Piscataway, NJ (Sports Network) - Bilal Powell scored three touchdowns in the first half, as Louisville pounded out a 40-13 victory over Rutgers.
Powell ran for 123 yards with a score on 23 carries and both of his receptions out of the backfield resulted in touchdowns for the Cardinals (6-6, 3-4 Big East), who finally became bowl-eligible with the victory.
Louisville had lost seven straight games when trying to secure bowl eligibility, including five in a row last year after a 5-2 start and two straight this year after opening with a mark of 5-4.
Cardinals quarterback Justin Burke threw for 138 yards and both scores to Powell before leaving the contest in the first half with back spasms. Will Stein took over and added a TD throw, while Jeremy Wright scored on a 64-yard run in the lopsided victory.
Rutgers (4-7, 1-5) has lost five in a row and will not go to a bowl game for the first time in six years. The Scarlet Knights haven't won since a 23-20 overtime triumph against Army on October 16, the same day that defensive tackle Eric LeGrand suffered a spinal injury. LeGrand was removed from a ventilator this week and is able to breathe on his own.
Jordan Thomas and Jeremy Deering scored touchdowns for the Scarlet Knights, who will close their season next week at West Virginia. Thomas ran for 120 yards in defeat.
Louisville forced a Rutgers punt 30 seconds into the game, then marched 75 yards on eight plays for a touchdown. Burke completed passes of 25 and 20 yards during the quick strike and hit Powell with a shovel pass for a 17-yard score.
After another three-and-out for the Rutgers offense, the Cardinals needed six plays to go 64 yards for a 14-0 lead. Burke and Powell again finished the set, this time with an 11-yard TD connection.
Rutgers finally picked up a first down on its next series and crossed midfield, but again punted it away and Louisville again reached the end zone on its next series. Powell keyed the eight-play drive with a 15-yard run on the first play of the second quarter and finished it with an 11-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 cushion.
The Cardinals gutted the Rutgers defense for another touchdown with a 69-yard drive, as Stein threw a one-yard scoring pass to Cameron Graham with 8:20 left in the half.
Rutgers finally answered with a 74-yard touchdown march, as Thomas scored on a 17-yard run with just over three minutes to play before the intermission.
Louisville extended its lead midway through the third on Wright's long TD jaunt before Deering scored on a one-yard run. Johnny Patrick returned an interception 35 yards for another Louisville score in the fourth to account for the final margin.