As Christmas approaches, Clark W. Griswold reminds us we are all in this together and that when Santa squeezes his oversized behind down the chimney he should find the jolliest bunch of Cardinals this side of the nut house.
Since reclaiming the Governor's Cup and hearing recent news that Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin should both be healthy for the Belk Bowl, the debate about who should start under center is heating up. Whether it is Bonnafon or Bolin the concern should be minimal. Louisville's coaching staff is as good as it has ever been and Coach Petrino will ensure that whatever players take the field December 30th, the Cardinals will be in a perfect position to cage the Bulldogs.
Here is what we know. Reggie Bonnafon in only his second year of playing quarterback has delivered some of the most impressive quarterback play we have seen this season, followed by some of the most stagnant offensive drives imaginable under Petrino. Consistency has not been his selling point, but when he has played well, Louisville appears unstoppable. After the Notre Dame victory I was convinced he solidified his future under center, but his lack of aggression against Kentucky changed that perspective somewhat.
Reggie is at his best when moving in the pocket and utilizing the play action fake. Some of his play fakes against Notre Dame would have made Brett Favre blush, and the accuracy on his completed passes was far more impressive than anything Everett Golson threw the entire game.
Reggie's inconsistency seems to stem from his inability to trust his receivers. Bonnafon continues to hold the ball too long and rarely gives his receivers a chance to make a play. His unsureness is likely due to his inexperience coupled with the complicated playbook, but Reggie will only have one more opportunity to play with the likes of DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz, and Gerald Christian so the kid better take advantage of it. I believe Reggie has the best arm on the team and throws the prettiest ball, but until his passing aggression catches up with his running ability, Bonnafon will continue to be challenged at the starting quarterback position.
Kyle Bolin was the forgotten mystery QB for most of the season. There were whispers of his name throughout the fans all season, but being stuck at fourth or third on the depth chart had many observers believing his talent level was subpar. Injuries played a major role in Bolin's slow development, but Thanksgiving arrived and Mr. Bolin must have had a phenomenal meal because his performance against Kentucky saved what would've been a disastrous end to the season.
Kyle entered the game with confidence due to the preparation Coach Petrino expects and the belief his coaches instilled in him. Petrino provided Kyle opportunities to make big plays, and Bolin delivered by trusting his receivers. Parker was head and shoulders better than everyone on the field and Bolin gave him a chance to shine. It was exciting and impressive to watch a QB simply toss it around with full expectation that the system would work and that the receivers would make plays. Bolin wasn't perfect, he hand delivered UK 14 points, but he bounced back each time with well-timed throws in clutch situations.
Statistically, it is impossible to compare the two due to lack of starts and different level competition, but here are the numbers anyways. Bolin was 25 of 38 for the year (21-31 for UK game) and threw four touchdowns to just one interception. Bolin also rushed six times for five yards. Bonnafon was 60 for 117 on the year with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Reggie also rushed 71 times for 173 yards and five touchdowns. Reggie has lethal feet, and if his passing game develops teams would be helpless against his zone read ability.
The only statistic that stood out to be, even though based on a small sample, was yards per attempt. Reggie barely averages seven yards per pass while Bolin averages almost 11. Even though the sample size is too small to make sweeping conclusions, this number tells me Kyle is more comfortable throwing the ball downfield. Petrino's offense cannot be stopped when the run game is effective and is protected by a deep ball threat. If Reggie is unwilling to toss balls up for grabs to number nine, Kyle will without question see the field.
I do not have a vote to cast in determining the Belk Bowl starter, but I do believe Reggie has the most potential in years to come due to his athletic ability. I also have full faith and confidence in our coaching staff to give our team the best chance to win, and Louisville will look the part of the better team come December 30th. The Cardinals will be ready to play against Georgia no matter who starts or how many quarterbacks take a snap under center. It all comes down to winning. The Cardinals will return home 10-3 capturing a third straight 10+ win total for the first time in school history, Cardinal Pride will explode, and Grinch like grins will be seen throughout the region because there is no stopping the future of Cardinal Football.
All Hail UofL !!