Louisville, Ky. Maybe Louisville should have Muhammad Ali stop by more often.
The Cardinals roared by Kansas State, 38-29, on Wednesday night, coming to life after an appearance by the former heavyweight champion.
Ali, back in his hometown to participate in Ryder Cup festivities, waved to the team while rolling through the end zone on a golf cart toward the end of the first quarter.
"When he rode by, all the players got jacked," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said.
None more than running back Victor Anderson.
The freshman ran for 176 yards and three long touchdowns, including a dazzling 56-yard burst in which he broke two tackles and spun around a defender, showcasing the kind of footwork that would have made Ali grin.
"I just go out and run, I don't remember what happens," Anderson said.
Anderson might not remember his breakout performance, but Kansas State (2-1) certainly will. The Wildcats had hoped to add a little polish to their nonconference resume and prove they've turned a corner under third-year coach Ron Prince.
Instead, the Wildcats struggled to stop Louisville's three-pronged rushing attack of Anderson, Brock Bolen and Bilal Powell.
While Anderson darted and dashed through the Wildcats, Bolen bulled his way to 104 yards on 23 clock-chewing carries and helped Louisville (2-1) control the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals ran 88 plays and held the ball for more than 41 minutes.
"Brock comes in and wears them down, and Bilal and I come out and just run around them," Anderson said. "Brock kept pounding it, and the offensive line kept blocking, so we just kept running it."
Louisville played without starting left tackle George Bussey and left guard Mark Wetter, both out because of injuries. Replacements Greg Tomczyk and Josh Byrom, however, filled in capably as Louisville's dominant line play helped offset 313 yards and three touchdowns by Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman.
"We need to do better, I need to coach better and I need to make our team understand how these teams need to be played," Prince said. "I'm not happy about it."
Deon Murphy had a spectacular 86-yard punt return for the Wildcats, but Kansas State turned the ball over three times and couldn't get Louisville's offense off the field.
"We had our moments at times where we showed that we could do some things in all three phases but we couldn't put enough consistent plays together," Prince said.
The Wildcats had hoped to use the game as a springboard to respectability heading into Big 12 play. Instead questions remain about just how far the program has come under Prince.
It hasn't been the easiest two years for Kragthorpe. The Cardinals limped to a 6-6 finish last season, and an ugly loss to rival Kentucky to start this season left fans wondering if he was the right choice to replace Bobby Petrino.
But if the Cardinals can find a way to build on their most complete performance under Kragthorpe, better days lie ahead.
"We're starting to turn the corner, but we haven't turned it yet," he said. "We're not satisfied."
He shouldn't be after Louisville allowed Kansas State to stick around despite being outplayed on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Hunter Cantwell threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and Doug Beaumont had nine catches for 119 yards as Louisville racked up 577 yards of total offense.
Cantwell hit Troy Pascley for a 13-yard score to give Louisville a 20-7 lead early in the third quarter. Murphy's twisting punt return - he ran backwards 10 yards and avoided a handful of tackles before racing up the field for the score - kept Kansas State in it, but only briefly.
Louisville needed just five plays to restore the two-touchdown lead, as Anderson broke up the middle and used a nifty spin move to zip 56 yards for a score. Anderson's final touchdown, a 27-yard burst down the left sideline, pushed the lead to 35-14.
Kansas State tried to rally, cutting it to nine on two late touchdown passes by Freeman, but Louisville's defense got one last stop with just over two minutes left to end the comeback.