As Reggie Bonnafon was being attended to early in the 2nd quarter of Saturday’s Governor’s Cup game between Louisville and Kentucky, reality started to set it: we were going to have to turn to 3rd stringer Kyle Bolin. No big deal, right? Just down 13-0 to Kentucky, who has all kinds of momentum, and Bolin entering the game completing 4-7 passes for 35 yards in his career. No panic at all in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Now be serious, you know you were worried.
I love great stories in sports. Maybe “Rudy” was still fresh in my head after having watched it last Saturday before the Notre Dame game. So immediately, I turn to my buddy I go to games with, Chris Tingley, and say “Well, he IS from Lexington.” How sweet would it be for a kid from Lexington to bring the Cards back in this game against Kentucky? The Wildcats didn’t offer Bolin a scholarship until well after he was committed to Louisville. They let him get away, and on Saturday it would come back on them.
Bolin entered the game facing a 3rd and 7 from Louisville’s 45. So play it safe and ease him into the game, right? Nah, Bobby Petrino goes five wide (five wide receivers, no running back) on the first play. Bolin hits Eli Rogers with a 10 yard completion for the first down. On the next play, Bolin found DeVante Parker for a huge 45 yard touchdown. Suddenly, it was a whole new ballgame. I then turned to Chris and said “We are going to win this game.”
The rest of the game was a back and forth battle with both teams taking the lead at different points. Bolin’s impact on this game was enormous. Not only did he throw for 3 touchdowns, but he also threw and interception that was taken back for a touchdown and had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. So whether it was good or bad, Bolin was responsible for a LOT of points in this game between both teams.
The final stat line for Bolin was 381 passing yards and 3 touchdowns on 21/31 passing. He also used his feet to escape pressure and keep plays alive. The interception he threw was just a miscommunication, so it wasn’t like he had his man open and just couldn’t get it to him. That stuff will happen. Take away the two turnovers, and it was a near perfect day for the redshirt freshman from Lexington Catholic High School. Doesn’t even matter now. Bolin led the Cards to a victory, so those turnovers can be forgotten.
Bolin will likely be the quarterback when the Cards play in their bowl game this season. As for next season? We don’t know. This very well could have been Bolin’s only time to shine for the Cards. Or he could battle and be the starter next season. Nobody knows that right now. There are a a lot of quarterbacks on the roster that will compete for the job next season. But for now, Bolin had his moment.
I would say that Bolin had his “Teddy” and “Kyle Kuric” moment in this game. In 2011, Will Stein got injured against Kentucky, and Teddy Bridgewater entered the game and led the Cards to a victory. The rest is history for him at UofL. Kyle Kuric will forever be associated with the last game in Freedom Hall against Syracuse. He was a solid player for the Cards and has had a nice professional career so far, but the first thing that fans will think of when they hear his name will be that Freedom Hall finale.
And now, if Bolin never has a bigger moment than he did Saturday, he has put his stamp on this rivalry and the fans will never forget it. Many quarterbacks that are backups and rarely play just come and go and most fans never know who they are. That is just the nature of a sport like football with so many players on the team. That will not be the case for Kyle Bolin anymore. Fans will always remember the game where the kid from Lexington came in trailing 13-0 and helped Louisville beat Kentucky and keep them out of a bowl game.