By Sam Draut–
The 2014 Governor’s Cup included everything a traditional rivalry should have.
There was a pregame scuffle between players and coaches, it was an intense back and forth game filled with counterpunches, and finally, a surprise hero who came from the rivals backyard.
Louisville (9-3) defeated Kentucky 44-40 on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for their fourth consecutive victory in the in-state rivalry.
Louisville starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon was injured early in the second quarter with Kentucky leading 13-0.
Red-shirt freshman Kyle Bolin replaced Bonnafon and provided a spark to a Cardinal offense struggling to move the ball.
Bolin completed 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns. The Lexington native threw a 45 yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker in his second play after replacing Bonnafon.
“I’m really proud of Kyle Bolin. To come in in that situation and work hard and complete passes and compete,” Petrino said. “I think that’s one of the things you could really see is how hard he was competing. He ran around and made some throws on the run.”
Louisville continued its offensive flow on the next possession, marching 62 yards in six plays to take a 14-13 lead. Michael Dyer capped off the drive with a three yard touchdown run.
Kentucky took back the lead after Fred Tiller intercepted Bolin’s pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
Before halftime, Louisville took a 21-20 lead after a seven play 47 yard drive. Brandon Radcliff scored from one yard out with 45 seconds left before intermission.
The Wildcat’s opening drive stalled in the third quarter, setting up an impressive seven play 81 yard drive by Louisville to extend the lead to 28-20.
Bolin found Parker for a 33 yard touchdown pass.
Kentucky cut the deficit to 28-23 on a 40 yard field goal near the end of the third quarter after Dyer fumbled the ball on the 28 yard line.
The momentum continued to sway the Wildcats’ way after another field goal and 30 yard touchdown return by Mike Douglas on Bolin’s fumble. Kentucky led 33-28 with just under ten minutes left.
Brandon Radcliff was ruled down at the four yard line on the ensuing kickoff, leaving Louisville backed up near its own end zone.
Bolin completed a 29 yard pass to James Quick to give Louisville breathing room and then found Kai De La Cruz for a 22 yard gain.
Parker then hauled in an impressive 45 yard touchdown catch over a Kentucky defender, giving Louisville a 34-33 lead.
Parker finished with six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns. The senior from Ballard High School won the 2014 Howard Schnellenberger Award, given to the Governor’s Cup Most Valuable Player.
“Number nine had some big plays. He is amazing. It was fun to watch him compete and perform out there,” Petrino said. “I saw him in spring ball, it was like, ‘wow, we’ve got a guy here that’s really special, really talented.’”
James Sample intercepted a Patrick Towles pass on the next Kentucky possession, setting up a 36 yard field goal by John Wallace to put Louisville ahead 37-33.
Towles came back and found Demarco Robinson for a 50 yard gain which set up a 14 yard touchdown run by Stanley Williams two plays later, giving Kentucky a 40-37 lead.
With 5:31 left, Louisville manufactured the game winning drive. Bolin escaped pressure on third and three near mid field and found Quick for a nine yard gain. Bolin then hit Cruz and Parker consecutively setting up two runs by Radcliff who scored from four yards out giving Louisville a 44-40 lead.
Kentucky took the ball on the 25 yard line with 2:47 left with one final chance to respond.
Towles directed the Wildcat offense to the 46 yard line before reaching the deciding fourth and ten.
Fittingly, Gerod Holliman sealed the game with his fourteenth interception of the season, tying an NCAA record.
“It’s a great accomplishment. It’s a goal I set coming into the season. I’m glad I accomplished it,” Holliman said. “It feels really good, especially against Kentucky, in a rivalry game. I’m very excited.”
Bolin’s performance surprised many as 23 seniors left the field for the final time, but his teammates and coaches always had confidence in him.
“He was always ready. He did a good job of coming in and playing his role and making good plays when he had to. I wasn’t surprised,” Parker said. “I’ve seen him practice every day, so I knew he was ready for it.”
“I’m a hard worker and I was busting my butt day in and day out regardless of what I was on the string,” Bolin said. “I had to be ready at any moment and I just went out and competed as if I was a starter.”
Louisville will await a bowl invitation after the conclusion of conference championship games next week.
“We have a great group of seniors. It’s a group that has won a lot of games in this stadium. That was really the number one thing that we wanted to do- make sure our seniors won their last game in that stadium,” Petrino said. “It was the seniors’ responsibility, the coaches’ responsibility, and the underclassmens’ responsibility. So I’m really happy they got the win.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal