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PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Running back Bilal Powell caught two touchdowns and ran for another and Louisville became bowl eligible in Charlie Strong's first season as coach with a 40-13 victory over Rutgers on Friday.
Powell caught touchdown passes of 17 and 11 yards from Justin Burke on the Cardinals' first two series and he ran for 11 of his 123 yards to cap the third as Louisville (6-6, 3-4 Big East) become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, a season they weren't selected for a postseason game.
The loss was the fifth straight for Rutgers (4-7, 1-5), ending any chance it had of going to a bowl game for the sixth straight year under Greg Schiano. The losing streak has coincided with a spinal cord injury that backup defensive tackle Eric LeGrand suffered on Oct. 16 against Army, the Scarlet Knights' last win.
Will Stein added a 1-yard TD toss to Cameron Graham, running back Jeremy Wright scored on a 64-yard run and Johnny Patrick had a 35-yard interception return for a score late for the Cardinals, who were picked to finish last in the Big East in the preseason poll.
Jordan Thomas ran 17 yards for a touchdown and Jeremy Deering added a 1-yard run for the Scarlet Knights, who suffered their first losing season since 2004.
Louisville and Rutgers, which has a season-ending game at West Virginia next weekend, each came into the contest knowing it had to win to keep bowl hopes alive.
Louisville played like a team hungry for its first bowl since the Orange Bowl in early 2007. Rutgers was listless, giving up touchdown drives of 75, 64, 75 and 69 yards on the Cardinals' first four possessions.
Powell, whose three TDs were a single-game career best, and Burke, who had to leave the game early in the second quarter with back spasms, were the catalysts as the Cardinals gained 427 yards. Louisville's defense sacked Chas Dodd nine times.
Burke, who was 9 of 11 for 138 yards, missed his first and last passes. He hit eight straight passes on the Cardinals' first two drives. His passes of 25 yards to Damian Copelane and 20 to Andrell Smith set up the shovel pass to Powell for his first score.
Burke hit Smith for 23 and Graham for 16 before hitting Powell coming out of the backfield for a 14-0 lead.
Powell had runs of 6, 15 and 5 yards on the drive he capped with his 11 yard run. The 100-yard rushing game was his seventh of the season, tying a school record previously shared by Frank Moreau (1999) and Walter Peacock (1973).
Stein, a sophomore who had not completed a pass this season, had a 29-yard completion to set up his scoring pass to Graham.
Thomas, who had 115 yards rushing for his first 100-yard game, got Rutgers on the board late in the first half.
Wright stretched the lead to 34-7 midway through the third quarter and the game was over except for the final score.