LOUISVILLE — Saturday will be a day of firsts for the University of Louisville football team.
The first game with Charlie Strong as head coach, and the first in the expanded Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. First with a spread offense.
For quarterback Adam Froman, his first — and last — start against state rival Kentucky.
Also, the first time Froman will play before a sellout crowd at home.
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"I can't wait," he said Monday. "I'm just looking forward to putting on a show for them."
Froman made seven starts — but not against Kentucky — last season. U of L went 2-5 under Froman, who transferred from his hometown school, Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College.
He beat out Justin Burke and Will Stein for the starting job Saturday. Burke started three games last season, including the UK contest, and Stein got the call twice.
Leadership quality pushed Froman over the top, according to Strong.
A 6-foot-4, 218-pounder, Froman led Santa Rosa to an 8-3 season in 2008, throwing for 3,876 yards and 40 touchdowns. Last year with U of L, he threw for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns, with five interceptions.
If Strong's plans pan out, though, Froman's passing will be almost incidental to the U of L offense this year.
"People talk about spread or whatever. But it comes down to 'can we run the football?'" Strong said. "Because we have two outstanding running backs, and you don't want to put the game in the quarterback's hand.
"That position is a position that gets a lot of praise and, when it goes bad, it gets a lot of criticism. What you want Froman to do in that position is just operate our offense. We have enough weapons in our offense. The nucleus is our offensive line, and you just need to let Bilal Powell and Vic Anderson get behind those guys and see if we can move people out of the way."
A team seeking efficient game management from its quarterback often is viewed as a team without confidence in its quarterback.
Froman begs to differ.
"Well, efficiency is what you want out of a quarterback," he said. "Your offense has to be efficient."
Plus, the spread creates big-play chances, he said.
"Just the nature of the spread is going to be more exciting, more dynamic," Froman said. "We can pretty much break a big play whenever we want to, whether it's on the ground or in the air. Pretty much every single play we go out there and we're saying 'we can score a touchdown on this play.'"
In addition to having nine starters back on offense, Froman says he has added options because of the spread.
"As a quarterback, it gives me the option to stay with the pass; check to a run; run to pass; I can pull out myself and go with something," he said. "So it just gives us options, allows us to be flexible, takes what the defense gives us. If they want to take away something, then we'll take what they're giving us. If they want to take that away, then we'll take something else. It allows us to attack at all angles."
Strong said the area U of L has improved most since spring practice is in the receiving corps. Junior-college transfer Josh Bellamy brings a swagger that has rubbed off on his teammates and, according to Strong, raised the level of performance for all. Doug Beaumont leads the returnees, having caught a pass in 24 consecutive games.
While Strong says the Cardinals are searching for an identity, Froman says he thinks he knows what the strength will be: work ethic.
"Since this staff got here in January, every single guy on this team has just been busting his butt day in and day out, doing everything the coaches ask of them," Froman said. "Very little complaining. ... Coming to this first game, we know we're prepared. We know that there's not a team that we're going to play this year that's out-prepared us, outworked us, outhustled us in the off-season. So we come in with a lot of confidence."
Froman says he has spent "a couple hours a day, every day since last season" studying film to prepare for Saturday's game.
All with the intention of notching another first — the first win of the season.