Cardinals Moving On Without "Derby City Duo"

Published: Sep. 17, 2006 at 7:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2006 at 10:58 AM EDT
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(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Brian Brohm stood next to the Johnny Unitas statue at the entrance of Papa John's Stadium and savored the moment as thousands of fans swarmed the field and chanted "BCS" following Louisville's impressive 31-7 win over reeling Miami on Saturday.
"Seeing all those people on the field celebrating a big victory and the score in the background, us beating Miami, it just felt great," Brohm said.
That joy was tempered somewhat on Sunday, when the quarterback underwent surgery to repair sprained ligaments on his right (throwing) hand, an injury that will keep him out for at least a month, leaving one of the nation's most potent offenses and Louisville's national title hopes in the hands of backup quarterback Hunter Cantwell.
Getting by with the backups is becoming a familiar scenario for the Cardinals, who have now lost both of their Heisman Trophy candidates - dubbed the "Derby City Duo" - in span of two weeks.
Running back Michael Bush broke his right leg in the season opener against Kentucky and is out for the year. The news isn't quite so bad for Brohm, who tore ligaments in the thumb after slamming it into the ground while scrambling away from pressure in the third quarter but should be back by the time the Cardinals host No. 5 West Virginia on Nov. 2.
Still, it leaves the Cardinals (3-0) - who rose to No. 8 in this week's poll - heading to Kansas State (3-0) next Saturday with a starting quarterback with just two starts to his name and a cast of thousands trying to replace Bush.
While the Cardinals think they changed people's perceptions about the program by the way they physically dominated the Hurricanes, they view the next six weeks as an opportunity to prove their program is much more than Brohm's right arm and Bush's churning legs.
"We got a lot of talent on this team," Brohm said. "I think people underestimate how deep we really are and how much talent we have."
Even with Bush watching the game in crutches and Brohm relegated to cheerleader for the final 25 minutes, the Cardinals hardly skipped a beat. Cantwell threw for 113 yards and a touchdown and running back Kolby Smith added a pair of scoring runs as the Cardinals pulled away.
"I'd say our depth is a lot better than it used to be," said coach Bobby Petrino. "We've been talking about all year finishing we did a nice job of finishing."
While the Cardinals might not be as prolific offensively without their two stars, the way the defense played against the Hurricanes, they might not have to be.
For all the talk generated by Louisville's eye-popping numbers - the Cardinals averaged 651 yards and 60.5 points in routs of Kentucky and Temple to start the year - it was Louisville's defense that made the biggest statement against Miami.
Louisville linebacker Nate Harris - a former Miami recruit - drew the ire of the Hurricanes by saying before the game that Miami wasn't what it once was.
On Saturday the Cardinals backed it up by holding the Hurricanes scoreless in the second half and chasing Miami quarterback Kyle Wright all over the field.
"This should wake up a lot of people and open their eyes and know that Louisville is for real," said Harris, who finished with four tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up. "We've got a great defense. We beat a good team today. We should have earned a lot of respect."
The Cardinals certainly earned Wright's respect.
"You can't go out and win games based on what school you are," said Wright, sacked four times. "We didn't deserve to win. Give them credit."
Perhaps just as importantly for the Cardinals was the way they won, by staying aggressive until the final whistle.
"We kept on coming and kept on coming until the last whistle," said defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. "We weren't satisfied. We wanted more."
The Hurricanes now has two weeks to stew over their first 1-2 start since 1997. The loss also dropped the Hurricanes out of the AP poll for the first time since 1999.
"Right now I think we're kidding ourselves a little bit thinking that we're a pretty good football team, but we're not a good football team," said Miami coach Larry Coker. "We've got a lot of football left and we still have a chance to possibly win the ACC championship. (But) we've got to play a lot better than we are playing right now."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)