A few weeks ago we put together a stat analysis of the Louisville Quarterbacks in 2015.  Now a few weeks later, the Cards are facing yet another QB dilemma heading into its final game of the season vs. Kentucky.

The question I have is whether or not Petrino will (and I think he will) choose his quarterback based on how to best attack UK’s defense.  Last year Kentucky played a lot of two-man single coverage and was burned repeatedly by DeVante Parker.  This year that could hurt the Cats again if Lamar Jackson takes the field, but for a different reason:  Playing man coverage against a QB like Lamar Jackson leaves a defense exposed if Lamar can break into the secondary.

However, with the recent play of Jamari Staples it’s reasonable to assume that Kyle Bolin might have similar success again in 2015 that he did in 2014.  Also we know that Louisville’s running backs are much more effective with Kyle Bolin under center and allow the power game to exist.

For Petrino this is really about a CHOICE.  Kyle has shown to be effective in big moments but has really struggled with the ordinary.  Lamar Jackson’s presence really lifted the Cards when he came in against Pittsburgh and rallied a comeback that fell short on the road.  But which choice is correct?

Lamar has seen significant action vs: Auburn, Houston, Samford, NC State, Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh.

Kyle has seen significant action vs: Houston, Clemson, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Virginia, and Pittsburgh.

Kyle was OUTSTANDING vs. Syracuse and played as well as could be expected vs. Clemson.  Lamar Jackson has also put together some really nice performances with the 3 game stretch of FSU, BC, and Wake Forest really standing out.

Kyle seems to get into a lull when he gets too comfortable.  Lamar lacks consistency.  Bottom line is NEITHER player has really stepped up and taken this job for his own, but both have also shown the ability to win games and make plays.

Let’s take a look at both QBs statistically and see if that helps our decision-making:


C-A % Ys Y/Att TD INT Rating Att/G Y/G
Lamar Jackson 115-200 57.5 1483 7.4 9 7 127.64 20.0 148.3
Kyle Bolin 76-132 57.6 1109 8.4 7 4 139.6 22.0 184.8

Kyle’s sample size is still smaller than Lamar’s but it is big enough now to really see that the differences here are very small.  If we are just measuring the Quarterbacks by how they throw then we really can’t differentiate too much from Lamar to Kyle.  But it does appear that Kyle Bolin has started to edge Lamar overall, but that does only tell part of the story.

Below we will go into how each QB does in different downs and break down how each Quarterback does in different phases of 3rd down.

One thing that is difficult to measure is the Louisville rushing attack with & without Lamar without an even deeper dive into the analytics available.  We know that Lamar Jackson is a threat to run the football and while Kyle does have mobility, it’s not the same as Lamar.  But in order to really measure the net effect of each Quarterback on the running game we need to tally the rushing totals in different situations for the TEAM not just the player.  We won’t do that here, but we may at a later date.

Passing on 1st Down
1st Down Passing C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 57-92 62.0% 735 7.99 5 4 138.31 27 (29.3%)
Kyle Bolin 26-55 47.3% 315 5.72 3 1 109.74 14 (25.45%)

Lamar has just been much better on 1st down overall but has thrown 4 of his 7 INTs on 1st down.  Other than that, Jackson has a clear advantage.  Kyle at a 47.3% completion percentage on 1st down is a tough deal and MUST improve.

Passing On 2nd Down
2nd Down Passing C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 30-58 51.7% 372 6.41 2 2 110.08 19 (32.75%)
Kyle Bolin 35-49 71.4 639 13.04 3 1 197.09 24 (48.97%)

Unlike 1st down, Bolin is a GAMER on 2nd down.  Completing nearly 49% of 2nd downs into a fresh set of downs is next level good and Kyle is actually fabulous on this down and by every measurable exceeds Lamar Jackson.  Lamar is serviceable here and small improvements would make a big difference.  For now, Kyle Bolin stands out in this category.

Passing on 3rd Down
3rd Down Passing C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 27-47 57.4 355 7.55 2 1 130.68 22 (46.81%)
Kyle Bolin 14-26 53.8 123 4.73 1 2 90.90 4 (15.38%)

On 3rd down, Lamar has the advantage again and by a lot.  Lamar’s ability to convert 46.81% of his 3rd downs while passing is outstanding.  Currently North Carolina converts at 46.8% on 3rd down offense and is the #17 team in the country at 3rd Down % (to give readers and idea of how good that is).

