This summer countless college football fans circled November 18th on their calendars. The Louisville Cardinals, ranked #19 in the AP preseason poll, and sophomore stud Lamar Jackson, traveled to take on the Houston Cougars, then ranked #15, in a game that would almost definitely have College Football Playoff implications. At that time, though, I was anticipating a winner-take-all matchup that would make the late Charles Darwin proud.
Since then, Houston lost two out of three games to Navy and SMU, knocking them all the way out of the top 25 polls. Louisville hit a bump in the road, with a 42-36 loss to then #5 Clemson on October 2, but Bobby Petrino’s squad did not lose focus and found themselves sitting at #5 in the CFP poll (#3 NRCFR) after five consecutive convincing victories in the following weeks. The Cardinals came into Houston Thursday night with a 9-1 record, to take on the Cougars, who sat at 8-2.
Houston got on the board right away, as a Louisville fumble on the kickoff set the Cougars up with 1st and 10 on the Cardinals’ 13-yard line. Greg Ward Jr. connected with Duke Catalon on the first play of the game from scrimmage, and the Cougars took an early 7-0 lead, and they would not look back. A 33-yard field goal by Ty Cummings near the end of the 1st grew the Cougar lead to 10.
The Cougars kept right on rolling in the 2nd quarter. After a quick 3 and out by Lamar Jackson and company, Greg Ward Jr. found Duke Catalon again for a 13-yard score, making the score 17-0. Catalon would add a running score later in the quarter after another Louisville punt. With just over 5 minutes to play in the half, Ward lateralled the ball to wide receive Linell Bonner, who then found a wide open Chance Allen on the 30-yard line. Allen ran untouched into the end zone and the Cougars took a 31-0 lead into the half.
The second half opened with a Houston three-and-out, and the Cardinals got their first points of the game. Lamar Jackson converted a 4th and 3 opportunity, finding Cole Hikuntini from the 12-yard line, as Louisville inched closer. They would add a field goal early in the fourth quarter, as the drive stalled on the Houston 9-yard line, but that was all the life the Cardinals had left in them.
Ty Cummings added a 46-yard field goal with just under six minutes left in the game. On the ensuing Louisville possession, Tyus Bowser sacked Lamar Jackson in the end zone for a safety, stretching the lead to 36-10 with under four minutes left in the game.
Heisman front runner Lamar Jackson finished the game 20-43 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown, adding 33 yards on the ground, his worst total of the season, and a lost fumble. Jeremy Smith led the team with 49 yards rushing, and had 49 yards receiving. Seth Dawkins added 49 receiving yards on 3 receptions.
On the other side of the ball, Greg Ward Jr. threw for 233 yards in the air and 2 touchdowns, while adding 24 on the ground. Linell Bonner had 67 yards receiving, to go along with his 50 yard touchdown pass to Chance Allen, who led the way with 105 yards and a score. Duke Catalon led the team with 39 rushing yards and a touchdown, adding 68 receiving yards and two more scores through the air. The Cougar defense sacked Lamar Jackson 11 times tonight, with Steven Taylor leading the way with 2.5, adding to his 14 total tackles on the night.
Louisville goes up against the Wildcats of Kentucky next Saturday, with their hopes of a playoff game all but vanished. The 9-2 Cougars will travel to Memphis next Friday for their final game of the regular season, and will have to win out and hope for Navy to lose out if they will have any shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game bid.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/9c77e1d125f90cdb54cbc08eb5b8f4cc0c46c35f/c=0-0-1022-577&r=x633&c=1200×630/local/-/media/2016/11/17/USATODAY/USATODAY/636150190110761291-USP-NCAA-FOOTBALL-LOUISVILLE-AT-HOUSTON-86782618-1-.JPG