The Cardinals held Indiana State to 101 total yards - the lowest by an opponent in nearly nine years - as Louisville slammed the Sycamores 30-10 in front of 39,344 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Victor Anderson and Bilal Powell combined to rush for 169 yards and three touchdowns, while new quarterback Justin Burke passed for 223 yards in an uneven debut. But it didn't matter because the Cards' defense, much-maligned last season, turned in a solid performance.
Louisville, which ranked 110 out of 119 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in turnover margin in 2008, forced four miscues and held Indiana State to the fewest yards by a foe since Grambling gained just 60 yards on Sept. 9, 2000. The Cards' defense also recorded two sacks - the unit's first in six games.
Still, the victory wasn't convincing enough for embattled UofL coach Steve Kragthorpe over a Sycamores team that lost for the 28th straight time and for the 52nd time in their last 53 games.
93 yards, two touchdowns.
Burke, the junior transfer from North Carolina State, started the game 1-for-8, but completed his next six passes on his way to finishing 17 of 31 for 223 yards with two interceptions.
"He was pretty amped up (early)," Kragthorpe said. "Once he settled down I thought he settled down pretty well."
Meanwhile Anderson rushed 14 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while Powell gained 76 yards and scored one TD on 15 carries as UofL amassed 419 yards of total offense.
"The running game is what it always is, really, really tough," Burke said.
The Cards' first possession of the season ended in a punt, but their second resulted in their first points of 2009. Trent Guy's 31-yard punt return gave UofL the ball on the Indiana State 29. Six plays later the Cards took a 3-0 lead on Ryan Payne's 28-yard field goal.
UofL's third possession wasn't as productive. Burke's pass was tipped by Doug Beaumont and intercepted by Indiana State's Santino Davis. The Sycamores converted that turnover into a touchdown, scoring seven plays later on quarterback Chris Stutzriem's 3-yard run.
Louisville answered on its next possession, marching downfield and taking the lead on Powell's 6-yard TD run.
The Cards cashed in20on a Johnny Patrick interception on their next possession. Anderson‘s 6-yard touchdown run capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive that put UofL ahead 17-7.
Louisville took that lead into the locker room at halftime after an ill-advised pass by Burke was picked off just before halftime. The Cards compiled 225 yards of offense in the first half compared to 64 for the Sycamores.
UofL forced Indiana State to punt on its first possession of the second half, then embarked on an eight-play, 87-yard drive that was capped off by Anderson's 14-yard TD run. Payne added a 21-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the third quarter to push the Cards' lead to 27-7.
A 55-yard kickoff return by Indiana State's Darrius Gates gave the Sycamores great field position - starting at the UofL 31 - and led to a Braul Martinez 30-yard field goal. Payne notched his third field goal of the game, this one 31 yards, with 7:52 to play, but missed a fourth try with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game.
Linebacker Jon Dempsey led Louisville's defense with 10 total tackles (seven solos, three assists).
The Cards now have a week off before before traveling to archrival Kentucky on Sept. 19.
"It's definitely what this team needs, a bye week, get back to practice and get back to work," Burke said.