Come one, come all. Come on in the Big Time Big Top Big Tent. It’s a three — count ’em, three — ring circus. Each one full of incredible feats of daring do, leaping, twirling, whirling, acts of prestidigitation that will amaze and astonish you.
In one ring, no mere band of bearded ladies. No, no, no. We’ve got rivalry day dance down of the national championship dance teams. One in red, one in blue, swirling and twerking in unison, simultaneously, loser leaves town.
In another ring, yo mama, yo papa, trash talk smackdown. A pushing, shoving whirligig of verbal testosterone. Before, during and after the game. Make sure the kiddies have plenty of cotton candy mom and dad, to eat and fill their ears.
And in the main ring, rock ’em, sock ’em, take this, take that, anything you can do I can do better battle of pigskin. Seven, count ’em, seven lead changes. Nobody will want to leave your seat until the final horn sounds.
It’s Turkey Day Weekend Rivalry Football, the way Bronco Nagurski, Walter Camp, Woody, Bo, the Bear and the Pipe meant for it to be.
Yowza, Yowza, Yowza, come one, come all.
* * * * *
Fan in Blue: “Huh, that DeVante Parker is a really good receiver.”
Fan in Red: “Duh! But did you know that Kyle Bolin’s from Lexington. And he’s the real storyline of the game?”
Which is another way of saying, I’ll get to the Ballard grad Cardinal, who, even at 80% speed, was the best player on the field, in a moment.
First, the storyline.
Of course, I start with a peripheral story.
When I got home from the game, I turned on the Ole Miss/ Mississippi State game. Just as I do so, Gary Danielson, regarding Ohio State losing former second string QB J.T. Barrett to injury against Michigan, asks rhetorically, “Who could lose two QBs and still win?”
The answer, Gary: The 9-3 University of Louisville Cardinals.
Kyle Bolin, come on down. It’s time to play.
The basics. He’s a redshirt freshman, who prepped not far from Commonwealth Stadium at Lexington Catholic, where he threw for 7,000+ yards and 63 TDs, and was a **** recruit.
He grew up a Tennessee Volunteer fan, but attended UK’s football camp, and was sure he’d performed well enough to impress the Wildcat coaching staff. Who, with Patrick Towles in hand, took a pass. At least, until after U of L offered a scholly. Too late, Joker.
He tore a meniscus in his knee during last spring practice, falling to #4 on U of L’s depth chart, eventually working his way up a spot.
Yesterday, after Louisville’s second team QB Reggie Bonnafon went down with a game/ season-ending leg injury, Bolin was pushed into action. When his current team was playing like it had eaten three too many pieces of pumpkin pie, and was down 0-13 to its 13 1/2 point underdog arch rival, Bolin’s home town school.
This legend begins with the Cards, 3d & 7 on its own 45, and a pin point dart to Eric Rogers on the left sideline in front of the UK bench for 10 yards and “Another Cards First Down.”1
On the next play, Bolin, obviously not as nervous as just about anybody else would have been at the moment, rose to the occasion, and bazooked a 45 yard TD strike to that Parker guy.
Louisville 7, Kentucky 13. Game on!!!!!
After the Cardinals’ D held UK to three and out on its next possession, the Bluegrass Rifleman went back to work. A seven yard run. A 32 yard completion to Michael Dyer. Another connection for 17 to Gerald Christian. Making it 1st and goal at the Wildcats’ two yard line, from where, Dyer plunged it in.
Less than five minutes of game clock after entering this most contentious fray, Bolin, who had seen minimal mop up minutes in only two previous games, had led the Cards to its first advantage of the day, 14-13.
In fact, TDs were scored on Bolin’s first four drives as signal caller. Those two by his team already mentioned, plus another before the half. And another Bolin toss, ill-advised, ended up in Wildcat Fred Tiller’s paws, then in the end zone for a pick six.
Such was Bolin’s magnificent day, that he laughed with reporters about that, and another fumble on a pass attempt, resulting in another Kentucky tally.
