WITH THEIRHIGH-OCTANE OFFENSE THE CARDINALS HAVE THEIR SIGHTS SET ON THEIR FIRST BCSAPPEARANCE
2005 RECORD 9-3(5-2 in Big East)
KEY RETURNEES RBMichael Bush (Sr.) Second in nation with 23 rushing touchdowns in 2005 DT AmobiOkoye (Sr.) As a junior he had 23 tackles, including four for loss LB NateHarris (Sr.) Team's leading returning tackler had seven sacks
BIG MAN ON CAMPUSHomegrown quarterback Brian Brohm was the nation's second-rated passer beforehe went down with a torn right ACL in the 10th game last season. A junior,Brohm could be a Heisman contender before his college career is over, and hehas NFL potential.
Louisville'soffensive coaches have a simple rule that their quarterbacks must abide by whenpassing to wide receiver Mario Urrutia: Don't overthrow him. "They'realways in our ear: 'Just give him a chance,'" says quarterback Brian Brohm.That's because, at 6'6", Urrutia is a sure bet to catch nearly anythingthrown in his vicinity. "It's a great advantage," says Brohm."Teams know that at any point we can go deep on them."
As a redshirtfreshman last season, Urrutia caught only 37 passes, but he averaged 21.5 yardsper reception, second-best in the country. Four of those catches went for morethan 60 yards, including touchdowns of 76, 73 and 69 yards. "It's excitinglooking back at those on film," says Urrutia. "The ball's in the air,and all of a sudden everybody [in the stadium] is on their feet."
Urrutia hopes tohave Cardinals fans on their feet more often this season as he takes over therole of top receiver in coach Bobby Petrino's high-powered, wide-open offense.Growing up in Louisville, Urrutia focused mostly on basketball before herealized toward the end of high school that his height gave him a biggeradvantage on the football field. Petrino first saw him during a seven-on-sevenpassing tournament one summer on Louisville's campus. Urrutia was strong,fast--and really raw. "He was like that kid in Mighty Ducks II: He couldfly, but he couldn't stop and change directions," says Petrino.
During Urrutia'sredshirt season in 2004, the coaches worked to improve his technique. He showedoff his new moves beginning with the second game last season, torching OregonState for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 63--27 victory. He followed thatwith 133 yards against South Florida and 138 against Florida Atlantic. A kneeinjury in the middle of the season forced him to miss one game and most of twoothers, but he returned to form by the end of the season, catching six passesfor 95 yards and a touchdown against Virginia Tech's No. 1--rated defense inthe Gator Bowl.
The Cardinalsranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense each of the past two seasons,and last year they earned their first New Year's Day bowl berth in 15 years.With the return of Brohm, powerful running back Michael Bush (1,143 rushingyards, 23 touchdowns) and Urrutia, Louisville has the weapons to battle BigEast favorite West Virginia for its first BCS bid. "We've got anopportunity to make a run," says Petrino. As long as nobody overthrowsUrrutia.
JOHN SOMMERS II/REUTERS