7:45 PM ET, December 3, 2005
Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Michael Bush wasn't rusty, just cold.
It didn't take him long to heat up.
Bush rushed for three touchdowns in his first appearance since missing two games with a sprained foot and Hunter Cantwell threw for another score to lead No. 16 Louisville to a 30-20 win over Connecticut on Saturday night. The game-time temperature at Rentschler Field was a chilly 30 degrees, a rude greeting for a runner with a tender left foot.
"I was nervous because it was so cold. I only had on one pair of socks," Bush said. "All 10 of my toes was numb. But once the quarterback says "hike" and all those guys are trying to get you, all that pain goes away."
UConn had a hard time getting to Bush all night.
The Big East rushing leader finished with 121 yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season and his 23 touchdowns rushing this year set a single-season school record.
The Gator Bowl-bound Cardinals (9-2, 5-2) were without Big East passing leader Brian Brohm, who went down for the season with a knee injury last week. But they didn't miss a beat.
Cantwell, a walk-on making his first start, threw for 271 yards, completing 16 of 25 attempts. He admitted he had a few jitters to start.
"To say I wasn't a little nervous would be lying," Cantwell said. "It's something I've been working towards my whole life, so it was good to get in there and get my feet wet."
The Cardinals closed out their inaugural season in the Big East with a five-game winning streak. They also ensured that the Huskies (5-6, 2-5) had their first losing season since becoming a full Division I-A program four years ago. The loss also ended UConn's hopes of becoming bowl eligible for the third straight year.
The Louisville defense recovered four of UConn's five fumbles and two of them set up scores.
Bush scored twice in the first half. His first touchdown, a 5-yard run, capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive set up by Cantwell's 25-yard pass to Jason Tinch.
His second score -- a 1-yard run -- came four plays after the Cardinals recovered a muffed UConn punt on the Huskies 12 and put Louisville up 14-7.
"It was good to see Michael back running the ball," coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's certainly not 100 percent but he made up his mind he was going to play."
The Cardinals extended the lead to 21-7 on Cantwell's 46-yard touchdown pass to Mario Urrutia with 2:56 left in the half. The freshman quarterback had just 153 total yards passing entering the game and exceeded that by halftime.
Louisville tacked on another score early in the third quarter on Bush's 5-yard run. The Cardinals recovered another UConn fumble late in the period, leading to Art Carmody's 38-yard field goal as time expired in the period with Louisville up 30-14.
The Huskies also went with a backup quarterback in D.J. Hernandez, who got the nod after starter Matt Bonislawski reinjured his collarbone in last week's win over South Florida. Hernandez threw for all three of UConn's scores, his longest a 57-yard TD pass to Nollis Dewar with 4:21 left in the game.
George Stripling finished with 67 yards rushing for Louisville. Urrutia was the leading receiver with four catches for 94 yards.
Hernandez also led the UConn ground game with 49 yards on 18 rushes. Dewar had a team-high 89 yards receiving for UConn.
The Cardinals will face an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. The preseason favorite to win the conference this year, fell short in their bid for a BCS berth with losses to South Florida and West Virginia.
"We kind of had expectations a little high, but things happen for a reason," Bush said. "But finishing 9-2 is a great season. A lot of teams can't even make it to a bowl game, so that's pretty good."
The Cardinals also spoiled the final game for UConn's 13 seniors, a group that helped the Huskies build their Division I-A program and win their first bowl game last year.
"I am extremely disappointed for our seniors that weren't able to get this game and extend their season," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "Our kids competed hard and played hard, but playing hard doesn't get you what you want. And what we wanted was a win."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Art Carmody's 38-yard field goal as time expired in the third quarter put Louisville up 30-14.
Gameball goes to... Michael Bush. The Louisville RB returned to the lineup after an injury and rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 23: Bush's 23 rushing touchdowns this year set a single-season school record.