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Cantwell powers Louisville rout of Middle Tennessee

NASHVILLE -- Mario Urrutia's advice to Hunter Cantwell was
simple.

"I'm 6-6, so just throw it up and give me a chance," Urrutia
told the Louisville quarterback.

After his 134-yard, two-touchdown performance in No. 8
Louisville's 44-17 win over Middle Tennessee on Friday night, Urrutia
won't have to tell Cantwell twice.

Urrutia's highlight-reel touchdowns gave the Cardinals the spark
they needed as Louisville
improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1993.

Cantwell finished with a career-high 340 yards and three
touchdowns, and showed some poise after the Blue Raiders rattled
him early.

"Hunter got better in the game, I think that's one thing that
will really help us down the road," said coach Bobby Petrino. "He
started throwing the ball well [and] Mario Urrutia gave us a big
lift. Not only with the plays he made, the big catches and the
touchdowns, but the energy and his leadership and his emotion."

The Blue Raiders (3-3) dropped to 0-11 against ranked opponents,
but made the Cardinals work for the win.

Middle Tennessee led 10-3 after an 88-yard kickoff return by
Damon Nickson and Colby Smith's 23-yard field goal.

The seven-point deficit matched Louisville's largest of the
season. Middle Tennessee's lead almost grew to 10 points late in
the first quarter, but Smith's 47-yard field goal attempt clanged
off the left upright.

That seemed to wake up the Cardinals, who tied the game two
plays later when Urrutia caught a quick slant from Cantwell and
turned it into a 68-yard touchdown.

"I definitely think people underestimate my speed, but once
they get on the field, they find out," Urrutia said.

Two field goals by Art Carmody pushed Louisville's lead to 16-10
before Urrutia and Cantwell hooked up again on a beautiful 25-yard
touchdown with just eight seconds left in the half. Cantwell threw
the ball to the left corner of the end zone, and the 6-foot-6
Urrutia outjumped two Blue Raiders for the score.

"You can get away with things that you normally can't with
other receivers because of Mario's height, his speed and the stride
that he has," Cantwell said. "He just brings that all to the
table."

The game was played at LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee
Titans, as part of a three-game series between the two schools. The
crowd of 32,797 was a record for a Middle Tennessee home game,
thanks to thousands of Louisville fans making the three-hour trip
to Nashville.

Even with all the red in the stands, it took a while for the
Cardinals to feel at home, as the Blue Raiders contained
Louisville's running game early and pressured Cantwell into an
erratic opening quarter.

At one point he missed five straight passes and fell awkwardly
on his left knee after being hit while throwing. Cantwell slowly
pulled himself up and walked to the sideline.

"My knee bent really weird, and I was like, 'Oh no, this is not
good,"' Cantwell said. "It was sore for a little bit, but I got
back up on it and it was fine."

That was good news for the Cardinals, who are already playing
without starting quarterback Brian Brohm. He injured his right
(throwing) hand in the win over Miami on Sept. 16.

Cantwell eventually got on track, and the Louisville defense
made sure Middle Tennessee wouldn't capitalize on a rare national
television appearance. The Blue Raiders managed just 263 yards of
total offense.

"What are we, the 100th team in the country and they're the No.
8 team in the country?" Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill
said. "I'm disappointed, but I thought our guys fought their tails
off."

Middle Tennessee quarterback Clint Marks completed 17 of 33
passes for 167 yards and a late touchdown, but had trouble
generating offense when the Blue Raiders moved into Louisville
territory.

Nickson finished with a school-record 187 yards on kickoff
returns and added an interception, but the Blue Raiders converted
just six of 17 third-down attempts and had no answer for
Louisville's high-powered attack.

Despite rolling up 526 yards of offense, Petrino said there's
room for improvement. The running game sputtered until freshman
Anthony Allen gave it a kick-start in the second half, rushing for
70 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. And the offense had to
settle for field goals three times after moving deep into Middle
Tennessee territory.

"We're running the ball sometimes to spots we're not supposed
to," Petrino said. "The quarterback has a lot of responsibility
in our running game and he did improve as the game went on. ...
There's no question we have a lot of things to work on."