Petrino can’t keep changing quarterbacks

Two games into the 2015 college football season and the University of Louisville is winless. That’s going to change very soon or things could get crazy around here.

The last time UofL lost its first two games was in 1994 during Howard Schnellenberger’s 10th and final season in Louisville. No, not even Steve Kragthorpe stumbled out of the gate like this, believe it or not.

Kyle Bolin
Kyle Bolin

Too soon to know whether it’s the beginning of a trend. The two losses could just be coincidental and everything will turn out okay.  The time to panic will be if and when certain people around the program start talking about “righting the ship” and “doing things the right way,” or words to that effect.

Unless we have been completely delusional about Coach Bobby Petrino’s coaching abilities, that’s not going to happen. Petrino has no tolerance for losing. He’s pretty close to be backed into a corner. Don’t expect Mr. Nice Guy Lately to countenance anything short of total commitment. Back to the basics, expecting, demanding results.

Expect Petrino also has to settle this week on the quarterback he believes has the best chance of growing in his offense. The experimenting, the free lancing probably a thing of the past for now. He has to go with someone who understands his offensive philosophy and has the inherent skills and confidence to make it work. Right now that is probably Kyle Bolin, the redshirt sophomore.

We were thinking a week ago the answer was Lamar Jackson. He promptly went out and played like a typical freshman the next game, temporarily delaying what could turn out to be a brilliant career. Trying too hard, trying to do everything, losing his way against Houston.

Whoever the starting quarterback turns out to be, Petrino needs to stick with him through the good and bad times. Constantly changing quarterbacks suggests that he doesn’t have complete trust in any of them, and the other players recognize that, not knowing what to expect and needing confidence in their leadership.

Lamar Jackson and breakaway speed in Atlanta

Nice vacation for the most part, spending the first five days on the beach at Garden City, South Carolina, and then driving to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. Lots of beach time after the remnants of Hurricane Erika subsided.

A major downer during the week was those first 30 minutes against Auburn. The nightmare scenario. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong during that first half. Echoes from yesteryear, of opposing teams ramming the ball down our throats, of fumbles, interceptions, bobbles and uncertainties, wondering just how badly UofL would be demolished.

atlanta 75That was second only to the Atlanta traffic, especially going north on I-75 to the game, looking for the right exit, with nine or 10 lanes of traffic in each direction, everybody seemingly driving 85-to-90 miles per hour, even in the “slow” lanes. Having to forego help from the Google Map app, running out of data time on the I-phone. Pretty intimidating, missing the exit, finding it much easier to get there on the surface streets.

I-75 is either a speedway or a parking lot, depending on the time of day. No in-betweens.

What is it with every other driver exceeding 80 miles per hour plus these days? Even on these long, winding mountain roads through the Smokies around Knoxville. Not smart, guys.

Since we had driven to Garden City a week before the game, we missed the Cardinal caravan coming south from Louisville. But upon returning from Atlanta, every 10th car adorned with a UofL license plate. Many of them unable to resist the Pecans and Peaches billboards, congregating at roadside stops in south Tennessee. But $45 for a potato bag of pecans seemed a little steep, settling for chunks of divinity or pecan bars.

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson

Despite the loss, most UofL fans glad they made the trip. That UofL comeback in the second half, with Lamar Jackson leading the charge, was something to behold. A positive finish against a top-10 team providing lots of reasons to be optimistic about the remainder of the season. UofL has had more than its share of exceptional quarterbacks but few with his speed and escapability.

The Lamar Jackson show alone was well worth the price of admission, capping off a near perfect vacation.

Petrino finds the future in loss to Auburn

Bobby Petrino leads his University of Louisville football team during Card March at the Georgia Dome.
Bobby Petrino leads his University of Louisville football team during Card March at the Georgia Dome.

Safe to say the University of Louisville has found a quarterback, and he appears to live up to all the ballyhoo, the rumors coming out of fall football camp. So good in fact that Bobby Petrino had him on the field for the first play from scrimmage.

Cat-like instincts, dazzling speed, football savvy, standing tall, delivering the ball, moving the offense with authority. Louisville may have lost the game, but the future appears to be very bright with Lamar Jackson calling signals.

Jackson wouldn’t line up under center at the start. That honor went to Reggie Bonnafon but the ball was snapped to Jackson, Petrino wanting his young freshman to get going early. Bad snap, forcing Jackson to run for his life, throw the ball into a crowd of Auburn defenders.

Jackson’s first pass attempt at UofL an interception, Auburn taking full advantage, scoring five plays later. Auburn would, in fact, race out to a 17-0 advantage in the first half with the young freshman relegated to the sideline.

He would reappear early in the third quarter after UofL had fallen behind 24-0 with a freshman performance that won’t soon be forgotten, completing nine of 20 passes for 100 yards and run for 106 yards himself, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

Auburn couldn’t handle Jackson once he found his rhythm, moving the offense almost at will during the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to the final score of 31-24. Fortunately for Auburn, the clock ran out. Few people in the crowd of 73,000-plus at the Georgia Dome believed Auburn could have withstood another drive.

Jackson is one of those quarterbacks who makes everyone around him better. Just ask Brandon Radcliff who was struggling in the first half, but started churning out the yardage when Jackson returned, accumulating most of his 76 yards in the second half.

UofL’s offensive linemen also looked better after Jackson returned, having struggled to give Bonnafon any daylight. Jackson creating most of his own, running the ball laterally and vertically while eluding the persistent Auburn defenders.

So that was what Bobby Petrino was so excited about with Lamar Jackson. He’s gotta be having some second thoughts about not getting Jackson back in the game earlier. But the coach should be confident that he has the quarterback who can take his offense to the next level.

Lamar Jackson gets a look on kickoff returns

A quarterback returning kickoffs and punts? Not likely but Lamar Jackson is not your typical quarterback.

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson

Coach Bobby Petrino revealed during a Central Cardinal Club fan meeting Wednesday that he has experimented with using freshman Jackson on punt returns.

“He probably could play other positions than quarterback,” said Petrino. “We’ve had him back the other day working on catching kickoffs and punts. He is a dynamic athlete. Probably one of the fastest guys on our team. Certainly can change directions and has great speed.

“But he is first and foremost a quarterback. He really throw the football. He has great instincts and vision. There are times he makes throws and we just say wow. He is a great athlete who can help out in a number of ways.”

Wouldn’t be too surprising either to see Jackson occasionally line up as a receiver if he’s that versatile.

Lamar Jackson resists Florida, signs with Louisville

Finally official.Screenshot 2015-02-04 12.09.46

Lamar Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback from Boynton Beach, Fla., signed a letter of intent late Wednesday morning to play his college football at the University of Louisville.

His commitment coming after a late push from the Jim McElwain, the new Florida football coach, to persuade Jackson to play for an “SEC power” and stay in his home state. Reports of the Florida coaches making 20 attempts to talk with him during the hours leading up to his announcement. He had just visited the Florida campus over the weekend.

Jackson is a Bobby Petrino-type quarterback, good at passing or running the ball. He threw for 1,306 yards and rushed for 962 while accounting for 35 total touchdowns.