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Brohm throws for 353 yards as Louisville defeats West Virginia

Nov 3, 2006 - 4:40 AM LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- In a battle of offensive juggernauts with title aspirations, Louisville's defense and special teams provided the decisive spark.

The fifth-ranked Cardinals returned a fumble and a punt for touchdowns in a wild third quarter en route to a 44-34 victory over No. 3 West Virginia.

In just the second battle of top five teams in Big East Conference history, Brian Brohm passed for 353 yards and a touchdown for Louisville (8-0, 3-0 Big East), which is one of five remaining unbeaten teams in Division I-A.

"(Brohm) was awesome," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "To execute like that, with more than 350 yards, and with his focus on not only dropping back and passing but also with his checks and reads at the line, really says a lot about him."

With Louisville holding a 16-14 lead just over three minutes into the second half, defensive end Brandon Cox ripped the ball out of Mountaineers running back Steve Slaton's hands at the West Virginia 15 and linebacker Malik Jackson scooped it up and ran untouched into the end zone.

"The ball was just there. I just picked it up and ran," Jackson said. "We knew we had to fight to win and there was still more to play. It feels really good to help Louisville make a statement.

The Mountaineers' first drive of the second half ended on a fumble by Slaton, who ran for 156 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 74 yards. He suffered an apparent left hand injury on his second fumble and sat out his team's next possession - a three-and-out.

"Steve hit his funny bone and he tried to tough it out, I guess," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He didn't have much of a grip on the ball and the second fumble he shouldn't have been out there. He thought he'd be OK with it and he's not a fumbler. Eventually the feeling came back but it took a quarter for all of the strength to come back."

Punter Scott Kozlowski then shanked a 27-yarder that Trent Guy fielded on the fly and raced down the left sideline for a 40-yard TD and a 30-14 lead.

"I thought our defense did a nice job in the first half and held on in the second half," Petrino said. "The defensive touchdown and punt return touchdown were big for us."

"We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, some turnovers," Rodriguez said. "Our special teams were not very good tonight and when you do that against a good football team at their place, you're going to get beat."

West Virginia (7-1, 2-1) scored on its next two possessions but could not hold down the Louisville attack, which scored the next two times it touched the ball to take a 44-27 advantage with 10:19 remaining. The Mountaineers failed on a fourth down with 7:16 to play that virtually sealed their doom.

"It's certainly the biggest win for our coaching staff since we've been here, but there have been some other big ones for the program," Petrino said. "We have to make sure to keep everything in perspective. Now, our biggest game is next week at (undefeated) Rutgers."

Neither high-powered offense disappointed as the teams combined for 48 first downs and 1,008 yards of offense.

West Virginia, which entered leading the nation in rushing (319 yards per game) and fifth in scoring (40.8 points), got four rushing TDs from quarterback Pat White, who accounted for 347 yards. The slithery lefthander ran 23 times for 125 yards and completed 13-of-21 passes for 222 yards.

"(West Virginia) is very explosive. They have two players (Slaton and White) that are as good as anybody in the country," Petrino said. "That's why we had to stay aggressive on offense. We also put a lot of focus on the special teams and winning the kicking game, and that's what we did today."

Brohm, who still is suffering from a thumb injury that forced him to miss two games earlier this season, completed 19-of-26 passes.

"(My thumb) did great. I had it in the hand warmer," a smiling Brohm said. "It was no problem. I just needed a few weeks to get back into form."

Harry Douglas caught six passes for 116 yards and Mario Urrutia added six receptions and 113 yards for Louisville, which ranks second in the country in total offense (496.1) and fifth in scoring (38.7).

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