LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Florida International returned to the scene of its biggest win and was handed a reminder of how far the program has fallen in two years.
The winless Panthers were held to a school-record two first downs and 30 yards in a 72-0 loss at No. 7 Louisville on Saturday.
"We didn't give our defense a chance at all," first-year FIU coach Ron Turner said. "Offensively, that was the worst performance I've ever been associated with and it started right at the beginning."
FIU (0-4) also had a record-low 43 offensive plays. The previous yardage low was 65 against Western Kentucky in 2002, and the two first downs were four fewer than the Panthers gained at Alabama in 2006.
The margin might have been even worse if not for a clock issue in the second half. Gerald Austin, the coordinator of officials for Conference USA, acknowledged in a statement that the clock was allowed to run at times when it should have been stopped.
"Coach Turner made a comment to one of the officials that, given the amount of injuries and the limited numbers of players he had available, he wanted to run the ball in the second half," Austin said. "One official misinterpreted that comment.
"After reviewing the tape there were five times that the clock should have been stopped and it did not. Four times were on first down and one play where the runner went out of bounds, based on a quick review of the video."
Austin and Turner both said the coach never requested a running clock.
"I did notice it was going quicker," Turner said. "First of all, I don't have the authority to request it. I wish I had the authority. I'm not saying I wouldn't have, you know, but I did not request it."
FIU didn't record a first down until its fifth possession. When Louisville (4-0) punted for the second time with less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter, De'Andre Jasper dropped the fair catch and the Cardinals turned it into another touchdown for a 31-0 lead.
Louisville led 38-0 at the break, and Charles Gaines returned the second-half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Randy Harvey's block on John Wallace's extra-point attempt in the third quarter was as close as FIU would come to stopping the Cardinals.
FIU finished with minus-3 yards of offense in the second half and just 3 yards rushing in the game.
It was a much different outcome than FIU's previous visit to Louisville on Sept. 9, 2011, when the Panthers beat the Cardinals 24-17. Touchdowns of 74 and 83 yards by T.Y. Hilton on his first two catches put him on a path toward the NFL and propelled the Panthers to the school's only victory over a Bowl Championship Series conference opponent.
FIU finished 8-5 that year, which including its second straight bowl appearance, but it went 3-9 last season and remains winless under Turner, including a 34-13 loss to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman last week. Louisville escaped with a 28-21 win in Miami last year.
Junior safety Justin Halley said he felt the team kept fighting in the second half despite the deficit and the Panthers' focus would shift to improving before their Conference USA opener at Southern Miss on Oct. 5.
"I feel like we care; that's not the issue," Halley said. "I guess it's a few other things."
Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes in Louisville's highest scoring game since a 73-10 victory over Murray State in 2007. It also matched the school's fifth-largest margin of victory.
Bridgewater hit DeVante Parker for two TD passes and Gerald Christian and Eli Rogers for one apiece before Will Gardner came on and passed to Michaelee Harris for another score in the fourth quarter. Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry, Michael Dyer and Brandon Radcliff rushed for TDs.
Bridgewater had 212 yards on 17-of-22 passing, part of Louisville's 464-yard effort against FIU. It was another efficient performance for the junior quarterback.
Louisville has 23 players from South Florida, including Bridgewater, so the Panthers were more than familiar with the Cardinals' personnel. But they lacked the talent to keep up with Louisville.