LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- With thousands of fans on the field,
swarming all around Brian Brohm and chanting "BCS! BCS!" after
perhaps the biggest win in school history, the Louisville
quarterback smiled and took in the whole satisfying scene.
"It's been a dream since I was a kid for Louisville to be on a
stage like this," Brohm said.
If Brohm and the fifth-ranked Cardinals keep playing the way
they did Thursday night in a 44-34 victory over No. 3 West
Virginia, the stakes will only get bigger.
Welcome to the national championship hunt, Louisville.
Brohm threw for 354 yards and a touchdown, and the Cardinals
took advantage of key mistakes by West Virginia to earn the
signature win they've so desperately sought under coach Bobby
Petrino and stake their claim as a serious contender for the Bowl
Championship Series title game.
The win will likely lift Louisville (8-0, 3-0 Big East) to at
least fourth in next week's BCS poll -- it was fifth this week -- and
could be the springboard the Cardinals need to propel them into the
national championship game if they manage to run the table.
"I think we deserve to, but that's out of our hands," Brohm
Besides, Brohm knows there's still plenty of work to do before
the Cardinals can start thinking about playing in Glendale, Ariz.,
on Jan. 8. First, they play at No. 15 Rutgers (8-0, 3-0) next
"Now the biggest game in Louisville history is this Rutgers
game coming up," Brohm said.
West Virginia quarterback Pat White ran for 125 yards and four
touchdowns and added 222 yards through the air. But he couldn't
overcome three WVU turnovers and a relentless Louisville offense
that racked up 468 total yards and kept the Mountaineers on their
heels all night.
"If you (turn the ball over) against a good football team at
their place, you're going to get beat," West Virginia coach Rich
The Cardinals avenged last year's triple-overtime loss to West
Virginia (7-1, 2-1) by returning a fumble and a punt for touchdowns
during a pivotal three-minute stretch in the third quarter. Then,
they delivered on their offseason motto to "finish," born during
last year's loss to the Mountaineers, a game Louisville led by 17
in the fourth quarter.
"We have been working on that ever since last year, working on
that `finish' attitude and it came through for us," linebacker
Malik Jackson said.
Heisman Trophy hopeful Steve Slaton ran for 156 yards and a
touchdown for West Virginia, but fumbled on consecutive snaps in
the third quarter -- apparently bothered by weakness in his left
arm. Jackson returned the second one 13 yards for a score that gave
the Cardinals a 23-14 lead, and Trent Guy added a 40-yard punt
return four plays later, pushing Louisville's advantage to 30-16
with 9:23 left in the third.
And this time, there would be no miracle comeback.
Though White led the Mountaineers on a pair of touchdown drives
to get them back in it, the Cardinals responded each time with a
score of their own. Brohm connected with Mario Urrutia on a 7-yard
TD pass and Anthony Allen added a 5-yard touchdown run to keep the
Cardinals safely in front.
"We had to stay aggressive and keep scoring," Petrino said.
"We wanted to be aggressive and make sure to keep attacking. Our
players like it that way."
Set back by their own mistakes, the Mountaineers simply couldn't
keep pace as their school-record 14-game winning streak ended while
a packed Papa John's Stadium crowd -- clad mostly in black T-shirts
that read "Beat WVU" -- stormed the field.
Urrutia finished with six catches for 113 yards and Harry
Douglas caught six passes for 116 yards as Louisville seemingly did
whatever it wanted on offense.
"You've got to go out there and get three and out and we didn't
do that," West Virginia linebacker Jay Henry said.
The Cardinals punted just three times and scored on all but four
of their possessions as they extended their home winning streak to
16 straight and beat West Virginia for the first time since 1990.
"This is unbelievable. It's the best feeling ever," Louisville
center Eric Wood said. "I hope everyone is thinking that
Louisville is for real this year and we are going to be a national
title contender for a while to come."
West Virginia finished with 540 yards of total offense but put
the ball on the ground six times, committed seven penalties and
appeared a step behind the Cardinals most of the night.
Neither team looked comfortable playing on a national stage
early on. The Cardinals dropped passes, tripped over their own feet
in the open field and settled for field goals deep in West Virginia
territory. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, couldn't hold onto the
Louisville managed a 16-14 lead at halftime behind Art Carmody's
three field goals and a 10-yard touchdown run by Allen as the
Cardinals controlled the clock and did a good job of keeping Slaton
and White off the field.
"We weren't getting frustrated because we knew we were moving
the ball," Brohm said.