Kentucky. He replaced Charlie Strong, who took the Texas job.

Petrino was received favorably by fans curious to see if he can maintain Louisville’s success as it heads to an Atlantic Coast Conference featuring defending BCS champion Florida State and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Jameis Winston.

The coach’s main objective was determining whether Gardner, Kyle Bolin or senior transfer Brett Nelson will succeed Bridgewater - expected to be one of the top picks in next month’s NFL draft - and execute Petrino’s offensive philosophy.

Gardner, considered the front-runner after backing up Bridgewater last season, strengthened his credentials by displaying the same efficiency while leading the Red squad to 699 yards.

The redshirt sophomore’s second pass hit speedy sophomore Quick in stride a step ahead of coverage down the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown on the game’s third play. Gardner was also impressive throwing into tight spaces, hitting wideout DeVante Parker (10 catches, 109 yards), tight end Gerald Christian (8-126), Eli Rogers (6-109) and others with zip across the middle.

Gardner’s only mistake was a second-quarter interception by Chucky Williams, but he made a strong case to be under center this fall.

“It was good to see Will in command of the offense,” Petrino said. “I liked the way he carried himself. I liked the way he took charge of the huddle. He looked comfortable delivering the football, and for the most part, was very accurate with his throws.”

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