‘Tis the season that never seems to end, starts earlier every year, and unites or divides us all. Election season surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the free peoples together and isn't leaving us anytime soon. This cycle may find voters concerning themselves with great walls of Mexico or personal email accounts, but Card Nation is captivated and divided by the starting quarterback position of its football team. Kyle Bolin surged in front of Lamar Jackson after a strong performance against Syracuse and many voters find themselves questioning allegiances while the Bolinites thump their chests. Al Davis may not have aged like a fine wine, but his memorable quote reads true for both sides of the aisle. Whether you're an Action Jackson or a Rollin with Bolin, just win, baby!
The Cardinals turned in their best 60 minute performance against a FBS team Saturday afternoon, and both sides of the football were impressive in victory. I'll address the polarizing debate shortly because the story of Saturday was the play of the offensive line. The much maligned and consistently awful group up front were unrecognizable against Syracuse. They protected the quarterback, opened up holes for the running game, finished blocks, and committed a season low one penalty with Hugley's false start.
It is unfair to blame the offensive line for their lack of talent, experience, or depth. However, the line's absence of discipline, its love affair with yellow, questionable effort, and their consistent halting of promising drives was beyond inexcusable. The big boys up front played exceptional Saturday and yes, Syracuse is easily the second worst team the Cards have faced in2015, but the lack of penalties and blown assignments was refreshing.
As for the defense, keep making plays and feasting on the weakest part of the schedule because bowl season and bowl gift bags will be your reward.
Now, for the main event, the quarterback debate. Like any good moderator, the goal is neutrality so I will attempt to stick to facts and debate worthy arguments.
First and foremost, Coach Petrino is one of the most successful head coaches in the modern era of college football for a reason. He is fully aware of which quarterback gives Louisville the best chance to win, he evaluates his players every day in practice, his only goal is winning, and he is 100% correct in stating Kyle Bolin earned the start against Virginia. The conspiracy theorists who believed Coach Petrino had a personal grudge against Bolin need to move to California and chase UFOs. Petrino is paid millions to do this job, trust him, he wants to win more than you do.
Bolin's biggest advantage in the debate is his knowledge and understanding of Coach Petrino's entire playbook. Kyle can correctly understand, run, and execute every play of Petrino's daunting offense. He has been on campus for three years, two in this system, and isn't trying to master footwork, technique, or taking a snap from under center. Lamar is 18 years old and has been on campus for less than six months, let that sink in.
There can be no debate about the effectiveness of the run game when Bolin is able to take snaps from under center. The offensive line responds, the running backs suddenly show signs of life, and confidence exudes through the sideline and stands. Running the football has always been the biggest key to a successful Petrino offense and Kyle resurrected the Cardinal running game against the Big Orange. Beginning Saturday with Syracuse, Louisville has entered their easiest stretch of games in terms of defenses and overall competition. A quarterback who is a game manager, has full comprehension of the offense, and can establish a balanced running attack gives the Cardinals a great chance to finish 8-4.
Bolin isn't perfect and to disappoint some of his supporters, Kyle Bolin isn't Tom Brady. His arm strength leaves something to be desired and he has trouble pushing the ball deep down field. Also, it cannot be ignored that in Kyle's two starts against good competition, Bolin was 39-74 passing, threw one touchdown against four interceptions, had an average rating of 27, and the offense was very ineffective scoring only 24 points. Fortunately for Louisville and Bolin, there are no more Clemson's or Georgia's left on the schedule.
Lamar has displayed a solid passing ability, a strong arm, improvement, and his best performances came against Florida State and Wake Forest. Jackson certainly has the most potential of any quarterback on the roster. If he can learn to be a complete quarterback while grasping a full understanding of Petrino's system, Jackson could be one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear Cardinal Red.
The only mistake moving forward would be to completely ignore Jackson or Bolin and leave one of them holding a clipboard. Jackson is too electrifying, too good, and too effective at passing to not be a key factor for the remainder of the season. The Lamar experiment has been invaluable for his future and the future success of this program, and Lamar was the starting quarterback for four of Louisville's five victories in 2015. Jackson needs to see the field alongside Bolin or for a few drives each game.
Barring a disaster, Louisville should be favored in its remaining three games. All three opponents have yielded yards against the run and do not pose major threats on offense. Kyle Bolin may, or may not be the hero we deserve, but he is the hero we need right now. Time of possession, fewer penalties, smart decisions, and the ability to run every Petrino play will almost guarantee an 8-4 regular season. Kyle Bolin is the best man for the job moving forward, we are all Cardinals, and all that matters in the end is winning. JUST WIN, BABY!
All Hail UofL !!