LOUISVILLE -- Finally, Louisville got to enjoy a blowout.
Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a career-high five touchdown passes on Saturday as the 10th-ranked Cardinals went to 9-0 for the first time in school history with a 45-17 Big East Conference rout of Temple.
"To be a part of the first 9-0 start ever is special," cornerback Adrian Bushell said. "I am really excited. People have been throwing us under the bus and disrespecting us, but we're just using it for motivation."
Bridgewater completed 19 of 28 passes for 324 yards, hitting senior Andrell Smith on scoring strikes of 14 and nine yards. He also connected with Eli Rogers from 15 yards, found tight end Ryan Hubbell on a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and threw a 25-yard dart over the middle to DeVante Parker.
It was only the fourth double-digit victory for Louisville this year and tied its largest margin of victory -- a 35-7 decision Sept. 8 over FCS opponent Missouri State.
"It was nice just to go out there and play football," Bridgewater said. "We could relax and be calm for a change."
Many have questioned the Cardinals for needing to go down to the wire to secure victories against opponents such as winless Southern Miss (0-8), Florida International (1-8) and South Florida (2-6).
That wasn't necessary this time, even though Louisville trailed after the game's first play when Matt Brown returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, eliciting a round of booing from the crowd of 44,609 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
The Owls (3-5, 2-3) gave the Cards trouble for nearly a half with their spread-option ground attack, getting 115 yards and a touchdown in 15 rushes from Boston College transfer Montel Harris.
But turnover-prone quarterback Chris Coyer lost three fumbles and Louisville cashed them in for 17 points.
Jeremy Wright's 3-yard scoring run with 8:15 left in the first half gave the Cardinals the lead for good, 24-17.
Bridgewater then led a 90-yard touchdown drive, one of five scoring marches of 68 yards or longer, that culminated in his 14-yard pass to Smith which made it 31-17 at halftime.
Smith, who was one of nine receivers to catch passes, read the defense prior to the snap to gain an advantage on his defender.
"I feel like our offense came out and executed well," he said. "We made a lot of plays when we needed them."
Temple coach Steve Addazio lamented Louisville's score with 1:02 left in the half.
"To me, that was the turning point," he said. "We're right in the ball game with them and then we gave up that drive, which we didn't need to do. Then you piggyback the fumbles on top of that and the game kind of pops open.
"But I thought our guys played with passion and we did a good job moving them off the football in the first half. We probably could have scored more but we lost fumbles and that hurt us."
Wright added 100 yards on 10 rushes for Louisville, which tied Rutgers for first place in the Big East at 4-0. The teams are scheduled to meet in the regular season finale Nov. 29 in New Jersey, likely with a Bowl Championship Series berth at stake.
Just three years after firing Steve Kragthorpe and hiring Charlie Strong off Urban Meyer's Florida staff, the Cardinals were picked to win the Big East. Although they haven't been as dominant as some would have liked, they've negotiated all nine stops on the schedule without a loss.
Standing in Louisville's way: Syracuse next week in the Carrier Dome and Connecticut on Nov. 24 before the showdown at Rutgers.
"When I first got here," said Smith, "I never thought I would see this. Just how we started off ... we turned everything around."
Notes: Although the teams haven't met since 2006, both coaches were familiar with each other. Addazio and Strong were part of two national champions as Florida assistants from 2005-09. ... Teddy Bridgewater is the first Louisville quarterback to throw for five touchdown passes in a game since Brian Brohm did it in 2007 against Middle Tennessee State. ... Temple, which moved from the Mid-American Conference to the Big East before this season, must win three of its last four games to become bowl-eligible. It reached an agreement in principle on Friday to play a Dec. 7 game at Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.