Well, I put off writing this as long as I could but here it is. Even after a full day to let what took place on Thursday fully sink in, I still am dumbfounded at what I watched happen. In my lifetime as a Louisville fan, I have never seen a performance like the one on Thursday, regardless of sport. Everything was right there for this team to take and make an undeniable case for their inclusion in the College Football Playoff, and the lack of preparation, execution, and adjustment is just unacceptable. Lamar Jackson has every right to personally put the Offensive Line through sprints and I sincerely hope he voiced his frustrations (in a leadership way, of course). 11 sacks allowed (a school record for most allowed) against the most elusive quarterback in college football (possibly in the history of college football) is impressive for all the wrong reasons.
Aside from the horrible play upfront (I don’t want to beat a dead horse so I’m moving on from that topic), it was clear after the fumble of the opening kickoff which team really came to play. Yes, Houston had some things go their way that impacted the game, a deflected and misdirected pass that found a Houston player wide open in the endzone for a touchdown, a middle school trick play for a 50-yard touchdown, the fumble, the other fumble and of course the other fumble (protect the ball and more than likely I’m not somberly typing this), and of course the fake punt we all saw coming from here in Louisville even though the game was played in Houston. It was just simply not the Cards’ night and it showed in every facet of the game.
Props to the defense for waking up and only allowing 3 second half points (not counting the safety against the defense). Props to the referees for getting a week’s worth of a workout by throwing penalty flags all game (not complaining, I can’t think of a penalty that was called and shouldn’t have been the refs did their job). And finally props to Houston, they executed an excellent gameplan and showed up the 5th ranked Cards, had Houston been healthy all season they’d probably be undefeated and that game would have had major playoff implications for both teams instead of just Louisville. For the first time all season, Louisville was outgained in total yards 362 to 312. Lamar Jackson was 20-43 with 211 yards 1 touchdown and 1 fumble, he also rushed 25 times for a dismal 33 yards (hard to have a solid YPC when you’re running for your life all game). Cole Hikutini caught the game’s only touchdown for the Cards and outside of that the most impressive stat was Mason King’s Yards Per Punt (seriously, hats off to the kid for trying to help the defense at least a little bit). He averaged 50.6 yards per punt on his 7 punts in the game, well done.
While this certainly put an end to the CFP hopes, this season is far from a disappointment and anyone who disagrees clearly doesn’t see all the positives. We are watching a program that started 0-3 last season and won the Music City Bowl finishing 8-5. So that means we can be upset if we go 10-2 (still have to beat the team down the road) with a Heisman winner (likely) and an Orange Bowl appearance (once again, likely)? Absolutely not, remember where we came from, Cards fans. No Louisville player has ever won the Heisman, Lamar should still receive that honor. 10-2 is a great record for a team no one predicted to finish with a tie for the ACC Atlantic division. And when did we ever get upset about a NY6 bowl? I’ve been a Louisville fan my whole life, if you’re just now boarding this train and are one the “fans” upset about this season, do me a favor and hop off and never get back on. Does the loss sting? Hell yes. But it stings more because of how it happened, I never saw the game going that way but that happens in sports (no one saw the Sugar Bowl in 2013 going that way either). Be proud of this team, they’ve worked hard all season and just because one game was lost in a bad way does not make their entire body of work any less impressive or any sort of a failure.
Next week, the Cards host the Kentucky Wildcats in a game that almost certainly will decide Lamar’s Heisman Candidacy and the team’s bowl game. Get there early, be loud, and watch Bobby put up 80 points on the scoreboard. This team doesn’t deserve the hatred and disapproval they’ve received since Thursday, especially not from their own fans. It sucks, and it’ll hurt for a long time to come but I am damn proud to be a Cardinal and no scoreboard or analyst will ever change that.