Cardinals Go Bolin’

Kyle Bolin being interviewed after defeating UK. Photo by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune.

Kyle Bolin being interviewed after defeating UK. Photo by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune.

Kyle Bolin is a quarterback. He’s a quarterback for the University of Louisville. That’s B-O-L-I-N. The reason why I’m spelling it out is because I, like many folks who follow the Cardinals, had no idea who he was. That might be a decent dose of professional neglect on my part, but either way, I’m very much well-versed in Bolin now. That’s because the third-string signal-caller from Lexington Catholic notched 381 yards in Louisville’s 44-40 win over University of Kentucky on Saturday and firmly etched himself into Cardinal folklore. He won that game.

It all began when starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon was carried off the field with a knee injury almost a third of the game in. Bonnafon who  was deputizing for Will Gardner after the latter had been declared out for the rest of the season with his own knee injury, was simply not going to come back – and it was up to Bolin to step in.

Firstly, let’s be honest – our first thoughts were probably that the game was over. With so many question marks hanging over the performances of Bonnafon and Gardner throughout the season, why would a third-stringer offer any hope of victory? If Bolin was not good enough to oust two other quarterbacks in whom fans had questionable confidence, then how could they expect him to deliver when it counted? Well, how wrong the fans, media and I were.

On his first pass, with his team on their own 45-yard line and third-and-7 Bolin found Eli Rogers for a first down. On his second pass, Bolin found DeVante Parker with a long arching throw. It would be the first of three touchdowns for Parker, while Bolin would end up being only the fifth Louisville quarterback to throw for that many yards.

Considering it was his first consequential action in a Cardinal uniform, Bolin not only delivered, but far exceeded all expectations of him. Sure, there was an interception and a fumble, but there were also fast, precise passes to the wide-receiving core. There was composure when he dropped back, or stood in the pocket. There was patience, poise and a good dose of panache.

Based on this singular performance, Bolin does not deserve the starting spot, outright. But what Bolin deserves is a serious look at slotting in a space that neither Reggie Bonnafon nor Will Gardner truly made their own during the course of the season. Bolin was motivated by the intense rivalry, adrenaline and perhaps a lack of expectation. But he delivered because of skill, and that skill may need to be given as much of a chance as his colleagues have been given.

Because of Kyle Bolin, Louisville will be going bowling – not in the Orange bowl, but a respectable one that could help the Cardinals seal a 10 win season in Bobby Petrino’s first season back as coach. And because of Bolin, a whole host of Cardinal seniors will leave the university with a win in their last home game – some of them will unquestionably go to the NFL. DeVante Parker will be one of those. If Saturday was a chance for Bolin to show what he could do, then it was yet another opportunity for Parker to cement his place as the best wide-receiver in the nation, a man the Minnesota Vikings should be bending over backwards to acquire in next year’s NFL draft. Equally able to make it in the pros will be Lorenzo Mauldin, a tackling factory who bags sacks for fun and has the ability to read offenses as well as anyone in the country.

But forget the NFL draft, Saturday was about yet another Cardinal victory in the Governor’s Cup – a win that ensures the seniors and Bolin will go bowlin’.