Expl-O-sive

Blue Raiders face Heisman Trophy Candidate Brohm

BlueRaiderZone.com previews the Louisville Cardinal offense.

Middle Tennessee is looking forward to some national exposure this Thursday night. However, if the Blue Raiders start slowly they could end up being nationally exposed. MT travels to Louisville to take on the high-octane Cardinals this week; a game that can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

The Cardinals are led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Brohm. Brohm quarterbacked Louisville to a 12-1 record last season and picked up where he left off in last week's season opener by throwing four touchdowns in a 73-10 victory over Murray State.

Brohm, who missed last season's 44-17 victory over Middle due to injury, has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown for over 7,000 yards in his career. Even with his outstanding numbers, he has never thrown for more than 19 touchdowns in a season. If healthy, expect Brohm to surpass that total by a large margin this season.

Louisville has assembled a nice supporting cast around their star quarterback. The Cardinals have a thunder and lightning type duo at running back. Anthony Allen, playing the role of thunder, led Louisville with 13 touchdowns last season. Allen is a 6-1 232-pound bulldozer of a man and specializes in short yardage situations.

Sharing time with Allen is junior George Stripling. Stripling has over 1,300 all-purpose yards in his career and possesses the best hands out of the back field. He rushed for 92 yards on 14 carries last week against Murray State.

The same three receivers that led Louisville last season return as Brohm's targets in 2007. Junior Mario Urrutia is a 6-6 228-pound explosive playmaking machine. He's caught 97 passes including 13 touchdowns in his career making him a prime candidate to leave for the NFL after this season.

Harry Douglas may be on the opposite end of the height spectrum but is equally effective in the Cardinals' offense. Standing at 5-11, the lightning quick Douglas set a school record with 1,265 receiving yards in 2006. He kicked off '07 by catching five passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.

Tight End Gary Barnidge is a large target across the middle for Brohm. The 6-6 Barnidge needs to improve his blocking if he wants to rise up the NFL draft board next year, but his height makes him a big play target especially near the end zone. Like Douglas, he also tallied two scores against the Racers.

Rounding out the stellar offense is the often overlooked offensive line. The line returns two All-Big East players from 2006, center Eric Wood and left tackle George Bussey. Wood is one of the nation's top centers while Bussey, a former walk-on, is a rock solid pass blocker that has the task of protecting Brohm's backside.

Taking over the coaching reigns is Steve Kragthorpe. Kragthorpe turned a struggling Tulsa program into a contender in only four seasons before arriving at Louisville. The Golden Hurricanes went from 2-21 in the two seasons prior to Kragthorpe's arrival to going to three bowl games in the next four seasons.

The Blue Raiders will need to hold Louisville to its 2006 average of 37 points per game or less to have a realistic shot of knocking off the eighth ranked Cardinals, but keep in mind that Brohm didn't return for his senior season to be held at or below average. Kickoff for Thursday's game is 6 p.m. central time.

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