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Louisville accused of using low blows

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — John L. Smith has a special place in the hearts of Ute football players and fans — and it's not a good one. Smith was coach of the Aggies several years ago when USU was accused of deliberately punching Utah players in the groin. Fast forward to Monday. One BYU player said that Louisville used the same tactic against the Cougars.

Oldies rock band Three Dog Night played at halftime of the game, cranking out a medley of hits. Actually, the group played an abbreviated three-song set that included "Black and White," "Celebrate" and "Joy to the World." As far as the Cougars were concerned, maybe the band should have included this hit: "Momma Told Me Not to Come."

Also on hand was actress Cybil Shepherd, who performed a good rendition of the national anthem. Afterward, she patted several BYU players on the arm in a sign of encouragement. Meanwhile, Liberty Bowl queen Rachel Michelle Owen posed for pictures with at least one BYU player before the game.

BYU's 10-point total was the lowest since a 10-7 win over UNLV on Sept. 23, 2000, a span of 21 games.

Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone expressed surprise the Cougars didn't avoid kicking to return star Zek Parker. "We never thought they'd kick to Zek," said Ragone. "We were spreading out for a squib kick or something and thought he'd never get the football. But when we saw the ball in the air, the whole time, we thought, 'Man, they're kicking to Zek' and he took off." Parker took the opening kick 70 yards to set up the first score. "It was a downer," said BYU coach Gary Crowton of Parker's big return. "I wasn't happy."

BYU has now lost three consecutive bowl games dating back to the 1998 Liberty Bowl. In those games, the Cougars have been outscored 90-40. It's BYU's longest losing bowl streak since losing the 1985 Citrus Bowl, the 1986 Freedom Bowl and the 1987 All-America Bowl.

NOTES: Temperature was 33 degrees at kickoff . . . Running back Paul Peterson, filling in for the injured Luke Staley, gained 73 yards on 15 carries, including a long gain of 22 yards . . . At one point during the season, Rykert had said he would turn pro if Luke Staley did. Last week, Staley announced his intentions of entering the NFL draft. Rykert said he will return to Provo. "I want to come back and get a championship again next year," he said . . . Louisville's bowl victory was the first in four tries for the Cardinals under Smith. The former Utah State coach improved to 2-1 all-time against BYU . . . Smith and Crowton wore caps presented by the Memphis Fire Fighters Association during the first quarter as a tribute to Memphis area firefighters.

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E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com