MORGANTOWN - For the second year in a row, West Virginia is preparing for a Louisville team with a quarterback issue. Unlike 2009, though, the Cardinals are not in nearly as dire shape there and they have a full stable of running backs to help out the quarterback who eventually plays.
Remember last season?
That's when Louisville was forced to start 5-foot-9 walk-on Will Stein in Morgantown. Stein did OK, keeping the Cardinals within striking distance and even had them in West Virginia territory in the final 90 seconds before Julian Miller sacked him twice and hurried him two more times to allow the Mountaineers to escape with a 17-9 win.
That was also the game in which a redshirt freshman named Darius Ashley exploded for 167 rushing yards, more than twice what he would run for in any other game. For the record, Ashley was so expendable at the position that he is now playing cornerback, but on that day Victor Anderson was hurt and Bilal Powell had not yet emerged as a threat.
Well, when West Virginia (6-3, 2-2 Big East) goes to Louisville (5-5, 2-3) for a noon game on Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, they won't find the Cardinals in quite the same quarterback mess, but the starter is still in doubt. And at running back Louisville is loaded.
Starting quarterback Adam Froman has missed the last two games after suffering a deep thigh bruise in a loss to Pitt. In his stead, Justin Burke stepped in and helped the Cardinals to a win at Louisville before last week's 24-21 overtime loss at home to South Florida.
Those are the same two quarterbacks who were injured a year ago and necessitated the use of Stein.
On Monday, first-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong was non-committal when asked about Froman's status. But West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said it doesn't really matter who plays.
"It's always kind of shaky when you don't know what you're going to get,'' Stewart said. "But I know whoever plays is going to be good.''
In his nine games as the starter, Froman completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,633 yards, 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He has not been picked off since an Oct. 2 win at Arkansas State and seemed to be hitting his stride when he was injured at Pitt.
In two games as the replacement starter, Burke is completing just 53 percent of his passes, but has thrown five touchdowns and just one interception, that when he was hit while throwing.
While Froman seems a bit more likely to run with the ball than Burke, both are big quarterbacks - Froman at 6-4, 218 pounds and Burke at 6-3 and 226 pounds. Both are seniors.
"Froman and Burke and little Will Stein are all good quarterbacks and they're all hitting on all cylinders for the most part,'' Stewart said. "Powell's back and they have Victor Anderson, who we recruited here. They've just got some great talent there.''