Sat 10/15/05 3:30 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium
Poll Rank: 26
RU 27-14 W
Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Poll Rank: 19
UNC 69-14 W
Rtn Lettermen: 45
Rtn Starters: 15
Last Meeting: 1993
Much of the hype, though, is deserved, as head coach Bobby Petrino's team finished 11-1 in 2004, a three-point loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl the only blemish on the record. Thirteen starters returned from that team, which ended the season ranked No. 6 in the land and was first in total offense and scoring. The Cardinals did have to replace their leading passer, receiver and rusher, but there was very little worry that they had men to step in and fill the gaps.
Much of that confidence came from the fact that sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm took more than a quarter of the total snaps last season, even with two-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Stefan LeFors in the starting spot.
Brohm, the son of a former Louisville quarterback, is one of the biggest names to ever wear a Cardinal uniform. At Trinity High in the Louisville area, Brohm earned consensus All-America honors, and he was named the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year. He threw for 10,579 yards and 119 touchdowns in his high school career, and he led the Shamrocks to three state titles. Brohm has not let up much since making the jump to the collegiate level, either. As a freshman in 2004, he was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after throwing for 819 yards and six touchdowns in limited action as the back-up to since departed LeFors.
Now the full-time starter, Brohm has already completed 81-of-119 passes in four games this season, throwing for 1,218 yards and six touchdowns while only tossing two interceptions. Brohm has also run the ball when necessary, and he already has three rushing scores on the season.
The "diaper dandy" has plenty of targets in the passing game with three seniors with experience leading the way in the Cardinals' wide-open offense. Senior Joshua Tinch is Brohm's favorite target, and at 6-3, 223 pounds, it is easy to see why. Tinch has hauled in a pass in 20 straight games, and he has over 100 receptions during his Louisville career. In four games in 2005, Tinch has caught 18 balls for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Opposing teams cannot afford to put any extra attention on the big senior, h o w e v e r , because the Cardinals have plenty of other threats that can make teams pay. Sophomore Harry Douglas is now a starting receiver for offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, and he has performed well thus far. Douglas has four catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in four starts. Douglas is not as tall as the other receivers, but he has plenty of speed to turn out yards after the catch.
The top returning receiver is senior Montrell Jones, who is currently third on the team with 14 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown. A transfer from Tennessee, Jones has caught 82 balls in his college career between the two schools. Redshirt freshman Mario Urrutia is not listed with the starting unit, but he has seen plenty of action this season. In fact, he is second on the team with 17 catches, and he leads the Cardinals with 446 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
There is no question that putting the ball in the air is what Petrino's attack does best. Louisville is averaging 319 yards per game through the skies, and seven touchdowns have come from its passing attack. But make no mistake about it, the Cardinals are not afraid to run the football either. Louisville set a school record with 47 rushing touchdowns in 2004, and it is already on pace to break that mark in its first season in the Big East. The Cardinals have scored 15 times on the ground in just four games, and they are averaging 191 yards rushing per contest.
|WVU 5-1, 2-0
UL 4-1, 0-1
|Sat 10/15/05 3:30 p.m|
|Series: 5-1 WVU|
|BCS: WVU-25 UL-19|
|Line: WVU +7|
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The junior leads the nation in scoring with an average of 13.5 points per game, and he is tops in the Big East in both rushing and allpurpose yardage. In four games, Bush has carried the ball 74 times for 470 yards, and he has found the end zone nine times. No. 19 has also caught eight passes for 114 yards.
The Cardinals often line up two backs behind Brohm, and junior Kolby Smith, is usually the one beside Bush. The 5-11, 215-pound speedster has carried the ball 36 times on the year, netting 227 yards and two touchdowns with an impressive average of 6.3 yards per carry.
Running behind a line that includes two Athlon Sports Preseason All-Big East first-team selections, an All-Big East Second Team selection and even one All- Big East third-team pick has made both passing and running much easier.
Tackle Travis Leffew is the best of the lot and could challenge for All-American status as a senior. Leffew has made 42 straight starts and at 6-foot-4, 304-pounds is virtually impossible to move. Leffew is not the only one with experience, though, as standing right beside him is offensive guard Jason Spitz, who has made 29 straight starts at that position. Sophomore center Eric Wood is the smallest member of the U of L line, but he has done well in his four starts this season.
The other side of the Louisville line is not quite as experienced, but it does boast enough size to put Louisville's big and tall stores out of business. Junior guard Kurt Quarterman stands at 6-5 and weighs in at 341 pounds, while tackle Jeremy Darveau's 6-7, 321- pound frame allowed him to make seven starts in 2004 and all four this season.
