LOUISVILLE While most football games don't come down to the performance of one player, tonight's Utah-Louisville game just might ride on the arm of Cardinals quarterback Brian Brohm.
Brohm is an All-American candidate who has already been pegged by some as the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft. If he picks apart the Ute defense and piles up the yards and points tonight, the Cardinals will likely win and send the Utes home disappointed.
However, if the Utes can contain Brohm and keep his numbers down, they have a decent chance to win because Louisville's defense has been shaky much of this season and the Utes could outscore the Cardinals.
In the first and fifth games, the Louisville defense gave up 10 points in wins over Murray State and North Carolina State. However in the other three games, the Cardinals allowed 38 points to Syracuse, 40 to Kentucky and 42 to Middle Tennessee State.
Brohm has started for the Cardinals for three years and nearly didn't return for his senior season. However, rather than start a career in the NFL, he decided to return this year, much to the relief of new coach Steve Kragthorpe.
"Obviously, I wanted Brian to stay for selfish reasons, but I didn't think it would be fair to break out my 34-inch Louisville Slugger and beat him over the head," Kragthorpe said. "I did not try to convince Brian to stay at Louisville. I tried to talk him through the process."
Brohm was impressed when Kragthorpe called him shortly after getting the job in January.
"You never know with a new coach coming in if he wants to start anew," Brohm said. "He told me I was important and wanted me to be a part of his first year here. What it came down to was what I wanted to do play my senior year. Things were in place where I felt comfortable coming back."
Brohm has racked up big numbers in every game this year, starting with 375 yards and four touchdowns against Murray State, followed by 401 yards and five TDs against Middle Tennessee. Against Kentucky, he passed for 366 yards and a pair of touchdowns, followed by a career-high 555 yards against Syracuse.
Then last week, the Cardinals opted for a more balanced attack, and Brohm passed for just 251 yards, while the Cardinals rushed for 247 behind Brock Bolen's 112 yards.
The Utes are wary of Brohm's passing prowess and know they must try to disrupt him.
"He's really good," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham. "We need to put some pressure on him. If he sits back there and has all day and you don't make him speed up, then he can really hurt you. He's 6-4, 225 pounds and has a rifle for an arm and is a sure-fire first-round draft choice."
Said Ute defensive lineman Gabe Long: "If you keep him in the pocket, he'll pick you apart. If we get him out of the pocket, we can play with them. That's my job to get the quarterback to scramble."
Brohm is 21-5 as a starter at Louisville and 14-1 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes this year for 16 touchdowns and has a 170.4 pass-efficiency rating.He has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. In fact, he still is being pushed as a candidate by the Louisville sports information office. However, the two early losses have pretty much ended any hopes for him to contend for that award.
On the air
Utah (2-3, 0-2) at Louisville (3-2, 0-1)
Today, 6 p.m.
Papa John's Stadium
Radio: 700AMTV: ESPN
Brohm by the numbers
8,699 Career passing yards
66 Career completion percentage
57 Career touchdown passes
37 Number of games played
26 Number of career starts
21 Number of wins as starter
2 Big East player of year awards
1 BCS bowl MVP award (2006 Orange)Source: Louisville sports information