Petrino thriving in second Louisville stint

Petrino thriving in second Louisville stint

December 11th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia coach Mark Richt watches during the first half of the game against Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino looks to an official during his game against Tennessee in Knoxville in this 2013 file photo,

Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino looks to...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Bobby Petrino did not take long to pick up where he left off as Louisville's football coach.

Petrino coached the Cardinals to a 41-9 record from 2003 to '06, and this year's return has produced a 9-3 team that is ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll. Louisville will conclude its season against No. 13 Georgia in Charlotte's Belk Bowl on Dec. 30.

"It's great to be home," Petrino told the ACC Digital Network on Wednesday. "My entire family is there, and it was good to get back with friends and boosters that I knew before. I thought our team and our assistant coaches did a great job all season."

The seven years between his two stints with the Cardinals had a mix of success and self-inflicted wounds. He left Louisville in January 2007 for an NFL opportunity with the Atlanta Falcons but didn't last a year, bolting with three games left in the '07 regular season to become coach at Arkansas.

Petrino turned the Razorbacks into a power in the powerful SEC West, guiding Arkansas to 10 wins and a Sugar Bowl bid in 2010 and 11 wins and a Cotton Bowl bid in 2011. He had two meetings against Mark Richt's Bulldogs, losing 52-41 in Fayetteville in 2009 and winning at Athens 31-24 in 2010.

"I got to know him best in the SEC meetings," Richt said. "We did compete against him while he was at Arkansas, and that was really the first time I kind of got to know him."

Arkansas was ranked as high as No. 3 nationally late in the 2011 season behind fellow SEC West members LSU and Alabama, but his four-year run ended abruptly in the spring of 2012. Petrino was fired after lying to athletic director Jeff Long about an extra-marital affair he was having with Jessica Dorrell, a former Razorbacks volleyball player who was an athletic department employee.

Petrino did not coach in 2012 and was hired in 2013 by Western Kentucky, where he went 8-4.

"When I was here and got my first head coaching job, it came at me fast," Petrino told Sports Illustrated before the start of this season. "Over the years I brought things on myself, and then people give you second chances."

Petrino has a history of developing quarterbacks, but this year has been a challenge. Will Gardner threw for 1,669 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions before he was lost for the season to an ACL injury, and backup Reggie Bonnafon suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the regular-season finale against Kentucky.

Redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin replaced Bonnafon and completed 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, rallying the Cardinals to a 44-40 win.

"We're not sure who will start (against Georgia)," Petrino said Wednesday. "Will will not be available, so unfortunately for him, he won't be able to play in the game. Trainers and doctors are telling me that Reggie Bonnafon should be healthy and ready to go by game time."

Georgia will have four days of on-campus bowl practices for the Belk Bowl, beginning next Wednesday. The Bulldogs will report to Charlotte on Christmas Eve and resume practicing Christmas Day.

Odds and ends

Georgia was among the five finalists for defensive end Josh Sweat of Chesapeake, Va., who is the nation's top overall prospect according to 247sports.com, but Sweat committed Wednesday morning to Florida State. ... USA Today released a list of salaries for college football assistants, with Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ($851,600) ranking 13th nationally and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo ($575,000) ranking 40th.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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