When you think Louisville football, you think offense, and the reputation is certainly deserved. The Cardinals have outscored opponents 169-106 this season, and they are averaging more than 510 yards of offense per game. But lighting up the scoreboard is not enough. Louisville must also keep its opponents from doing the same. The Cardinal defense is not equipped with quite as many superstars, but when you lead the country in scoring you only have to be average on the other side of the ball.
A veteran group of linebackers is the key to making the Louisville defense respectable. Senior outside linebacker Brandon Johnson is the star of the defense. After leading the team in tackles in 2004, Johnson has started the 2005 season by recording 18 stops, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt in just four games.
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The middle linebacker spot was the only concern coming into the season, but redshirt freshman Lamar Myles wasted no time making a claim for the spot. Myles started his first game against Oregon State, a 63-27 Louisville win in the season's second game, and he has not looked back. Myles has only two tackles to his credit, but on one of those he forced a fumble. Junior Nate Harris, originally a Miami commitment, helps relieve Myles from timeto- time and is also a solid defender.
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil is the big name on a Louisville defensive line that has helped hold opponents to 89 rushing yards per game. Dumervil leads the entire Louisville team with 28 tackles in four games, and 12.5 of those have come behind the line of scrimmage. The senior already has 12 sacks on the season, and he set an NCAA record with nine sacks in consecutive games. Dumervil has also forced five fumbles and recovered another.
The other bookend of the U of L defensive line is senior Chad Rimpsey. The 6-3, 250 pound end made his first start in the season opener against Kentucky and has been a fixture ever since. Rimpsey has not put up the numbers of his teammate, but he has been solid with seven tackles and a blocked kick on the year.
Senior Montavious Stanley is Louisville's star defensive tackle, and he is currently second on the team with 23 tackles and three sacks. Stanley has also recovered two fumbles and forced one more. Beside Stanley is Junior Amobi Okoye, who just turned 18 this past June. Okoye may be young, but he is a smart player and a leader on defense. His statistics include five tackles and a fumble recovery through four games.
Uncertainty was prevalent in the secondary before the season as well, with only one returning starter coming back. Louisville has been respectable in that area, but if this Cardinal team does have a weakness, pass defense is it. Opposing teams have averaged 236.5 yards passing in the first four games of 2005, and Louisville opponents have found the end zone five times through the air. Teams have thrown the ball 121 times against the Cardinals, and just three of those passes have ended up in the defense's hands.
Redshirt freshman Rod Council, originally a Virginia Tech commitment, is still trying to prove himself at one of the corner spots. Council has 11 tackles on the season, but he has broken up just one pass and has not recorded an interception after starting his first game against Oregon State. Junior William Gay is a little more experienced at the other corner position, but his numbers do not stand out either. Gay has 10 tackles and a sack to his credit along with a forced fumble, but he has broken up just two passes on the year.
Louisville's safeties are very "Sharp" with two players of that last name filling the two positions. Senior Antoine Sharp is the more veteran of the two, and he leads the Cardinals' secondary with 14 tackles on the year. Sharp has also been the leader in pass coverage, breaking up three passes and recording an interception. Brandon Sharp, a junior, has appeared in 25 career games, including his four starts this season. Brandon has 11 tackles in 2005, but he has not recorded any other defensive statistics.
As most top teams do, Louisville takes pride in its special teams. Kicker Art Carmody made an NCAA record 77 consecutive extra points as a freshman, and he extended that streak to 97 before it was finally stopped.
Punter Todd Flannery is new and has had some ups and downs so far this season, but for a team that punted the ball just 30 times in 12 games in 2004, that is not a major concern.
Jones is as good as they come as a return man, and good field position has also been a big reason for the Cardinals' offensive success. Jones has returned nine punts for 84 yards and three kicks for 78 yards on the season. Douglas and Robert Haskins have also done quite well in the return game.
It is pretty clear that the Cardinals are going to put some points on the board, even with that big bull's-eye on their chests, but it will be up to the defense to decide if this team can repeat the success of 2004 or if they will become the new Virginia Tech of the Big East, never living up to the preseason hype.
This Saturday's game will renew what has been a very good series between the Mountaineers and the Cardinals. The teams met six times between 1984 and 1993, with West Virginia winning five of those six battles. The Cardinals' only win in the series came in Morgantown in 1990. The teams last met in 1993, when WVU held onto a 36-34 victory at Mountaineer field on the way to a perfect regular season. Each of the last three contests in the series was decided by nine points or less.
This year's game will be broadcast live on ABC, a rare occurrence for the Cardinals. Louisville has not appeared on one of the major networks since 1997, when Penn State defeated the Cardinals 57-21 on CBS. Louisville's last appearance on ABC came in 1996, also against the Nittany Lions, when it fell 24-7.