Justin Burke fills in nicely for Cardinals

Losing a starting quarterback in the middle of the season is never easy. But Louisville had a nice backup plan when Adam Froman went down.

The Cardinals enjoyed the luxury of having another fifth-year senior and former starter on the bench and ready to go. Justin Burke has started the past two games and has thrown five touchdown passes against just one interception.

"It's pretty rare to have two five-year guys," Burke said.

Froman, who had been on crutches for two weeks while dealing with a deep thigh bruise, was back at practice Wednesday night, though he walked off the field with a noticeable limp. His official status for Saturday's West Virginia game won't be known until the Big East injury report is updated Thursday night.

But if Froman is sidelined again, the Cardinals feel comfortable with Burke, who started the first three games of last season before getting hurt. Though Burke hasn't thrown for more than 150 yards in either of the last two weeks, head coach Charlie Strong says he has done a good job of "coming in and just managing the offense."

Credit Burke for staying ready and focused. Given all he's been through, it would have been easy for him to have checked out mentally already.

The former Kentucky player of the year began his career at NC State but transferred to Louisville when it became clear he wouldn't start for the Wolfpack. He lost his job to Froman last year after the injury, then was beaten out in the summer for the starting duty this season. Burke has already graduated and is working on his MBA, and some nights he has to sprint out of practice a few minutes early to make it to class. But he has managed to stay sharp and supportive.

"I think I've grown a lot in the last five years, just figuring out what motivates me and how to bounce back from adversity," he said. "I'm a much wiser person.

"I handled not getting the starting job well this year. Last year, I wasn't very mature about it after the injury. But being able to deal with the ebbs and flows and ups and downs of the last five years has made me much stronger."

Burke might not have had the career he once envisioned. But he has already helped his team win a conference road game this season (at Syracuse), and he may be called on to start again as Louisville seeks a sixth victory so it can go to a bowl for the first time in four years.

"I want to put myself and the team in position to win," he said. "That's what I take pride in."