Just in time for its Big East debut, Louisville has found yet another big-play threat on offense.
The ninth-ranked Cardinals (2-0), who boast one of the nation’s top offenses, hope Mario Urrutia can build on the momentum of one of the best receiving games in school history as they visit South Florida (2-1) on Saturday in the first Big East game for both teams.
With senior Broderick Clark out three to four weeks with a sprained knee, Urrutia played a more prominent role, and the Cardinals’ offense didn’t miss a beat in a 63-27 win over Oregon State last Saturday.
The 6-foot-6 Urrutia caught seven passes, two for touchdowns, and his 175 receiving yards were the most by a Cardinal in four seasons.
“I knew my chance was coming,” said Urrutia, a redshirt freshman. “I just had to wait it out.”
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said he was going to call some plays for Urrutia, anyway. Instead, he discovered a new featured target for quarterback Brian Brohm.
“It was good to see him break out and go,” Petrino said. “He’s had scrimmages where he’s had three touchdowns and has looked just about that same way.”
Urrutia’s emergence and an offense that ranks among the nation’s leaders in scoring (47.0 points per game) and yards a contest (485.5) have the Cardinals looking like the team to beat in the new-look Big East, ahead of holdover West Virginia.
With Boston College joining former Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech in the ACC this season, the Big East no longer is a league in transition. Louisville moves in along with fellow Conference USA defectors Cincinnati and South Florida, completing an eight-team Big East that also includes Syracuse, Connecticut and Rutgers.
Urrutia was one of seven Cardinals who caught passes last weekend. Clark’s absence also gave Harry Douglas a chance to shine, and the speedy sophomore caught three passes, including a 34-yard TD from Brohm six minutes into the second half.
Petrino said he’d like to involve even more players in the attack, starting with senior Robert Haskins. The 5-foot-6 Haskins was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons in 2004, then reinstated over the summer.
“I have no hesitation getting him in at all,” Petrino said. “He’s been around here, and two years ago he had a great year for us. He can make plays very fast, knows all the routes, can play different positions.”
How the ball gets distributed is ultimately up to Brohm, who’s completed more than 75 percent of his passes through Louisville’s first two games. He went 18-of-22 for 368 yards against Oregon State, the second-highest percentage in school history.
South Florida has won two straight after a season-opening loss to Penn State.
Andre Hall ran for 155 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Bulls in a 31-14 win over Central Florida last Saturday.
Now, in just its eighth year of existence, South Florida’s football program debuts in a conference with an automatic BCS bid.
“The Big East, to me, is more important than anything for us,” Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said.
Hall has rushed for 383 yards and four touchdowns to lead a South Florida team averaging 266.7 yards per game on the ground.
Louisville lost its only road game against South Florida, 30-27 in double-overtime on Oct. 4, 2003. In the only other meeting between the teams, the Cardinals held the Bulls to 3-of-21 passing in a 41-9 win last Oct. 22.