THE RULE OF thumb,especially when meeting with someone who is offering you the biggest job ofyour life, is to keep your cellphone in your pocket. Last Jan. 8, SteveKragthorpe was granted an exemption. It was the day after Louisville coachBobby Petrino had been lured to the NFL by the Atlanta Falcons, and Cardinalsathletic director Tom Jurich was trying to persuade Kragthorpe, the coach atTulsa, to move to Louisville.
They talked whiledining at an Oklahoma City steak house, and midway through the meal Kragthorpewas given a number to dial. A phone rang in Louisville, and though he didn'trecognize the number on his caller ID, a star quarterback pondering his futureanswered. "Hi, this is Steve Kragthorpe," said the voice in BrianBrohm's ear. "I'm going to be your new head coach."
Six days earlierBrohm had put on an MVP performance in the Orange Bowl--helping lead Louisvilleto its first BCS victory--but because he was being projected as a highfirst-round NFL draft pick, he was noncommittal about returning for his senioryear. Kragthorpe says he called Brohm merely "to ease his anxieties"about Louisville's unsettled coaching situation, but he accomplished more thanthat. "That was the first time I had heard about who he was," saysBrohm, who was doing a Google search of Kragthorpe when the phone rang. "Hegot me excited."
Considering theseason Brohm had in 2006, that's saying something. Despite missing two gameswith ligament damage to his passing thumb, he threw for 3,094 yards on a teamthat finished 12-1. Petrino, regarded as one of the top offensive minds in thegame, oversaw a unit that piled up 475.3 yards a game, second-best in DivisionI-A.
But, as Brohmfound out, the 42-year-old Kragthorpe is not without impressive credentials.The son of a onetime BYU assistant who also landed head-coaching jobs at IdahoState and Oregon State, he was a college passer at Eastern New Mexico and WestTexas State and the Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks coach before reviving astruggling Tulsa program. In 2003, his first year with the Golden Hurricane, heled a program that had won one game in each of the previous two seasons to itsfirst bowl game in 12 years. Kragthorpe took Tulsa to three bowls in fourseasons, and last year the offense ranked 24th in the country (388.5 yards pergame).
A day afterformally being introduced as the new coach, Kragthorpe was showing Brohm tapefrom his days at Tulsa and giving his quarterback a playbook. Brohm and hisbrother Jeff, the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach, liked what they saw."[Tulsa] threw a lot, spread the field and got the ball to theirplaymakers," says Brian. On Jan.¬†15, Brohm announced he wasreturning.
Kragthorpe plansto incorporate aspects of Petrino's trademark spread with the system he used atTulsa, which features a quick-hit passing attack. With big-play wideouts HarryDouglas (70 catches, 1,265 yards, six touchdowns in 2006) and Mario Urrutia (58catches, 973 yards, six TDs) on the receiving end, Brohm could lead Louisvilleto another BCS appearance and win the Heisman in the process. That would meanKragthorpe's first recruiting effort had yielded a significant return.
CONFERENCE: Big East
COACH: Steve Kragthorpe
2006 RECORD: 12-1 (6-1 in Big East)
FINAL AP RANK: 6
Offense 7, Defense 5
K Art Carmody (Sr.)
Groza Award winner made 21 of 25 field goals
WR Harry Douglas (Sr.)
Speedster led Big East in receiving yards (1,265)
LB Malik Jackson (Sr.)
Led Cards in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (16)
Aug. 30 MURRAY STATE
Sept. 6 MIDDLE TENNESSEE
15 at Kentucky
29 at N.C. State
Oct. 5 UTAH
13 at Cincinnati
19 at Connecticut
Nov. 8 at West Virginia
17 at South Florida
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Brohm didn't know of Kragthorpe, but a chat and aGoogle search "got me excited."
Brohm is a career 66.3% passer.
Mike Carlson/Icon SMI (mascot)