2005 RECORD: 9-3 (5-2 in Big East) RETURNING STARTERS: 17
RB Michael Bush (Sr.)
Second in nation with 23 rushing touchdowns in 2005
DT Amobi Okoye (Sr.)
As a junior he had 23 tackles, including four for loss
LB Nate Harris (Sr.)
Team's leading returning tackler had seven sacks
Big Man on Campus
Homegrown quarterback Brian Brohm was the nation's second-rated passer before he went down with a torn right ACL in the 10th game last season. A junior, Brohm could be a Heisman contender before his college career is over, and he has NFL potential.
With their high-octane offense the Cardinals have their sights set on their first BCS appearance
Louisville's offensive coaches have a simple rule that their quarterbacks must abide by when passing to wide receiver Mario Urrutia: Don't overthrow him. "They're always in our ear: 'Just give him a chance,'" says quarterback Brian Brohm. That's because, at 6'6", Urrutia is a sure bet to catch nearly anything thrown in his vicinity. "It's a great advantage," says Brohm. "Teams know that at any point we can go deep on them."
As a redshirt freshman last season, Urrutia caught only 37 passes, but he averaged 21.5 yards per reception, second-best in the country. Four of those catches went for more than 60 yards, including touchdowns of 76, 73 and 69 yards. "It's exciting looking back at those on film," says Urrutia. "The ball's in the air, and all of a sudden everybody [in the stadium] is on their feet."
Urrutia hopes to have Cardinals fans on their feet more often this season as he takes over the role of top receiver in coach Bobby Petrino's high-powered, wide-open offense. Growing up in Louisville, Urrutia focused mostly on basketball before he realized toward the end of high school that his height gave him a bigger advantage on the football field. Petrino first saw him during a seven-on-seven passing tournament one summer on Louisville's campus. Urrutia was strong, fast -- and really raw. "He was like that kid in Mighty Ducks II: He could fly, but he couldn't stop and change directions," says Petrino.
During Urrutia's redshirt season in 2004, the coaches worked to improve his technique. He showed off his new moves beginning with the second game last season, torching Oregon State for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-27 victory. He followed that with 133 yards against South Florida and 138 against Florida Atlantic. A knee injury in the middle of the season forced him to miss one game and most of two others, but he returned to form by the end of the season, catching six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown against Virginia Tech's No. 1-rated defense in the Gator Bowl.
The Cardinals ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense each of the past two seasons, and last year they earned their first New Year's Day bowl berth in 15 years. With the return of Brohm, powerful running back Michael Bush (1,143 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns) and Urrutia, Louisville has the weapons to battle Big East favorite West Virginia for its first BCS bid. "We've got an opportunity to make a run," says Petrino. As long as nobody overthrows Urrutia. -- Stewart Mandel