LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — University of Louisville senior DeVante Parker had a message for redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Bolin when he came on in relief of injured starter Reggie Bonnafon with the Cards trailing 13-0 early in the second quarter of Saturday's 44-40 win over rival Kentucky.

“I just told him to find me,” Parker said. “Just throw it up, I'll go and get it. And score.”

Two plays later he did, hauling in a 45-yard TD reception that steadied the Cardinals and gave their reserve QB confidence.

Without Parker, U of L was a team that could use both its top two quarterbacks and still not find enough offense to win at Virginia or Clemson. With him, they could win with their backup at Notre Dame and with their third-stringer against Kentucky.

The Ballard High School product's final catch at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was a 26-yarder down the left sideline in which he adjusted to the ball and went up over Cody Quinn to make the catch.

“Just an exceptional player,” UK coach Mark Stoops said after the game. “He is a special, special football player. . . . When you have an exceptional player like that, it puts some stress on you.”

Bobby Petrino on Parker's prowess: “I wish I would have been able to have him the entire year. When I saw him in spring ball, I thought, ‘I think we've got a guy here who is really special, really talented.' I was fortunate enough to coach a guy in the NFL by the name of Jimmy Smith who had the same power, speed, hands and run after the catch. So he reminded me so much of him. But he might even be better than I thought he was.”

Parker hauled in six catches for the game. Half went for touchdowns. The other half went for first-down yardage. He wound up with 180 yards on those six catches.

The three touchdowns were a career high for Parker. He now has 33 on his career, tying him with Ibn Green for the school's career record.

“He's a nice guy to have on your side,” Bolin said after the game, in perhaps the understatement of the game. “He makes you right. (On the final completion to him) I'm not going to sit here and say I tried to put the ball in any specific spot. I just knew he has unbelievable athletic ability to go up and get a ball.”

You're never going to get a lot of explanation from Parker. He's a better interview than he was, but he's still a player of few words.

Asked about his last catch in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the leaping catch to set up U of L's game-winning touchdown Parker just smiled and said, “Yeah, it was a good catch.”

Asked if he was surprised UK covered him so much one-on-one, he said, “Yeah I was. I'm glad they did. They had no chance.”

Parker found himself in the middle of a pre-game dust-up between the teams, but even played that in a low-key fashion afterward.

“They were just talking smack and we were talking smack,” Parker said. “It's what we always do before every game. They were talking smack to us and come over and said something. I don't like UK, I really hate them, so . . . “

After that happened, U of L coaches said they spent extra time before the game telling players not to let the pregame shoving distract them from executing. But several Cardinals said it took the team a while to settle down.

“They got into our heads at first, at the beginning of the game,” Parker said. “We just had to get over it and start playing our game.”

Parker, in four games against UK, caught 14 passes for 312 yards and five touchdowns.

And the Cardinals won them all, which he said was his biggest goal on Saturday.

“They wanted to come in here and beat us on senior day,” Parker said. “I'm just glad to beat them all four years. Not everybody can say they did that, but we can.”

You can say what you want about the rotating of quarterbacks Petrino had to do all season. The ability of Parker to make big catches in pressure situations and to turn them into big plays was the most important ingredient in what this team was able to do in the second half of the season.

Parker, in only half a season, led the Cardinals in receiving yards (735) and touchdown catches (5). He averaged 122.5 yards per game, and caught 35 passes. He wouldn't speculate on what might've been had he played a whole season.

“I don't know what would've happened,” Parker said. “I'm just glad I was able to come back.”

He's not the only one in Louisville saying that today.

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