Revenge best served cold

Published November 19, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Cardinals have their revenge, and new hope at winning a Big East championship.

Fourteen months after USF stunned Louisville with a 45-14 upset in Tampa, the No. 10 Cardinals came up with a dominating home win of their own, moving the ball with ease in a 31-8 win before a sellout crowd of 40,348 at Cardinal Stadium.

"They beat us pretty good at their place, so coming out and getting this win means a lot," said Louisville receiver Harry Douglas, who caught two touchdowns.

Cincinnati's 30-11 upset of No. 7 Rutgers would have kept alive the Bulls' slim hopes of getting back into the Big East title race, but that ended with the Cardinals' win. Even coach Jim Leavitt had to stop himself from any what-ifs after a night when his team didn't look worthy of such consideration.

"A win here would have put us right in the championship race," Leavitt said. "But how can we think about something like that the way we got hammered? We're not in that deal. We've played some good football this year, but tonight we didn't. I'm disappointed. I thought we'd battle better in the second half."

The magic of last year's upset was nowhere to be found, as USF struggled to make plays on offense. The Bulls needed a 44-yard touchdown from Matt Grothe to receiver Amp Hill with 5:53 to play to avoid the first regular-season shutout in the program's 10-year history.

"We didn't play very well and we lost," said Grothe, who was sacked six times and had more than half of his 237 passing yards in the fourth quarter. "They came out and put it down our throats. They came to play and we didn't."

The Cardinals offense, which came in ranked in the top six nationally in yards and touchdowns, was barely held below their average in both categories. Quarterback Brian Brohm threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Allen, a freshman running back from Jesuit, ran for two scores.

USF had a chance to strike first in the opening quarter, when Grothe threw a 22-yard pass to Taurus Johnson, then found Amarri Jackson for 43 to the Louisville 7. From there, the offensive stalled, and freshman Delbert Alvarado missed a wind-blown 37-yard field goal, the first of two missed kicks.

"We can't play like that and win," Leavitt said. "At least we were battling in the first half. The second half really disappointed me. We couldn't get anything going offensively at all. It was sad."

Louisville answered with an 80-yard drive, helped by a personal foul against defensive Jarriett Buie. An incomplete pass would have left Louisville with third-and-10 from the USF 35, but Buie was called for a hit on Brohm. Five plays later, Brohm found Douglas open for a 4-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.

USF's defense lost one of its best players, middle linebacker Ben Moffitt, on that drive, sidelined by a bruised right knee. He played sparingly the rest of the way, and Louisville made the most of his absence. Moffitt said he expects to be able to play in Saturday's season finale at No. 8 West Virginia.

In the third quarter, on third and goal from the USF 5, Brohm found Douglas again across the middle uncovered for another touchdown.

Last year, USF picked up the biggest win in the program's history against Louisville, beating the then-No. 9 Cardinals in the Big East debut for both teams. But Saturday looked more like the last time the two teams met in Louisville, a 41-9 Cardinals romp that represents USF's most lopsided loss in the last four seasons.

It doesn't get easier for the Bulls, who next face another prolific offense in West Virginia.

"If we play like that, it'll be a tough one," Leavitt said. "We're going to have to find a way, or it'll be a long day."

Greg Auman can be reached at 813 226-3346 or auman@sptimes.com.