12:00 PM ET, December 2, 2006
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Bobby Petrino doesn't have to worry about lobbying the powers that be in the Bowl Championship Series of Louisville's worthiness anymore.
Thanks West Virginia.
The Cardinals' 48-17 win over Connecticut on Saturday, combined with the Mountaineers' 41-39 triple overtime victory over Rutgers on Saturday night handed the sixth-ranked Cardinals the Big East title, the automatic berth into the lucrative BCS and a likely invitation to the Orange Bowl against ACC champion Wake Forest on Jan. 2.
Not bad for a team that lost Heisman Trophy candidate running back Michael Bush in the season's first game, star quarterback Brian Brohm for two-plus games in the middle of the year and a shot at a national championship in a nightmarish loss to Rutgers on Nov. 9.
"We went out on the field and played as well as we could," Petrino said. "We certainly feel like we deserve to be there."
The Cardinals (11-1, 6-1 Big East) played like it against the overmatched Huskies (4-8, 1-6). Brohm threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns as Louisville clinched at least a share of the Big East championship. Harry Douglas caught five passes for 149 yards and two scores and Anthony Allen added two touchdowns on the ground as Louisville took control early and made quick work of Connecticut.
But Louisville's school-record 11th regular season win might not have been enough to break into the BCS if the Mountaineers didn't do their part. Had Rutgers won, the Scarlet Knights would have taken the league crown and forced the Cardinals to hope for an unlikely at-large berth.
Instead, the Cardinals will be heading to a BCS game for the first time.
"The resilience of this team is what makes it so great," Brohm said. "We were able to put whatever it is behind us and move on."
Just in case the Cardinals needed style points, Brohm provided plenty. He was nearly flawless, completing 20 of 28 passes and leading the Cardinals to scores on all but two drives before exiting following his final touchdown pass, a 32-yard strike to Gary Barnidge midway through the fourth quarter.
As Barnidge celebrated the score, a fan threw an orange onto the field as the Papa John's Stadium crowd roared.
"We've done a great job all year, adversity we've been able to overcome it," Brohm said. "Right now, we're playing great football. I think we're peaking."
The victory extended Louisville's home winning streak to 18 straight, the second-longest in the country, and it looked a lot like the 17 that came before it. The Cardinals rolled up 570 yards of offense, only punted once and never really let the Huskies into the game.
"Our whole offense the last couple of games is going like we were playing early in the year," Douglas said. "We're really coming on."
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"Things happened today, it was things that took place all season long," said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall. "I don't think we played our best, but I think Louisville had a lot to do with that."
Brohm's legs proved to be nearly as valuable as his arm in the early going. He ran for 21 yards on the game's first play to start a drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Allen. A botched punt return by Jajuan Spillman allowed the Huskies to pull within 7-3 on a 21-yard field goal by Tony Ciaravino, but it would be the closest Connecticut would get.
Brohm hit Douglas for a beautiful 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Cardinals up 17-3. After a 47-yard run by Jones set up a touchdown plunge by Lou Allen allowed the Huskies to make it 17-10, Douglas and Brohm hooked up again, this time from 25 yards out. Art Carmody added his third field goal of the day shortly before half to put the Cardinals up 27-10 at the break.
It was more of the same in the third quarter, as Louisville converted two fourth downs on its first drive of the second half, a drive Brohm capped with a 5 yard toss to Brock Bolen.
Barnidge's 32-yard catch and run in the fourth erased any doubt of Louisville's dominance, though the crowd appealed for more even after Brohm made his way to the sidelines, booing when the Cardinals ran the ball in the final minutes to run out the clock.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Brian Brohm laced up his cleats. The junior QB led Louisville to a share of the Big East title with a rout of the Huskies.
Gameball goes to... Brohm. Louisville's signal caller completed 20 of 28 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. He also was the team's third-leading rusher.
Stat of the game... 10, 29: The Cardinals controlled the ball and the clock. Louisville picked up 29 first downs to UConn's 10.