A week after three of the top four teams lost, another top team suffered a similar fate and this one might have cost the season-long Heisman frontrunner his chance at the trophy.
Louisville came into Thursday’s pivotal contest with aspirations of putting on a show worthy of a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff standings, but what resulted was the exact opposite. The Cardinals came out flat against an inspired Houston team and were essentially run off the field in a 36-10 rout.
Things started off poorly for the Cardinals from the start when Malik Williams fumbled the opening kickoff and Houston used one play to take a 7-0 lead.
From there, things started to spiral on Louisville. Every time the offense would make a good play, a penalty would bring it back. The Louisville offensive line struggled against the speed of the Houston defensive line and allowed 11 sacks during the contest and countless hurries. Louisville committed 16 penalties, which were almost exclusively holding on the offensive line or false starts. The Cardinals managed 309 yards of total offense, which was well shy of their nation-leading 583.2 average.
Meanwhile, the Houston offense looked like the one the nation saw against Oklahoma to start the season. It put up 31 first-half points while tallying 362 yards overall.
But this game wasn’t about the Houston offense, it was all about a defense that made star Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson look human, which is a feat no team had managed so far this season. Jackson completed just 46.3 percent of his passes for 211 yards. He rushed 25 times for just 33 yards, his lowest rushing output of the season. He fumbled the ball on a key drive in the second half when the Cardinals looked like they were swinging momentum back in their favor and had a safety late in the fourth quarter that gave the Cougars their final points.
This was by far the most aggressive defense Louisville had faced this season and the Cardinals were not prepared. This was Jackson’s chance to seal up the Heisman Trophy, but back-to-back subpar performances may have opened the door for other candidates, especially since this loss officially ends any chance of the Cardinals getting into the College Football Playoff.
For Houston, this was a fantastic effort, but it was also a bit of a gut punch. The type of inspired play the Cougars had against Louisville was missing in losses to Navy and SMU. Even though Houston is the only program to beat two Top 5 teams this season, those losses are likely going to keep the Cougars out of a marquee bowl game.
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