Lamar Jackson nears perfection as Louisville football rips Kentucky

Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson emerge from the tunnel for their final regular season game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Lamar Jackson may be reaching his peak as the end of an unforgettable era draws near. Much better than the player who won the Heisman Trophy last season.

Lamar Jackson fields questions at press conference following UofL’s sixth win in the last seven games against UK (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Jackson has created a lot of magical memories during his career as the Louisville quarterback but he may have waited until the final regular season game for one of his best overall performances. Couldn’t have come at a better time than in a 44-17 win over Kentucky.

Jackson has had numerous games in which he has run or passed for three or more touchdowns, surpassing 100 yards rushing and over 300 through the air. He did it so frequently that it almost became routine, something football fans took for granted.

This was one of those rare games when he didn’t run for a single touchdown and he only passed for two touchdowns. But he never had a more complete game, with UofL scoring every time it got the ball before Jackson left late in the game.  UofL punter Mason King would not be needed in this one, thank you.

Coach Bobby Petrino would say afterward that “Lamar Jackson is the best player you’re ever going to see. There has never been a player like him and there won’t be for a long time.”

Haunted by costly fumbles and interceptions in last season’s loss to UK, Jackson said he had been looking forward to this game for a year. Nothing but pinpoint passing in this one, completing 15 of 21 passes to seven different players for 216 yards.

No hesitating, no panicking, no mistakes. Knowing what to do with the ball on every play. Getting lots of help again from Reggie Bonnafon with two touchdowns to go with nine carries for 64 yards and Dae Williams with six carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Getting plenty of protection from a greatly improved offensive line, yielding no sacks, paving the way for 32 UofL first downs, compared to only 20 for Kentucky.  The defense, while giving up 211 yards to Bennie Snell, allowed only eight passes to be completed, holding UK to 110 passing yards.

Petrino with plenty of accolades for a team that looked like it was going nowhere before winning the last three games. “The assistant coaches kept coming to work with a positive attitude and a great work ethic,” he said. “The defense kept bringing, they just kept coming. I’m really happy with the way we played. The execution was great.”

Petrino said it was so much fun to see how much Jackson has grown during over the past three seasons. “He’s the ultimate competitor. I don’t think I’ve ever been around someone who likes to compete as much as he does. He backs it up with confidence, and he’s so humble.

“He was on the sideline cheering and encouraging every guy on the field  after he came out of the game. He’s the greatest teammate and greatest kid in the world.”

 

Kentucky stoops to attitude game, loses that one, too

Screenshot 2014-11-30 20.47.04

Really Kentucky?

Hard to believe what was happening on the field during pre-game warm ups Saturday. UK players on the Louisville side of the 50-yard line, a place they had no business being, jawing at University of Louisville players, attempting to antagonize them.

A 13-point underdog also stomping on the Cardinal logo, seeking to shift the focus from football to the lowest common denominator, an approach reeking of desperation.

Suddenly, UofL and UK players are mixing it up around UofL’s 40-yard line. A video shows UK’s Jeff Badet, a redshirt receiver from Orlando, jamming UofL’s James Quick in the chest with his hand, later pushing UofL Coach Bobby Petrino from behind.UKvsUofL

The melee breaks up briefly, the coaches seemingly getting things under control. But no, it breaks out again near the Kentucky sideline. The video showing Petrino jaw to jaw with a UK assistant, a photo showing Petrino tugging at the assistant’s jacket. Not surprising, given the lack of control by the officials.

After the fracas finally subsides, numerous UK players rush to the south end of the field, raising their hands with their middle fingers extended toward UofL fans and students.  Still another display of lack of discipline, further blemishing the image of the university the UK players represent.

Nothing yet from the local sports media, which made so much of a single UofL player “throwing the bird” at UK fans in Lexington a few years ago. So many photographers on the sidelines, so few photos of this particular segment.

The Kentucky coaching staff clearly wanted its players to come into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with an attitude, seemingly confirmed by Bud DuPree, a senior defensive end. “Anytime you’re in a great atmosphere, you need an edge,” he said after the game. “We came out before the game and got an edge. It was great. It just couldn’t hold up.”

Whether UK got an “edge” from the pre-game antics is debatable. Not unusual for an underdog, driven by adrenalin, to grab an early lead in a rivalry game. Probably wasted a lot of energy with those pre-game antics.

Whatever the motivation, UK lost more than another football game.

Kyle Bolin no longer a mystery, leads Louisville past Kentucky

Governor's Cup
Kentucky apparently spent every waking minute the past two weeks studying the tendencies of University of Louisville quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, knowing what he was going to do before he did. The UofL freshman was out of sorts, running for his life on every possession.

Bonnafon still holding the ball too long, getting sacked twice for losses of eight and nine yards. Completng only one pass out of five attempts, delivering an interception leading to UK’s first field goal. The situation was dire when he was injured on the second play of the second quarter, UofL trailing 13-0 at the time. Or maybe not.

Kyle Bolin knows where to find DeVante Parker.
Kyle Bolin knows to find DeVante Parker.

Fortunately, the UK coaching staff repeated the mistake of the previous staff of overlooking Kyle Bolin, a redshirt freshman from Lexington Catholic who was never offered a scholarship. Third-string quarterback at UofL, little experience, injury plagued, why bother. Not too surprising since he was largely an unknown quantity to his own coaches.

Everybody knows who Bolin is now after leading Louisville to a 44-40 win over UK before a crowd of 55,118 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Bolin wasn’t having any part of a blowout, immediately completing a 10-yard pass to Eli Rogers for a first down. On the next play, he would hook up with DeVante Parker on a 45-yard touchdown.

A little rusty at times, Bolin had come to play, completing 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards, including three touchdown passes. But he would also give Kentucky hope for ending a three-game losing streak in the series, personally giving Kentucky two touchdowns on a fumble and an interception.  He would set up the winning touchdown on a 26-yard pass play to Parker, with Brandon Radcliff scoring the next play on a four-yard run.

The Wildcat coaches also had UofL’s running game figured out. Michael Dyer would be limited to 15 yards and he would cough up the ball on his last possession in the game. Radcliff scored two touchdowns, but he would be held to 67 yards on 21 carries.

How appropriate was it that Gerod Holliman would intercept Patrick Towles’ final pass, assuring UofL of the win over its bitter rival and tying the NCAA record 14 interceptions for a season. A touchdown after that 65-yard return would have been even nicer.

Parker would be voted the Howard Schnellenberger Player of the Game with his three touchdown receptions. For the game, he would be credited with six receptions for 180 yards. One has to wonder what the season could have been had he not missed the first six games, such an exceptional receiver, always wanting more yards after the catch.

But to take advantage of Parker’s abilities, UofL needs a quarterback who can find him. Kyle Bolin had no problem getting the ball to the man who can make things happen. UK had no answer for him.