CRAWFORD | Now what does Petrino do at quarterback? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Now what does Petrino do at quarterback?

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Bobby Petrino watches freshman QB Lamar Jackson warm up before Saturday's loss to Houston. With Clemson visiting Thursday, Petrino has another tough call to make at the position. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Bobby Petrino watches freshman QB Lamar Jackson warm up before Saturday's loss to Houston. With Clemson visiting Thursday, Petrino has another tough call to make at the position. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Things don’t get any easier for University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. He has another quarterback decision to make, and very quickly. And it's not as simple as identifying who has the hottest hand.

Lamar Jackson, the freshman assumed to be the starter moving forward, wasn’t sharp in Saturday’s 34-31 loss to Houston. He made the wrong read on the first play — a read-option handoff, and turned the wrong way on several play-action fake handoffs. He took a 17-yard sack, and twice threw long interceptions over the middle.

After throwing his second interception of the game, with 4:10 left in the third quarter, Petrino turned to sophomore Kyle Bolin.

The hero of last season’s come-from-behind win over Kentucky produced immediate results. He led the Cardnials on back-to-back touchdown drives, twice giving them the lead before Houston finally scored the game-winner.

Bolin finished 10 of 18 for 157 yards and a touchdown. Jackson hit on 17 of 27 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, plus the two interceptions, a fumble at the Houston 12 and a botched handoff that resulted in a turnover.

After the game, Petrino wouldn’t commit to a course of quarterback action for the Cardinals' game against No. 12-ranked Clemson, which visits Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for a nationally televised matchup Thursday night.

“That’s a great question,” Petrino said when asked about the QB position after the loss. “It’s something I can’t answer right now. But we’ll work at it, get it figured out.”

Against Houston, Petrino wanted to attack through the air. Coming out of halftime, the Cards went to the short passing game on their first drive and Jackson completed 5 of 6. They were cruising until Jackson fumbled at the Houston 12.

“I think he was trying to do too much,” Petrino said. “When your strength is your ability to run, make plays, and scramble around and throw the ball deep, it’s something he needs to learn. That I have the ability to take off and run and get positive plays, and not to try to make the great play, and don’t throw the ball deep over the middle. The first turnover was deep over the middle late and the backside safety got there and made the play. There’s a lot to learn there.”

When Petrino went to Bolin, the offense clicked.

“We felt like the part of our offense we could expose them with, Kyle operates the best,” Petrino said. “His ability to drop back, throw the ball, and mix it up is something that he has shown is his strength. We felt like that’s what we needed at that time.”

Now here’s the question: Is that what the Cardinals are going to need against Clemson?

The fact of the matter is, Clemson’s defense is a difficult proposition up front, which means the Cardinals are likely going to need a mobile quarterback. While Bolin looked good against Houston’s defense, he might be on his back a good part of the time against Clemson.

It’s a tough call. The offensive line has as much to do with it as quarterback performance. And Reggie Bonnafon, who has experience and mobility, might also enter the discussion.

Bolin said he wasn’t going to worry about a possible competition in the short preparation week.

“I try to approach every week as if I’m the starting quarterback,” he said.

Of Jackson, he said, “He just needs to hang in there. It’s his freshman year. We understand that it’s difficult to step in there and play. . . . We’ve all been in there and we understand how hard it is. . . . He’ll be fine. The coaches understand how young he is. And we understand how young he is. We’ve got to keep building his confidence and making sure he understands it’s all right to make a mistake here and there, and that it’s not the end of the world.”

But he does have to learn.

“When Kyle came in, he did give us a lift and we were able to get back to a normal offense and move the ball,” Petrino said.

In some ways, Petrino still has to figure out what Louisville’s “normal offense” is going to be.

Does he turn completely to a read-option game? Does he want to stay with a more traditional pro style attack? Does it change from game to game based on what his young offensive line can do against that week’s opponent?

“We’ve just got to get on the game plan and work at what we want to operate on the game plan,” Petrino said. “There are a lot of things we’re going to have to focus on.”

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