In just his second year at the helm of the Cardinals, Petrino has led the team to the first 10-1 regular season in school history. Louisville's No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press poll and No. 10 finish in the final BCS rankings both match the unbeaten 1998 Tulane squad for the highest national rankings in league history. The Cardinals will try to match the school record for wins in a season when it faces No. 10 and undefeated Boise State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on December 31 in Memphis.
A highly successful offensive coordinator with Louisville, Auburn and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Petrino has guided the Cards to eye-popping offensive numbers in 2004. U of L leads the nation in total offense (536.7 yards per game) and scoring offense (50.7 points per game), while being the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 in passing offense (293.5) and rushing offense (243.4). The Cardinals averaged 56.6 points per game during their unbeaten conference season and became the first team in major college football to score 55 or more points in five consecutive games.
Under Petrino's direction, 10 Louisville players earned All-Conference recognition this season, including a league-high six first team choices. Included was co-Offensive Player of the Year Stefan LeFors, who becomes the third Cardinal quarterback to win that award, and his backup, Brian Brohm, who was named Freshman of the Year.
Petrino has compiled a 19-5 record in his first two seasons as a head coach. The Cardinals have won 14 of those games by more than 21 points and six by better than 30. Eight times the team has exceeded the 50-point total.
Petrino is the ninth consecutive coach to earn Coach of the Year honors after winning the regular season Conference USA championship.
Conference USA announced its 2004 Players of the Year today, as selected by the head football coaches and media members in each conference city. C-USA concluded its ninth regular season this past weekend, with five of the league's teams getting ready to participate in bowl games during December.
Louisville senior QB Stefan LeFors and Memphis junior RB DeAngelo Williams were named co-Offensive Players of the Year. It is the first time in league history that there were co-Offensive Players of the Year, although Houston's Wayne Rogers and Southern Miss's Cedric Scott shared the Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2000. Williams was the league's offensive Player of the Year last season, while LeFors becomes the third U of L quarterback, joining Chris Redman (1999) and Dave Ragone (2000, 2001 and 2002), to earn top offensive accolades.
With a rating of 185.5, LeFors enters the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on pace to break the all-time NCAA pass efficiency record of 183.3, set by Tulane's Shaun King in 1998. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9.1, with 18 TD passes and just two INTs. LeFors has completed 74 percent of his passes for 2,403 yards, while guiding a Louisville offense that leads the nation in scoring at 50.7 points per game. With his guidance, Louisville has become the first team in NCAA history to score 55 or more points in five straight games.
Williams has led the Tigers to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. Along the way, he has virtually re-written the school's rushing record book. This season, Williams ranks third in the nation in rushing yards with 1,828 and needs 172 in the GMAC Bowl to become the 11th player in NCAA history to run for 2,000 yards in a single season. He has set new school and conference records for rushing touchdowns (21) and total touchdowns (22), while posting four 200-plus yard rushing days, along with a 199-yard night. With 3,942 yards, Williams is the all-time leading rusher in Memphis history and ranks second in C-USA annals.
Defensive honors went to Southern Miss senior LB Michael Boley, marking the sixth time in nine seasons that a Golden Eagle player has won the honor. A three-time first team All-Conference USA selection, Boley ranks third in Conference USA in tackles (117) and second in the nation in forced fumbles (5). He has 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the year and ranks third on the southern Miss career list for sacks. A four-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, Boley was this year's recipient of the Conerly Trophy, given to the top player in the state of Mississippi.
Southern Miss junior KR John Eubanks was named as the league's Special Teams Player of the Year. He leads Conference USA and ranks fourth in the nation in kick return average at 29.4. Eubanks has returned 21 kicks for 618 yards, including a 97-yard return for a touchdown against Houston. He earned first team All-Conference honors as a kick returner and a defensive back.
True freshman QB Brian Brohm of Louisville was named the league's Freshman of the Year. He saw action in 10 games, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 777 yards. Brohm tossed five touchdowns with just one interception during part-time duty with the nation's top-ranked offense.