A former high school standout at Lexington Catholic, Burke will lead the Cardinals into Commonwealth Stadium Saturday afternoon looking to spring an upset against Kentucky.
In his first start two weeks ago, Burke completed 17 of 31 passes for 223 yards against Indiana State. Burke started slowly out of the gate, competing just one of his first eight passes, before settling down in the second half.
"I think he'll be fine," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "It was beneficial to get that game under his belt the other night. What I liked about Justin in that game is he had a rough start but he got himself out of it."
Despite throwing a pair of interceptions against the Sycamores, Kragthorpe thought Burke saw the field well in his first game for Louisville.
"I thought he was seeing things real well," Kragthorpe said. "He got a little impatient in a couple of situations but I think he benefited from it. He had a really good week of practice last week and I think he'll have a great one this week."
Burke has a big task this week against Kentucky. The Cats shut down Louisville's offense last season, winning 27-2 in Louisville. Now Burke must attempt to build on his Indiana State performance in what figures to be a hostile road environment.
"I thought he was poised but amped up last week," Kragthorpe said. "I'm going to have to give him a sedative before we walk out there."
Burke sat out last year after transferring from N.C. State. That he was rusty at the start of the Indiana State game isn't surprising. Burke hopes that experience prepared him to take on Kentucky this Saturday.
"I had to overcome some adversity in the first quarter and get back into the football mind-set," Burke said. "I think I did that in the second half."
Burke said he watched the Indiana State game film a few times. A cerebral quarterback, Burke learned a few things from re-watching his first start on tape.
"You watch it on Sunday to get better and move on," Burke said. "We want to be balanced but we want to be explosive in both the passing and running game. We want to really get the ball to our athletes and that's my job. We strive to get matchups that we like. His (Kragthorpe's) identity is a high-octane offense and we need to start producing that."
What does Burke have to do for Louisville's offense to take off?
"We've got to complete passes," Burke said. "The biggest thing is we need to have great rhythm as offense and up the tempo. We were doing that during the bye-week. I think the tempo was much better in practice."
Growing up in Lexington, Burke has a strong understanding about the rivalry. His mother was a Kentucky fan growing up, while his father rooted for Louisville. Now that he plays for the Cardinals, Burke says his mother has switched sides. He'll have 10 to 12 family members at Commonwealth Stadium for the game on Saturday.
"It was a house divided to say the least," Burke said. "I would not pick. I was like Switzerland. My mom has converted. She's a UofL fan now. They're very supportive of me. Family crosses over rivalry boundaries."
Burke said he hears often from his friends from high school about the upcoming tilt, who wish him well for the season but not for this game against UK. One of Burke's big jobs this week is tuning out those distractions and getting ready for the game.
"I enjoyed watching both teams growing up," Burke said. "I watched Tim Couch and Dave Ragone. Those were the guys I looked up to. The biggest thing I got out of the rivalry was some great quarterback play."
Burke said he strongly considered both Louisville and Kentucky coming out of high school but decided N.C. State was the best fit at the time. After a coaching change in Raleigh, Burke put out feelers to both schools and decided to transfer to Louisville in 2007.
Now, Burke is ready to lead the Cardinals against his hometown school. In Kentucky, Burke will be challenged by a defense that shutout Miami, OH 42-0 in the season-opener and allowed only 188 yards total offense.
"They're always athletic," Burke said. "They've got some great linebackers this year that are big and fast and their corners are really good."