As good as Bolin is on 2nd down, he just hasn’t been good enough on 3rd down converting just four 1st downs in 26 passing attempts.  That won’t get the job done on the critical down.

3rd & 1-3 Passing
3rd & 1-3 C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 3-4 75.0 37 9.25 0 0 152.7 3 (75%)
Kyle Bolin 0-2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

3rd & short really isn’t a passing down but here are the numbers.

3rd & 4-6 Passing
3rd & 4-6 C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 10-13 76.9% 112 8.62 0 1 133.91 9 (69.2%)
Kyle Bolin 2-4 50% 22 5.5 0 0 96.2 1 (25%)

Lamar is outstanding in 3rd & Medium having converted 9 of 13 throws into 1st downs.  Kyle Bolin has a smaller sample size and what he has done thus far leaves some to be desired.

3rd & 7-9 Passing
3rd & 7-9 C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 5-11 45.5% 73 6.64 1 0 131.2 4 (36.36%)
Kyle Bolin 2-4 50% 16 4.0 0 0 83.60 1 (25.0%)

Again here in 3rd and Long Lamar maintains a clear advantage.  This isn’t to drive the point home that Kyle hasn’t been great on 3rd down, but rather to show just how effective Lamar can be situationally.

3rd & 10+ Passing
3rd & 10+ C-A % Ys Y/A TD INT Rating 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 9-19 47.4% 133 7.00 1 0 123.54 6 (31.58%)
Kyle Bolin 10-16 62.5% 85 5.31 1 2 102.76 2 (12.50%)

So we’ve talked about how the sample size is smaller for Bolin when comparing him to Lamar.  But this stat really tells the story that Kyle Bolin has been in 3rd & REALLY LONG just as much at QB as Lamar Jackson, which isn’t great news for Bolin.  Lamar continues to hold a clear advantage in every phases of 3rd down.


Rushes Yards R TDs YPA
Lamar Jackson 124 548 7 4.42
Kyle Bolin 16 -59 0 -3.69

We are showing the rushing stats for each player here just for transparency.  It’s not a fair assessment because it does not show the net effect of the Louisville rushing attack with both QBs in the game.

What these stats do show, however, is that when Lamar Jackson does take off and run that he is the most effective on 3rd & short. Other than 3rd & short (1-3 yards) on 3rd down stat break downs Lamar taking off and running has not been ideal.

Rushing on 1st Down
1st Down Rushing Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 47 111 2 2.36 8 (17.02%)
Kyle Bolin 6 -34 0 -5.67 0
Rushing On 2nd Down
2nd Down Rushing Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 47 343 4 7.3 13 (27.66%)
Kyle Bolin 6 -12 0 -2 0
Rushing on 3rd Down
3rd Down Rushing Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 29 83 1 2.86 7 (24.14%)
Kyle Bolin 4 -13 0 -3.25 0
3rd & 1-3 Rushing
3rd & 1-3 Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 5 44 0 8.8 3 (60.0%)
Kyle Bolin 0 0 0 0 0
3rd & 4-6 Rushing
3rd & 4-6 Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 7 1 1 0.14 1 (14.29%)
Kyle Bolin 0 0 0 0 0
3rd & 7-9 Rushing
3rd & 7-9 Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 9 1 0 0.11 2 (22.2%)
Kyle Bolin 1 7 0 7 0
3rd & 10+ Rushing
3rd & 10+ Rushes Yards TDs YPC 1st Downs
Lamar Jackson 8 37 0 4.63 1 (12.5%)
Kyle Bolin 3 -20 0 -6.67 0

So Who Do You Start?

This is a tough call.  Until a player steps up and is the clear choice this debate will rage on.  It’s tempting to go with Lamar because of his ability on 1st & 3rd down.  Kyle really hasn’t gotten it done on the money down in 2015 and has been in 3rd & 10+ situations at a much higher rate than Jackson.

But I’m siding with Kyle Bolin for now because I believe the Louisville rushing attack as a team works much better with Bolin under center.  Bolin’s 2nd down performance is also OUTSTANDING to the point that it makes the deficiencies else where bearable.

Neither player is perfect, both can improve and both will improve.  Petrino has choices and no matter who the staff chooses to send out 1st we’ve seen the team respond positively to a change at signal caller midway through the game.  For now, I’d go with Kyle and understand that if things aren’t going well Lamar Jackson can step in and help win a football game.

Moving forward it would be great to see a QB rise above and really take charge of the position.  For now Louisville will close its season the same way it started with “ORs” at the Quarterback spot.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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