Cardinals shake rust, shutout Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- For the past two years, Louisville has

been best known for its offense.

The Cardinals' defense sure seems determined to change that.

Eric Shelton ran for three touchdowns and Louisville (No. 22 ESPN/USAToday; No. 24 AP)

earned its second shutout of the season with a 34-0 victory over

North Carolina on Saturday.

Shelton rushed for 86 yards to lead the Cardinals, who improved

to 3-0 for the second straight season under coach Bobby Petrino.

Brian Brohm added a touchdown run and Michael Bush ran for 82


Louisville averaged 35 points in 15 games under Petrino coming

in, but the Cardinals didn't need much offense Saturday. Their

defense shut down North Carolina's balanced attack, closing just

about every running lane and allowing few gains through the air.

Louisville, which ranked 11th nationally by allowing 10.5 points

per game, opened the season with a 28-0 win against Kentucky.

Those numbers are quite an improvement from the final five games

of last season, when the unit allowed at least 31 points in each

game and the Cardinals stumbled to a 2-3 finish.

"We're trying to gain a little respect each game, and hopefully

it's working," defensive tackle Bobby Leffew said.

North Carolina (2-2) came in averaging 36 points and 478 yards,

but the Tar Heels finished with 222 total yards. They also

committed two turnovers inside Louisville's 20.

"I was a little surprised ... that we shut them out," Petrino

said. "I really felt that there would be some points scored on

both sides and it would be a game we'd end up winning in the fourth


Actually, the Cardinals won it with a dominating third quarter.

Shelton ran for two touchdowns while the defense allowed just 41

yards, turning a 10-0 halftime lead into a comfortable margin that

had blue-clad Tar Heel fans heading for the exits early at Kenan


It was a demoralizing way for North Carolina to follow last

week's 34-13 win against Georgia Tech, a game that coach John

Bunting hoped would build momentum heading into a difficult stretch

that includes Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech.

In that game, the Tar Heels forced five turnovers -- their first

takeaways of the year -- and got 161 rushing yards from Jacque Lewis

to lead an efficient offense.

But on Saturday, North Carolina looked a lot like the team that

struggled in its opening win against Division I-AA William & Mary

and its lopsided loss to Virginia. Louisville moved the ball

effectively throughout the game, with Stefan LeFors going 13-for-16

with 123 yards to complement the Shelton-Bush running tandem.

"That was a very disappointing loss to a team that is a very

fine football team ... but a team we hoped to play a heck of a lot

better than we did," Bunting said.

The Cardinals had not played in two weeks -- last week's

scheduled game at Tulane was postponed due to Hurricane Ivan -- but

came out with 14- and 12-play scoring drives that built the

halftime lead.

The Cardinals went on to pile up 455 yards and 30 first downs.

They didn't seem to miss running back Lionel Gates, who was

sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered in practice this week.

Gates, Bush and Shelton had shared carries this season.

"I expected them to be real confident just from the way they

played last week," Shelton said of the Tar Heels. "So I knew that

the offense would have to bring its A-game."

The Cardinals opened the game with a 77-yard scoring drive that

took 6{ minutes off the clock, ending with Shelton's 1-yard TD run.

After the Tar Heels went three-and-out on their first possession

of the second half, Shelton pushed the lead to 17-0 with a 37-yard

touchdown run. He hit the right side, then split defenders Jacoby

Watkins and Linwood Williams -- who managed little more than

attempted arm tackles -- on his way to the end zone.

Shelton scored his third touchdown midway through the third,

plowing over Gerald Sensabaugh for a 1-yard score and a 24-0 lead.

Darian Durant, who owns North Carolina's career passing and

total offense records, went 10-for-19 for 80 yards and an

interception. Chad Scott rushed for 33 yards -- 31 coming on one

carry -- to lead a ground attack which gained 285 yards against the

Yellow Jackets. Lewis had just 29 yards on eight carries.

The Tar Heels were without starting tailback Ronnie McGill, who

sprained an ankle in last week's win.