5:00 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Robertson Stadium, HOUSTON, TX
HOUSTON (AP) -- Louisville hardly needs any help putting points on the scoreboard. Houston gave the Cardinals a little assistance anyway.
The Cardinals (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, aided by a few late Houston gaffes, to turn a close game into a rout with a 65-27 victory on Saturday night. Perhaps trying to impress poll voters and improve its grade in the Bowl Championship Series standings, Louisville added a final touchdown on Deriontae Taylor's 6-yard run with 1:47 left.
"They were really challenging us with a chance to score," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. His players "were really excited on the sidelines about getting the ball back and felt like we could go score. The turnovers really helped a lot."
Stefan LeFors threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns and Eric Shelton rushed for three more scores to help the high-powered Cardinals clinch at least a share of the Conference USA title.
But the Cardinals are dreaming of even more. Of course, dream is the appropriate word.
Ranked 10th in this week's BCS standings, Louisville (8-0, 6-1) has only a slim chance of getting an invite to one of the four big-money bowls. Even with wins over Cincinnati and Tulane in their final two regular-season games, the Cardinals will still likely be shut out of the BCS.
"All we can do is keep winning," LeFors said.
Louisville, which boasts the nation's No. 1 offense, had little trouble moving the ball against the hapless Cougars. The Cardinals rolled to 666 yards of offense, averaging 9.7 yards a play, and scored more than 50 points for the fifth time this season.
LeFors, the nation's leader in pass efficiency, completed his first 10 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, both to tight end Adam McCauley. He turned over the offense to freshman Brian Brohm early in the second period.
Brohm responded with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Tinch on his second series, giving the Cardinals a 28-10 lead.
The Cougars (3-8, 3-5) kept chipping away at the Cardinals' lead in the second half.
On third-and-11 from the Louisville 40, Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb bobbled the snap before gathering it in and throwing a screen pass to Vincent Marshall. The 5-foot-9 Marshall started for the sideline, squirted through a few tacklers and sprinted to the end zone to close Louisville's lead to 35-27 just 48 seconds into the fourth period.
The sparse crowd at Robertson Stadium actually got into the game a little bit, finally having something to cheer about after Marshall's score.
"It was a little rough in the middle," Petrino said. "They have a unique offense ... one of the hardest to prepare for."
But the Cardinals scored 23 unanswered points in little more than four minutes, capitalizing on a safety after Houston snapped the ball out of the end zone and an interception deep in Houston territory.
"When they got close," LeFors said, "we knew that we just had to go back out and score more points and just keep having fun."
Shelton scored his third touchdown on a 2-yard run following Kolb's turnover, giving Louisville a 58-27 lead midway through the fourth.
LeFors completed 18 of 22 passes, five to Tinch for 148 yards and a touchdown. Montrell Jones had four catches for 93 yards and J.R. Russell added seven receptions for 99 yards.
Not all the Cougars were so impressed with LeFors.
"He's not as good as this stat sheet says. This (sheet) lies, if you ask me," Houston cornerback Stanford Routt said. "There were a lot of times when we had a blown coverage here and a missed assignment."
The defeat was yet another disappointment for the Cougars in their second season under coach Art Briles.
A year after going 7-6 and earning its first bowl appearance in seven years, Houston was overwhelmed in its third game against a Top 10 team this season. The Cougars also lost to No. 2 Oklahoma and then-No. 4 Miami. Add in Saturday's game, and the Cougars were outscored 166-53 by their three toughest foes.
"That's not a task you want to have unless you're really at the top of your game," Briles said. "When you're a team trying to find your identity, that's not the way to find it."
Kolb finished 29-of-44 for 375 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Marshall had eight catches for 152 yards and a score.
"You look at the scoreboard and it looks like we didn't do that good," Marshall said. "But it always came down to a couple of plays."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-10||5-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||1-4|
|TD||11:22||ADAM MCCAULEY 31 YD PASS FROM STEFAN LEFORS (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 72 yards.
|TD||8:43||LIONEL GATES 3 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 38 yards.
|TD||7:03||ANTHONY EVANS 1 YD RUN (DUSTIN BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 43 yards.
|TD||5:31||ADAM MCCAULEY 2 YD PASS FROM STEFAN LEFORS (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 84 yards.
|FG||12:05||DUSTIN BELL 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 53 yards.
|TD||10:20||JOSHUA TINCH 74 YD PASS FROM BRIAN BROHM (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||0:00||DUSTIN BELL 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 59 yards.
|TD||11:20||RYAN GILBERT 15 YD PASS FROM KEVIN KOLB (DUSTIN BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||5:12||ERIC SHELTON 8 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 71 yards.
|TD||14:12||VINCENT MARSHALL 40 YD PASS FROM KEVIN KOLB (DUSTIN BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 40 yards.
|TD||11:50||ERIC SHELTON 1 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||8:53||GARY BARNIDGE 9 YD PASS FROM STEFAN LEFORS (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 60 yards.
|TD||7:37||ERIC SHELTON 1 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 34 yards.
|TD||1:47||DERIONTE TAYLOR 6 YD RUN (ARTHUR CARMODY KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 65 yards.