LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Louisville poured on the points, linebacker Brandon Johnson hoped the Cardinals' high-powered offense and opportunistic special teams would slow down.
Louisville struck quickly and often, beating Cincinnati 70-7 on Saturday to clinch its third Conference USA championship since 2000.
Montrell Jones caught two touchdowns and returned a punt for a score, Eric Shelton rushed for 158 yards and Kolby Smith had three short TD runs for Louisville, which reached 70 points for the first time since 1955 despite having the ball only 18:21.
The quick strikes never gave Johnson and the defense much of a breather.
"I told the guys after the game, "You guys don't know anything about ball control,' " he said. "I mean, three plays, touchdown; one play, touchdown; two plays, touchdown. But that's how our offense plays. What are you going to do."
Johnson was part of the problem. He returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Tiger Jones recovered another blocked punt in the end zone for Louisville, which accepted the league champion's automatic bid to the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl.
The Cardinals were unfazed by gusty winds and steady rain on Saturday, piling up 357 rushing yards and 491 total yards. Stefan LeFors, the nation's most efficient passer, had a quiet day in his final home game, going 8-of-11 for 79 yards with a TD pass. LeFors didn't mind, even with his deaf parents watching from the stands.
"I wasn't worried. The defense was making plays and the special teams were coming up big," LeFors said. "It was a fun game to be in."
Cincinnati, which had a four-game win streak snapped, mustered 186 yards without senior quarterback Gino Guidugli, who sat out with a broken bone in his throwing hand.
The Bearcats taunted the Cardinals by dancing on their midfield logo before the game. Louisville noticed, then commenced the blowout.
On the first play from scrimmage, Shelton broke a tackle and outran three defenders for an 80-yard touchdown, Louisville's longest scoring play of the season.
"There was no way they were going to come into our house and disrespect us," LeFors said. "We took it to heart and dominated."
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino emphasized a fast start all last week at practice.
"You see a little blood, you've got to seize it and take advantage of it," Petrino said. "We took advantage of it."
The Bearcats had four turnovers and 50 total yards at halftime.