November 18, 2006 | 7:30 p.m.
Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium
840 WHAS | ESPNU
In some minds, Saturday's game against South Florida was supposed to be a celebration of sorts. It was supposed to be the game when Cardinals fans packed Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to continue their celebration of a still undefeated season and cheer as the home team gave the visiting Bulls a payback to remember. For the sake of not having to relive the Cardinals last outing, let's just agree that sometimes things change.
The expected cake walk against South Florida, which shocked Louisville 45-14 last year in Tampa, has also changed. USF head coach Jim Leavitt, which has his team still dreaming of playing in a BCS game, realizes that pulling off another shocker will be a difficult task.
"Louisville can get going fast and they can overwhelm you if you're not careful," said Leavitt. "It's something that can happen to you, so it is important to play well early. Against them, it's probably important to play well early and play well throughout, you know, they're pretty good. They're a very good football team."
Much of the Bulls success is due to the surprising strong play of redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Grothe. Grothe has thrown nearly 2,000 yards on the season, while also rushing for an additional 578 yards. The former Florida 1st Team All-State selection tossed for a school record 364 yards - a USF single game record - in last weekend's win against Syracuse.
The first-year starter is aware of Louisville's success at home and believes that his team is up to the task of handling the road atmosphere.
"I don't really know what to expect," said Grothe. "I've never been there. It'll be exciting, but you have to work through all the crowd and everything. We'll be fine."
Louisville has won 16 consecutive games at home, which stands as the nation's second-longest such streak.
The weather for Saturday is expected to essentially be cool, windy and cloudy. In their only outing in cold weather this season, South Florida suffered a 23-6 defeat at Cincinnati.
"Weather doesn't really bother me," Grothe said. "It might have looked like it did in the Cincinnati game, but I've done good (playing in the cold) in the past. Hopefully that was just one of those down games and we'll bounce back with this one."
With two conference losses, USF must win out to have any hopes of claiming a piece of the Big East title and a possible BCS bowl.
"We've stumbled somewhat already this year," said Leavitt. "Losing to Cincinnati, losing to Rutgers (at home), but we're still battling for our lives. It's a big game. It's real important for both teams, so that part is exciting."
- Freshman JaJuan Spillman set a school mark for kickoff returns yards with 192 against Rutgers, breaking the old mark of 178 set by Antonio Roundtree against Tulane in 1997. Spillman returned four kicks for 192 yards for an incredible 48.0 yards per return.
- Freshman punter Corey Goettsche has settled in nicely in his role as the starting punter. Against Rutgers last Thursday, Goettsche punted seven times for an impressive 43.6 yard average, including placing three punts inside the 20-yard line. He also booted a career-best 57-yarder.
- In his last outing, Brian Brohm threw his 31st career touchdown pass, which moves him to eighth in school history. He needs just one more to tie Browning Nagle for seventh place.
- Louisville is -1 in turnovers this season and have turned the football over 13times in the last six games. Louisville has already given the football away 16 times after turning it over just 22 times all of last season.
- The Bulls tied the school record for sacks in a game with seven versus Syracuse last weekend.
- In USF's first four games, the offense struggled with red-zone efficiency, scoring eight times in 15 trips inside the 20-yard line. In the last six games, the Bulls are 17-for-22, with 15 touchdowns and two field goals.
- USF's Matt Grothe leads all freshmen quarterbacks in total offense and is 11th overall. He is one of only two players in the country to have stats in passing, rushing, receiving and punting
- Ean Randolph enters Saturday's game sixth in the nation in punt returns (15.7 ypr), but the feat would be even more impressive if he didn't have 3 touchdowns called back by penalties in the first two games of the season.
- Bulls defensive back Trae Williams is fifth in the nation in interceptions per game. He has six picks on the year.