Louisville's Dream Still Alive

With fifth-ranked Louisville's impressive, 44-34, win Thursday night over third-ranked West Virginia, every game now becomes more important than the one before.

November 2, 2006. The biggest win in Louisville football history?

Yes and no. There's no question Louisville's, 44-34, win over third ranked West Virginia Thursday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is the biggest win in U of L history. That is until the Cardinals take on undefeated Rutgers next Thursday on the road.

That's right, the fifth-ranked Cardinals don't have long to celebrate their monumental victory over the Mountaineers. That's because Louisville, for the first time in program history, is on the fast-track to the BCS national championship game in Glendale, Arizona in January.

"We have to make sure to keep everything in perspective," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "Now, our biggest game is next week at Rutgers."

Louisville will move up in the BCS standings this weekend. They entered Thursday's game No. 5 in the BCS and figure to move past No. 4 Florida into the third spot when the new rankings come out this Sunday. That would put Louisville behind only Ohio State and Michigan. Those two teams play each other later this year and the loser will almost certainly fall out of the national championship race. Should that happen and the Cardinals finish out the season unbeaten, it seems probable that Louisville would play the Big Ten champion for all the marbles.

"This was a heck of a win," sophomore defensive tackle Earl Heyman said. "I'm extremely proud of our players. We came out here with great effort. We did what we came to do. We're taking it one game at a time and now we are going to get ready for Rutgers. National championship sounds good, but right now we are going to worry about Rutgers."

To hand West Virginia their first loss of the season, Louisville got big performances from their biggest stars. Quarterback Brian Brohm threw for 354 yards and kept the Cardinals moving all night against the Mountaineers. Standout receivers Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas each had more than 100 yards receiving and the 6'6 Urrutia caught a key second half touchdown. And don't forget star kicker Art Carmody, who made three key field goals in the first half.

The Cardinals also found some new weapons in special teams standouts JuJuan Spillman and Trent Guy. Spillman returned four kicks for 85 yards, and his 30-yard return was the longest of the season for the Cardinals. Guy, one of the fastest guys on the team, scored on a 40-yard punt return to spark Louisville in the second half.

"We were confident coming into the game that we would score some points," sophomore center Eric Wood said. "We did capitalize early on some good opportunities. In the second half, our defense and special teams really helped us out."

Now, all that stands in the way of a perfect season, and a shot at the BCS title, for Louisville is Rutgers, South Florida, Pittsburgh and Connecticut. There's not an easy game in that bunch and road trips to Rutgers and Pitt will be tough.

But it's apparent these Cardinals have all the ingredients to finish what they've started. They have a great coach that knows how to get his team prepared and keep them focused on the prize. They've got a great offense that seems to be finding its stride after struggling in recent weeks. And they've got a solid defense that makes enough plays to give Louisville a chance against any team in the nation.

"I hope everyone is thinking that Louisville is for real this year and we are going to be a national contender for a while to come," said Wood.

There's also one other key ingredient any team that aspires to greatness must possess – leadership. After Thursday's win, it's evident Louisville has plenty of it. While many teams would have lived in the moment after knocking off the nation's third-ranked team, the Cardinals were already looking ahead to next week's game against Rutgers.

"From now on, each week is the biggest game for us," Brohm said. "If we win out, I think we deserve to (play for the national championship). We can't afford to have a hangover or to get too emotional. We've got one day to celebrate and then get back to work to beat Rutgers. Everyone is going to love practice because we have something to work for."

Like a Big East title and a possible shot at the schools first football national championship. Can you believe it?

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