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September 3, 2006

Louisville loses Bush in big win over Kentucky

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Michael Bush passed up a shot at the NFL to try and win a national championship at Louisville.

Instead, his season ended after three touchdowns and a little more than one half of football.

The senior running back broke his right leg early in the third quarter of the 13th-ranked Cardinals' 59-28 win over Kentucky on Sunday night and will be out for the season.

Bush had already run for 124 yards and three touchdowns in the first half when he took the pitch from quarterback Brian Brohm on Louisville's second play of the second half. His right leg was pinned awkwardly underneath him while being tackled by Kentucky's Wesley Woodyard.

Bush lay on the ground for several minutes before being placed on a stretcher. He waved to the capacity crowd at Papa John's Stadium and was then taken to a local hospital.

The injury quickly ended what had been a giddy night for the Cardinals.

Brohm, playing his first game since suffering a devastating knee injury last November, threw for 254 yards and a touchdown, showing no ill effects from nine months of grueling rehab.

Brohm completed his first pass and more importantly, survived his first hit, bouncing up quickly after getting drilled by Kentucky's Myron Pryor on Louisville's second drive.

He seemed comfortable in all phases, moving around nimbly when required and standing up in the pocket during the few occasions the Wildcats were able to generate pressure.

With Brohm's arm and Bush's legs leading the way, the Cardinals scored on five of their first six possession, grabbing a 31-0 lead before the Wildcats could manage their second first down.

Despite a pair of long touchdown passes by Kentucky's Andre' Woodson, the Cardinals were still firmly in control when they took over at their own 16 on their first possession of the second half.

Two plays later, one of their best players lay on his back in agony.

Though reserves George Stripling (nine carries, 90 yards, two touchdowns) and Kolby Smith (12 carries, 66 yards) filled in ably for Bush, much of Louisville's hopes for its first Big East title lay on Bush's broad shoulders.

He led the nation in scoring last season, averaging 14.4 points per game while scoring a school-record 23 rushing touchdowns. He considered turning pro after the season, but the Louisville native decided to return for his senior year to help the Cardinals make their first-ever appearance in a Bowl Championship Series while hopefully lifting his draft stock at the same time.

With a favorable schedule that includes home games against No. 11 Miami and No. 7 West Virginia, the Cardinals are in a position to make a run at going undefeated. Now they'll have to do it without Bush, who will have the opportunity to be redshirted if he chooses.

Bush's injury cast a shadow over Louisville's fourth straight win over their in-state rival. The offense rolled up 631 total yards, doing whatever it wanted whenever it wanted. Louisville's 59 points was its highest output in series history, and the 13th time under coach Bobby Petrino that they've eclipsed 50 points in a game.

Kentucky wide receiver Keenan Burton - a lifelong friend of Bush's who consoled him as he left the field - tried to keep the Wildcats competitive. He caught four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return.

But the Wildcats ultimately had no answer for the Cardinals, with or without Bush.

For more coverage of the Louisville Cardinals, check out CardinalSports.com and for more coverage of the Kentucky Wildcats, check out CatsPause.com.

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