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Russ Brown: No decision yet on who the quarterback will be for U of L in Belk Bowl

 UofL coach Bobby Petrino is  not tipping his hand yet about whether Reggie Bonnafon (above) or Kyle Bolin will start against the No. 13 Bulldogs  in Charlotte on Dec. 30 (UofL Athletics Photo)

UofL coach Bobby Petrino is not tipping his hand yet about whether Reggie Bonnafon (above) or Kyle Bolin will start against the No. 13 Bulldogs in Charlotte on Dec. 30 (UofL Athletics Photo)


By Russ Brown
KyForward correspondent

LOUISVILLE–Here’s the long-awaited news on Louisville’s quarterback situation for the Cardinals’ Belk Bowl game against Georgia in two weeks: No news.

Well, that’s not quite true, but UofL coach Bobby Petrino is certainly not tipping his hand yet about whether Reggie Bonnafon or Kyle Bolin will start against the No. 13 Bulldogs (9-3) in Charlotte on Dec. 30.

Bolin, of course, was the hero in Louisville’s 44-40 come-from-behind win over Kentucky on Nov. 29 after Bonnafon suffered a knee injury early in the second quarter with the Cards trailing, 13-0.

Petrino said Tuesday afternoon during his first appearance before local media since the UK game that Bonnafon has returned to workouts, has a good range of motion and good movement.
“Reggie didn’t take full drops Friday, but he did a lot of throwing,” Petrino said. “He has some pain in there from a bone bruise in his knee, so it’s really gonna be determined on how quickly the pain goes away. He’s able to run and do those type of things. We’re just gonna see how it plays out. We’re encouraged that he’ll be ready for the game, but we don’t really know yet.”

Petrino was being similarly coy about whether Bonnafon or Bolin will start against Georgia if the latter is healthy, and if so, whether he would use both quarterbacks in the game.

“We haven’t even thought about that yet,” Petrino said. “We’ll just see what happens.”

Because one of Bonnafon’s main strengths is his athleticism that allows him to be elusive and a running threat, UofL offensive coordinator Garrick McGee says that much of the decision will revolve around his ability to do just that.

“He’s an athletic kid, so we have to make sure he’s at the point where he can be efficient running the football so he can protect himself,” McGee says. “We don’t want to put him at risk of further injury, because the offseason is going to be really important for Reggie to get ready to play for us next year. We have to see that he can do what he naturally does, which is make plays throwing the ball, but when things break down, sneak out and run.”

Bolin, a redshirt freshman product of Lexington Catholic High School, had been the third-string quarterback most of the season before being pressed into action against UK due to Bonnafon’s injury. He responded by completing 21-of-31 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns in the best performance by a UofL QB all season.

Given Bolin’s impressive showing in a high-pressure situation, one might wonder why he wasn’t playing ahead of Bonnafon and previous starter Will Gardner all along. Petrino noted that Bolin had undergone knee surgery during the summer that slowed his progress.

“The last month he started to throw the ball with more accuracy, with more timing, he was moving around better,” Petrino said. “He was never really full speed until halfway through the season. So it was kind of a situation where you started to see him improving. He’s always worked hard, pays attention, does a good job in the meeting room.

“He was very calm (vs. UK), he did a nice job delivering the ball on time, getting it out of his hands. He made mistakes, which you’re gonna make when you first go out there, but he made plays that made up for them. So it was a good performance by him.”

McGee said that certain plays may change with one or the other in the game against Georgia, but the basic scheme would remain the same.

“There could be more of a an emphasis on certain things if Reggie’s in or Kyle’s in, but we have a way of doing things,” McGee says. “We have a philosophy that we believe in. We force all the quarterbacks to believe in what we’re doing and work on their technique. We just have to make sure that everyone around the quarterback is playing at a high level.”

No. 21/20 UofL (9-3) won four of its last five games and will be gunning for its third straight 10-win season, but is still relatively unproven against elite competition because the next ranked opponent the Cards beat will be their first this year. They pulled one mild upset, edging Notre Dame 31-28 in South Bend, but the sagging Irish were unranked en route to losing five of their last six games.

Thus, Petrino said, his players won’t lack motivation going against Georgia, a high-profile program from the even higher-profile SEC.

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“When our players found out we’re playing Georgia, I think it was something that really lifted our team,” Petrino says. “It’s a great matchup and they’re excited. I think it’s great for us. It has certainly helped our preparation, helped our guys to be very motivated. Makes it a lot easier when we’re here practicing, getting up in the morning and lifting weights while everybody else is home for Christmas.”

But Petrino admitted that spending the last two days devising a game plan for the Bulldogs has made him “nervous.”


“Because they’re a really good football team,” he said. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Holliman makes first team All-American

Leading the nation in interceptions with 14, Louisville sophomore safety Gerod Holliman received a spot on the Associated Press All-America first team. A native of Miami, Fla., Holliman is the first Cardinal since Elvis Dumervil in 2005 to be named to an Associated Press All-America squad.

There were a total of 26 student-athletes on the AP first team and.Holliman is just four underclassmen to earn one of those spots.

Russ Brown has covered University of Louisville athletics for 31 years, including 15 for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. He is senior writer/editor for the Louisville SportsReport, which he helped found, and also writes for Cardinalsports.com.

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