Louisville Cardinals: Petrino's First Tenure(2003-2007)
Well... for better or worse, it's time to talk about Bobby Petrino. There is no doubt he is one heck of a coach and he gave the University of Louisville his best run in football in my opinion. Lee Corso brought the Cardinals some respectability in the early 1970s with a Pasadena Bowl(different from the Rose Bowl) appearance in 1970 and a 9-1 season in 1972, giving the school their first Final AP Poll ranking when they landed at #18.
Vince Gibson and his 1977 squad made it to the Independence Bowl. The legendary Howard Schnellenberger used his signature magic to restore the program to respectability, giving shades of how he built Miami into a national powerhouse. In 1990, Schnellenberger's Cards won the Fiesta Bowl and finished 10-1-1. In 1993, Louisville won the Liberty Bowl. The man that Petrino succeeded, John Smith, put together some decent years after Louisville went through a grim three-year period from 1995 to 1997. Smith and his Cardinals went 9-3 in 2000 and 11-2 in 2001 with a Liberty Bowl win.
After a mediocre 7-6 season in 2002, Petrino stepped in for Smith and immediately Louisville sprung back up. During 2003, Bobby Petrino's first season as a head coach in major college football, the Cardinals won nine games. The next year, they won a conference title in their final year being affiliated with Conference-USA. Louisville won eleven games including a shootout in the Liberty Bowl against Boise State. More noteworthy than that is the fact that 2004 marked the first time Louisville ended a year ranked in the AP top 10, ranking 6th.
In 2005, Louisville transitioned into the Big East Conference. Needless to say, they did not disappoint and were extremely competitive right away. In 2005, Louisville scored 43.4 points per game en route to nine wins. The final year, 2006, might have been the best of the bunch. Louisville started that year ranked 13th and started 8-0 with key wins over #17 Miami and #3 West Virginia. A spirit-crushing, upset loss to #15 Rutgers eliminated Louisville from national title contention. However, they rallied, becoming victorious in their final four games. It culminated in the program's first appearance and win in the Orange Bowl. During the run, Petrino took home the 2004 CUSA Coach of the Year Award and Elvis Dumervil became a Consensus All-American in 2005.