The way a team bounces back from a tough loss reveals a lot about the character of the team, so Louisville’s game vs. Boston College this past weekend was pivotal in determining just what kind of squad Bobby Petrino was leading. The answer? The man has himself a strong-minded, resilient squad.
While the Cards did reveal their character Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, it did not start out appearing like the revelation was going to be something that was going to make Louisville fans proud. Just as they did against Clemson at game’s end and Florida State in the opening series, the Cards started out disastrous in the red zone. In three opportunities inside the 5-yard line in their first four possessions of the game, the Cards managed just 3 points. One possession resulted in a four-and-out, one a field goal, and one a lost fumble.
Louisville finished the first quarter down 7-3, and it looked like things were only going to get worse. It was bad enough for the Cards to be without defensive studs Lorenzo Mauldin and Pio Vatuvei (and Boston College’s drove the field with ease for a score on their second drive of the game as a result), but WR James Quick sat out the game due to suspension and QB Will Gardner had to leave the game after tweaking his knee. The Cards faced an uphill battle, but as it turns out, that is apparently the way they preferred it.
The Cards outscored the Eagles 35-12 after the first quarter and looked good doing so. WR DeVante Parker once again played like he plans on being the first WR taken in next spring’s NFL Draft, snagging 8 catches for 144 yards and a TD. It was his third straight 100+ yard game and his first TD since returning from injury. It may have even helped his case for best WR in the country that it did not matter who his QB was, as he was able to work with both Gardner and freshman Reggie Bonnafon, the latter of whom played arguably his best game of the season.
Bonnafon started out a little rough around the edges and nearly made a deadly freshman mistake. During a series in the red zone, Bonnafon swept around the left tackle, and just a few feet from the end zone, he chose to reach for the end zone…and then some. Rather than go down he attempted to toss the ball at the pylon, which in reality should have been a touchback, but instead was called an illegal forward pass and loss of down. Yet, when Gardner went down, he stepped up to the plate with fire in his eyes.
The Bonnafon who tossed the ball at the pylon and the Bonnafon who took over for Gardner were complete opposites of one another. The latter dominated the second half and made his QB counterpart Tyler Murphy, regarded as one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country, look second-tier in nature. The Louisville native and Trinity High School alum finished the game going 4 of 5 in the air for 69 yards and 2 TDs. He also rushed for a team-high 76 yards, including a game-sealing 36-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
The former #1 defense in the country looked back up to speed as well, forcing Murphy into 4 interceptions and held him to a season-low 32 yards rushing. They held Boston College to 109 yards below their average rushing yards per game this season and gave them their largest margin of defeat of the season.
Two defensive starters out, starting WR out, starting QB gets injured, a run game that had been so impactful the past two games rendered ineffective…none of it mattered. The Cards proceeded to dominate a quality ACC opponent on the road and despite the ups and downs of the season, they appear to be rounding into form at just the right time.