Louisville entered the contest coming off a bye-week and were heavily favored against the Sun Belt's Blue Raiders, but costly mistakes early in the game by the U of L special teams helped MTSU jump out to a 10-3 lead.
The Cardinals scored on the games first possession and took a 3-0 lead on Art Carmody's short field goal. However, MTSU's Damon Nickson returned the ensuing kick-off 88 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. A few moments later, Louisville's Pat Carter fumbled the ball on a punt return deep in the Cardinals territory that MTSU recovered. MTSU, however, was forced to settle for a field goal and a 10-3 lead.
Trailing by a touchdown and struggling offensively, Louisville turned to Mario Urrutia to provide a spark.
Instead, the 6'6 sophomore provided fireworks for Petrino's offense, taking a short slant pass from Hunter Cantwell for a 68 yard score to even the score at 10 early in the second quarter. After coming up short on two possessions in the red zone and settling for a pair of Carmody field goals for a 16-10 lead, Cantwell and Urrutia struck again.
"We didn't execute very well in the first half, but we hung in there and got the job done," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We sputtered here and there, but I thought we got better on offense. It certainly was a step forward."
and 3 TD's. (AP Photo)
On third down with less than one minute to play in the first half, Cantwell hit Urrutia on a fade route in the corner of the endzone to give the Cardinals a 23-10 lead and momentum heading into halftime.
"I was really happy with the way Mario played tonight," Petrino said. "He gave our entire team a lift with his play."
After the break, Louisville controlled the action and steadily put the game out of reach. The Cardinals scored 14 unanswered second half points to take a, 37-10, lead before MTSU scored late in the fourth quarter to narrow the margin to 37-17.
Louisville answered that Blue Raiders score quickly when freshman running back Anthony Allen scored from 16 yards out with 32 seconds remaining in the contest.
Louisville gained 526 yards total offense, while the Cardinal defense once again was outstanding, limiting Middle Tennessee to just 230 yards, 32 on the ground.
Cantwell was solid again, completing 17-32 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw one interception, his second of the season. Urrutia caught four passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Harry Douglas made five catches for 61 yards. Allen led Louisville with 7 carries for 70 yards and one score.
Cantwell improved to 2-0 as a starter this season after replacing injured starting quarterback Brian Brohm. Brohm will begin throwing Tuesday and told ESPN before kick-off that he'll try to play next week at home.
"I'm going to give it a shot for the Cincinnati game," Brohm said.
Louisville opens Big East action next Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium against Cincinnati.
"They're a good football team," Petrino said. "We spent a lot of time during the bye-week preparing for them."