So, in leading his black-clad team to victory in his first real gig as a Cardinal, playing less than three quarters of the game, Kyle Bolin imbedded his name in Louisville football lore.
21/31 for 381 yards.2 Three TD strikes.
So, yeah, worthy Schnellenberger Award winner DeVante Parker, with his six receptions, three TDs and 180 receiving yards, was the Star of the Game.
But, make no mistake, Kyle Bolin, was, is, and, forever and always, shall be the Storyline of the Game.
* * * * *
Anybody, who has paid any attention to yesterday’s rivalry game knows it was seriously contentious, perhaps more than any previous meeting.
Both teams were frothing at the mouth both before and after kickoff. Cardinal mentor Bobby Petrino even got in a shoving match with UK’s head of football operations Dan Berezowitz. You can read about it, from the UK perspective, and see the photo here.
Thus, a key to the game was going to be which team remained focused. Which team was not going to allow its over the top passion for the W to get in the way of taking care of biz?
The team that couldn’t seem to find its fundamentals a week earlier in South Bend, being hit for 5 false starts, etc, was locked in. The Cardinals were flagged only three times for 15 yards against UK.3
Meanwhile, two Kentucky’s meltdowns were monumental.
1) On U of L’s opening possession after intermission, it failed to convert on 3d & 10 from its own 48, when Bolin was forced to scramble, and forced out of bounds way short of a 1st. Where he was thrown to the turf by Wildcat Mike Douglas, resulting in a 15 yard personal foul infraction, keeping the drive, otherwise over, alive.
On the next play, it was Bolin to Parker for 33 yards and a touchdown.
2) The Cards had fallen behind yet again, when it got the ball back for the game winning drive with 5:26 left on the clock.4
Uncle Mo appeared to have donned his Big Blue sweatshirt, when, with that regained advantage, the Cats’ D sacked Bolin on the first play of the possession. Except that, 3 1/2 quarters in, Za’Darius Smith, who made the tackle, still didn’t realize it was time to just play the game. His extracurricular physicality resulted in a personal foul, and renewed vigor by the Cards’ O.
Runs, tosses to Parker, Kai De La Cruz and James Quick, a four yard TD jaunt by Brandon Radcliffe, and the Cardinals were back up, this time for good, at 44-40.
Uncle Mo was seen scurrying toward the Governor’s Cup trophy, while tossing away his blue sweatshirt, exchanging it for a Cardinal red hoody.
* * * * *
Louisville really wasn’t able to run the ball all night. 83 yards total on 39 carries.
Gerod Hollimon tied the FBS record with his 14th pick of the season.
The Cards won, despite giving up a pick six, a fumble return TD and a blocked punt deep in its own territory, leading to another Wildcat score.
While some of the crowd were still meandering into their seats after the noon kickoff, nobody left early. This was the easily most exciting game of the series.
Louisville’s defense came up big, holding Kentucky to a FG thus maintaining the lead 28-23, after Michael Dyer fumbled late in the third quarter.
* * * * *
Crass commercialism was present as it always is at U of L athletic events.
Yesterday, it reached a new low.
As Reggie Bonnafon was being helped off the field, there was a seriously inappropriate karaoke commercial for U of L Womens’ hoops loudly blasting on the video screens.
* * * * *
A quick review of ACC/ SEC rivalry matchups yesterday.
Louisville (ACC) 44, Kentucky (SEC) 40.
Georgia Tech (ACC) 30, Georgia (SEC) 24.
Clemson (ACC) 35, South Carolina (SEC) 17.
Florida State (ACC) 24, Florida (SEC) 19.
If my adding machine is working correctly, I believe the correct totals are ACC, 4 Ws, SEC, 0 Ws.
* * * * *
Finally, one guy’s opinion, I love this game as the last of the year on Thanksgiving weekend.
I love noon kickoffs.
Bottom line: Cardinals win for the fourth time in a row. Louisville 44, Kentucky 40.
— Seedy K