BOZICH | Louisville gets the win -- and Kyle Bolin gets the QB job
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kyle Bolin is the University of Louisville quarterback who rarely plays but regularly moves the team.
Bolin is the guy who gets his opportunities when the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart are injured or ineffective.
Bolin is the guy who has never been The Guy, even though the Louisville offense has been most likely to look like a Bobby Petrino Offense when Bolin runs it.
That’s stretching the truth of the quarterback situation, but not as much as Bolin stretched and then scorched the Syracuse defense Saturday in the Cards’ crackling 41-17 victory at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
No wonder Petrino said Bolin is now officially The Guy.
Bolin will be the Louisville quarterback when the Cardinals, now 5-4, finish their home schedule against Virginia next Saturday.
“He earned that with his performance today,” Petrino said.
With Bolin making plays, reading defenses and changing calls, the Cardinals moved the football the way they moved it when Brian Brohm and Stefan LeFors ran Petrino’ s attack a decade ago.
Total offense – 579 yards, a season high.
Passing offense – 362 yards, another season high by 55 yards. This time the Cards passed the ball because they wanted to throw it, not because they were scrambling to play catch up.
Points – Mark down the 41 points as 10 more than Louisville had scored against an FBS opponent this season. In fact, it’s the most points the Cardinals scored against an FBS opponent since they hung 44 on Kentucky last season. That, for the record, was another Kyle Bolin production.
The Bolin Report: 24 for 35 for 362 yards and three touchdowns.
Yes, he threw an interception in first quarter, but Bolin earned more points with his coach by wiping that bad throw from his memory. With Lamar Jackson (ankle) and Reggie Bonnafon (concussion) unavailable, Bolin played as if he had no desire to handle a clipboard again.
“He distributed the ball well,” Petrino said. “I think we must have had a lot (eight, actually) of different guys catch balls. And he did a good job in the run game. I think that really helped us.”
Petrino saw the same thing that I saw.
I expect Bolin to throw the ball more efficiently than Jackson or Bonnafon because an efficient throwing game is the primary reason that Charlie Strong recruited Bolin out of Lexington Catholic High School several years ago. He does not have a power arm. He has an accurate arm.
Bolin showed that he’s dangerous throwing the football a year ago when he replaced Bonnafon and led Louisville past Kentucky by throwing for 381 yards.
But this was the thing about Bolin Saturday: Louisville also ran the ball more efficiently than the Cards have run it all season.
Brandon Radcliff ran like Brandon Radcliff, surging for 117 yards on 10 carries. Jeremy Smith was tracking for a 100-yard performance until he fumbled at the Syracuse 2 and gave the first-team spot back to Radcliff. Still, Smith finished with 71 yards.
With 217 yards, Louisville produced its third-best rushing game this season.
Maybe the Syracuse linebackers and safeties couldn’t crowd the line of scrimmage because they had to fear Bolin’s ability to find receivers.
Maybe Bolin’s experience reading defenses enabled him to make certain the Louisville offense was regularly using the most effective play.
Maybe it was just an afternoon when the U of L offensive line and backs were prepared to deliver.
I’m not certain.
I am certain of these four things: A) It was Louisville’s finest overall offensive performance this season; B) The offense generated the balance that a Petrino offense used to generate, earning 217 yards rushing, 362 passing; C) Bolin has earned the starting job for another week; and D) Bolin isn’t going to take any credit or start assuming that he is The Guy.
“I’m just going to come in each week and just prepare like I’m the starter, regardless of who’s starting,” Bolin said.
“It’s the coaches’ decision based on who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win. So if that’s me, I’m just thankful for it and I’m just going to keep being hungry and pushing forward.”
Understandable. Bolin started against Clemson in the Cards' third game. He was 19 for 34 with two interceptions when Louisville lost by three to an unbeaten team that has contended for a spot in the national playoffs. Then Bolin sat for four straight games before being summoned as an injury replacement at Wake Forest last week.
But against Virginia, Bolin will the The Guy. Petrino made certain to compliment the grit that Bolin showed by refusing to flinch, standing his ground in the pocket and delivering the football. Coaches love that as much as anything a quarterback does.
“That is where you’re being courageous as a quarterback,” Petrino said. “You are standing there and you transfer your weight and you deliver the ball and you know that hit is going to be right there.”
“He’s a very good guy,” Louisville linebacker James Burgess said. “He’s smart with the ball. He makes good decisions with the ball. He can fit it in a small pocket.
“He has the arm strength. He’s mature. He has good experience with the ball. He plays with a lot of energy. He brings a lot of energy to the offense.”
And for at least another week, Kyle Bolin will be the University of Louisville starting quarterback.
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