Brohm keeps Louisville in Big East title hunt

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Louisville is playing again like a team that belongs in a BCS bowl game. To get there, the Cardinals will need some help from a team they've already beaten.

Brian Brohm threw four touchdown passes against a Pitt defense that again showed little resistance and No. 8 Louisville beat the Panthers 48-24 Saturday to take another step toward a Big East title.

If Louisville (10-1, 5-1 in Big East) defeats Connecticut next Saturday and No. 15 Rutgers loses at No. 7 West Virginia, the Cardinals will represent the Big East in a BCS bowl. Rutgers (10-1, 5-1) gets the bid if it wins, since the Scarlet Knights defeated Louisville 28-25 on Nov. 9.

Think the Cardinals fans won't be chanting, "Let's go, Mountaineers" next week?

"We just have to take care of our business," Brohm said. "We can't worry about it -- if you do, you're focusing on the wrong thing. We've got to focus on UConn."

The Cardinals looked focused on putting away Pitt, outscoring the Panthers 34-3 during one stretch after briefly falling behind 14-7 in the first quarter.

Brohm, standing in the pocket as long as he wanted against a nonexistent pass rush, threw scoring passes of 42 yards to Mario Urrutia, 9 yards and 1 yard to Gary Barnidge and 75 yards to Harry Douglas. Brohm finished 21-for-29 for 337 yards and Urrutia caught seven passes for 144 yards.

"That was probably my sharpest performance, but it's pretty easy when you don't get knocked down the whole game," Brohm said. "I had all the time in the world to find receivers who were open."

Pitt (6-6, 2-5) lost its fifth in a row after winning six of its first seven and, while bowl-eligible, likely won't find a bowl willing to take a team that hasn't won since Oct. 13 and trails five teams in the Big East standings. The season-ending slide is Pitt's longest since it lost its final seven in 1998 to finish 2-9.

The Panthers surrendered 139 points in their final three losses: 48 to Louisville, 45 to West Virginia and 46 to Connecticut.

"We felt like we could throw on them, and we had confidence in our receivers to get open against their defensive backs," Brohm said.

Douglas is convinced the Cardinals are back to where they were before the unexpected loss to Rutgers tightened up the Big East race. The Cardinals are assured of winning at least 10 games for the third time since 2001, and fourth time in school history.

"We're back," he said. "Nobody's playing tight, we're just going out and having fun and playing the game. That's the key to this offense. We were scared to make mistakes, now if you make a mistake we just pick it up on the next play."

Pitt tried to shake itself out of its slump by wearing all gold uniforms. There is no record of Pitt wearing such a color scheme before, but the new uniforms didn't cover up an inadequate defense that gave up 1,140 yards in its final two games -- 641 to West Virginia and 499 to Louisville.

Pitt, aware it probably wouldn't go to its sixth bowl game in seven seasons if it didn't win, led 14-7 after scoring twice in a 48-second span of the first quarter on LaRod Stephens-Howling's 6-yard run and wide receiver Derek Kinder's 21-yard TD pass to Oderick Turner.

That was about it for Pitt's offense, for the game and the season. Pitt is 11-12 in its first two seasons under coach Dave Wannstedt.

"To beat a real good team, you've got to be physically dominant, and we're not physically dominant," Wannstedt said. "It's pretty clear to me we have a lot of work to do. We've got to get stronger and bigger and, when we do that, we'll see positive results."

Kinder tried to find something positive from a season in which Pitt won only five of 11 games against major college opposition. Among its six victories was a decision over Division I-AA The Citadel.

"We started off real well and we showed we can play with some good teams," he said.

Only not this team.

After Louisville's Art Carmody kicked a 39-yard field goal, Brohm found Urrutia on a 42-yard touchdown pass play to put the Cardinals up 17-14. Later in the second quarter, Urrutia's 43-yard reception led to Brohm's TD pass to Barnidge that put the Cardinals up 24-17.

The Cardinals began pulling away in the third quarter on another Brohm to Barnidge TD pass, this one ending a 98-yard drive, and JaJuan Spillman's 13-yard TD run after William Gay intercepted a Tyler Palko pass.

"I knew we were going to score a lot of points," Douglas said.

Palko, a three-year starter playing his final Pitt home game, finished 31-of-50 for 307 yards, but also threw three interceptions for the fourth time in his career.