Sunday, September 21, 2003

Louisville 42, UTEP 14

New faces lead Cards to victory; Bush's long run 'pumped team up'

The Associated Press

Texas-El Paso quarterback Orlando Cruz is dragged down by Louisville defenders Rod Day (40) and Josh Minkins.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
LOUISVILLE - Louisville fans have had nine months to get to know first-year coach Bobby Petrino. On Saturday, they got their first looks at many of the program's other new faces.

Stefan LeFors threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns in his first start at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday as Louisville easily moved to 3-0 with a 42-14 win over the winless Miners.

Running backs Lionel Gates and Eric Shelton and 6-foot-5, 350-pound offensive lineman Kurt Quarterman all had 1-yard touchdown runs for the Cardinals, who have scored in every quarter this season.

The lopsided outcome gave Petrino a chance to use several reserves, including all-purpose freshman Michael Bush and redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Rascati.

Bush, a former record-setting quarterback at nearby Louisville Male High School, turned a swing pass into a 56-yard gain in the first quarter. LeFors finished the drive with a five-yard TD pass to tight end Ronnie Ghent.

"I thought my long run kind of pumped the team up," said Bush, who rushed for 1,581 yards in high school.

Bush got his first career completion on a fake punt in the second quarter, hitting Brent Johnson over the middle for a 21-yard gain. Bush has told Petrino he wants to play quarterback, but Petrino has emphasized patience.

"He told me, 'Don't rush it, go with the flow.' That's what I'm going on now," said Bush, who finished 2-of-5 for 31 passing yards. "I know that every time I stepped on the field today, (UTEP) would say, 'There's 19.' You can't do better than that."

Bush's pass to Johnson set up Quarterman's unlikely 1-yard touchdown run that put the Cardinals up 28-7.

"I didn't know I was going to get the ball," Quarterman said. "(Louisville offensive line) Coach Summers came to me Wednesday and said, 'I've got a surprise for you. You're going to run the ball.' I thought it was a joke."

Rascati, ahead of Bush on the Louisville quarterback depth chart, relieved LeFors midway through the third quarter. He completed all four of his passes and scrambled for a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"I knew before the game started, I was probably going to get out there," Rascati said. "I was a little nervous, but once I threw my first pass, I looked at it like a high school game."

Howard Jackson rushed for 118 yards for the Miners (0-4), who lost their ninth straight game and their 17th straight road game.

Louisville faced its first deficit of the year when UTEP receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins scored on a 16-yard run 3:11 into the game.

"It was good for us to be behind, to see how we're going to react. That's always good for you," Petrino said.

It didn't last long.

On UTEP's next possession, Louisville linebacker Rod Day intercepted an Orlando Cruz pass and returned it to the Miners' 15-yard line. LeFors found Joshua Tinch wide open in the end zone for the tying touchdown with 9:48 left in the first quarter.

"They were 0-3 and we thought we were going to roll over them," Tinch said. "We still had to come out and play at our level."

Gates' TD run made it 35-7, after a 10-play, 89-yard drive that opened the third quarter.

Jordan Palmer, the younger brother of last year's Heisman Trophy winner and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, had a six-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Gonzales with 22 seconds left.

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