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NEWPORT, R.I. -- Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm knew there was something wrong the second he fell to the ground. It was his knee. And there was pain.
"As soon as it happened, I knew I was gone for the rest of the year," Brohm said Tuesday at Big East Media Day. "As soon as I went down, I knew something was torn."
Brohm was injured in the third quarter of Louisville's game against Syracuse on Nov. 26. His season was finished. Surgery followed in early December and then an arduous rehabilitation program was the focus through the spring.
He had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), another sprained ligament, a torn meniscus. The road back would be long and hard and Brohm knew it. But he attacked that challenge like any other he has faced in his football career.
"The first few months were the toughest," he said. "A lot of tedious stuff that was very painful. I'm not worried about it now. Watching those games, not being able to play. That was the toughest."
Brohm, considered to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation this season, is ready for a big return. He worked out non-contact this spring. Everything is in order for a big season and Louisville has the weaponry to put up even bigger numbers than last year. That's saying something.
The Cardinals averaged about 43 points per game in 2005. Brohm, named the conference's offensive player of the year, completed almost 69 percent of his passes, the second-best mark ever at Louisville. He finished with 2,883 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 10 games.
"Physically, he is in better shape than he was a year ago," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "The thing you prepare for now is that first hit. As a quarterback, your focus is downfield and the ability to see the safeties and the linebackers is key. One thing we try to do is understand what's ahead of you and to face it."
Five times last season Brohm passed for at least 300 yards. He led the Big East in passing efficiency and total offense. And with offensive studs like Michael Bush and Mario Urrutia back, the Cardinals offense should not have much difficulty putting the ball in the end zone.
Preseason Big East Media Poll
Predicted order of finish in the Big East as voted on by the media at conference media days (first place votes in parentheses):
1. West Virginia (18)
2. Louisville (6)
5. South Florida
Bush's return is a huge bonus. Not only does he force defenses to stay honest, he is a forceful runner who can take over games. Last season, Bush set the school record with 23 touchdowns and 144 total points despite missing two games with injuries.
In 2005, Bush finished with 1,143 yards in 10 games on his way to being named first team All-Big East. He also caught 21 passes for 253 yards and one score. His name is even being considered for the Heisman Trophy. But Bush would prefer something else after this season.
"I'll take a BCS game over a Heisman Trophy," he said. "If we all play together, win out, we might get the best of both worlds. The offense is balanced out. If they key on the pass, we'll go with the run. If they key on the run, we'll go with the pass."
Getting caught up in the Brohm/Bush hype machine -- they're being marketed as the "Derby City Duo" on the cover of Louisville's media guide -- is easy. But there are other weapons at Petrino's disposal.
Urrutia finished with 37 catches for 797 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Harry Douglas had 27 catches for 457 yards and two TDs. Urrutia, especially, is expected to have a breakout season. Brohm wants to help make that happen.
"He's great," Brohm said. "He's got all the talent in the world."
Sounds like the rest of Louisville's offense as well.