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August 29, 2006

Sports Bits: How many points can Louisville score?

Here’s half the score when Louisville meets Kentucky Sunday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium: Louisville 52.Huh?Well, it’s not much news that Louisville (9-3 last season and ranked No. 13 to begin this year) is a heavy favorite to whip Kentucky. More interesting is the question of how many points Louisville can score. Can the Cards hit 50? Maybe 52 — with seven touchdowns and a field goal?Louisville coaches (and bloodthirsty fans) would probably prefer to lay 60 or 70 on Kentucky. But realistically, it’s the opening game. Fifty is a big number.And Kentucky?Kentucky (3-9 in 2005) can probably score two or three touchdowns. But as long as the Wildcats don’t actually threaten to win the game (as they did for a brief span in last season’s 35-24 Louisville triumph), Louisville probably doesn’t really care what Kentucky does.The notion here is that Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is far less concerned with the other team’s score than his own. As 1950s Indiana basketball coach Branch McCracken explained about his high-scoring Hurryin’ Hoosiers: “It’s not how many points you keep the other team from scoring. It’s how many you score yourself.”Which may no longer be true in basketball, but is certainly the case today in college football.At a pre-season news conference, Petrino introduced all his assistant coaches, and each took a turn answering questions. Brother Paul Petrino, the U of L offensive coordinator, was first up. Someone began a question about “goals,” and Paul Petrino went right at it:“Our goal is to lead the nation in offense,” Paul Petrino said firmly. “In fact, leading the nation in offense is our goal every year.”Not top 10. Not very good. LEAD the nation.In 2004, Louisville went 11-1 and finished fifth in total offense, averaging 489 yards per game. Leader Texas Tech averaged 582.In scoring, however, Louisville was No. 1. The Cards singed the scoreboard for 597 points in 12 games, averaging 49.75 points.Right there at 50!“That’s a real goal for them, then,” noted Hardhat, who is from Western Pennsylvania and knows football. “Louisville has established that tradition that they’re going to score points, and here they are in the first game of the season. If they can come out and score 50 points, that would make a statement.”Free secret U of L scouting reportLike so many teams these days, Louisville cloaks its practices in secrecy, with trip wires and motion detectors ringing the perimeter of its practice fields, and black helicopters circling overhead. But LEO college football analyst Knute Goldberg always seems to know what’s going on behind the Cardinals’ closed curtains.He notes, for example, that U of L has quarterbacks stashed all around its line-up — and special plays to utilize them.“Consider this,” said Goldberg, “if Louisville uses a formation with Brian Brohm at quarterback, Michael Bush at running back and Pat Carter (a transfer from Georgia Tech) and Mario Urrutia at wide receivers, that’s a lot of available arms. (Carter and Bush were both standout high school quarterbacks.) If the Cards need long yards, it won’t be a question of who ends up with the ball, the mystery might be who throws it!”Goldberg said back-up quarterback Hunter Cantwell ran the play in spring practice, with Brohm sidelined. And the thing worked like a charm.“Cantwell handed off to Bush on a reverse, then Bush handed it to Carter coming around on a reverse the other way. By that time Urrutia was 40 yards down the field — and Carter hit him right in the numbers.”Or maybe Bush might realize the Wildcats have read about the play in LEO, and will just keep the ball and rumble 30 yards down the sideline.Goldberg concedes that Louisville’s Sept. 16 match-up with Miami in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is the glamour game on the Cardinals’ schedule. But, he says, it doesn’t carry the significance of the Nov. 2 showdown with defending Big East champion West Virginia. Last season, West Virginia edged Louisville 46-44 in three overtimes to earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Louisville went to the Gator Bowl.“It’s likely to be the same thing again this year, with a BCS bowl on the line,” said Goldberg. “The Cards could lose to Miami (a non-conference opponent), and it might not matter. Fans should understand that West Virginia is THE team to beat.”Not Kentucky?“Who?” Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com