The Cougars’ 34-31 W over U of L yesterday was not an upset. Houston is certainly the equal of the Cards. Yesterday, the Texans were better from the get go.
Coach Tom Herman — an up and comer if ever there is one; enjoy his short stint while he’s there, Cougar fans — had his team ready. Relentless and aggressive on defense, fast to the snap on offense. Mostly flawless execution, and serious escape-ability.
There were but a few moments in the game when Louisville seemed in control. They never lasted long. Yes, even when U of L had the lead.
The visitors dictated the flow of this affair from the opening kickoff.
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There really were no turning points.
Louisville was three and out on the opening drive, after the OL couldn’t open holes, nor protect its QB. Lamar Jackson was sacked for a 17 yard loss.1
Houston then proceeded to blitz through the Cards like one of those hot new Bugatti Chirons.
Six plays in 1:33, ending with a 29 yard Greg Ward to Steven Dunbar TD strike, against U of L’s wobbly secondary.
7 nil, visitors.
U of L crisply answered immediately to tie the tussle. The teams struggled for the ensuing few possessions. The Cardinals grabbed the lead thrice. Still the Cards always seemed to be playing from behind.
U of L committed so many blunders, It’s hard to recall them all.
I’ll give it a shot.
Petrino got greedy, after Louisville stifled Houston’s fake punt in the 1st. He had Jackson throw deep. And, as the rookie did on the opening play of the Auburn game, he threw a pick into double coverage.2
A false start, which essentially ended U of L’s fourth possession of the opening half.
Offensive line inadequacy, which required Jackson to scramble way more than he should have.
Two critical fumble turnovers.
Shaq Wiggins idiotic unsportsmanlike penalty for pushing a Cougar while out of bounds, after the end of a play, which kept Houston’s opening second half drive alive.
After going ahead 17-10,3 Louisville special team’s failure to tackle Brandon Wilson on his own 10, when three Cards had him surrounded, allowing him to escape and speed to a 100 yard TD kickoff return.
Jackson’s second interception. On another deep ball, and the ensuing 58 yard return. Which resulted in a Houston FG, which gave the visitors the lead back, 17-20.
After U of L’s Mariano Rivera, Kyle Bolin, entered the game and energized the Cardinals’ O with a scoring drive, Sheldon Rankins failed to wrap QB Ward on the ensuing possession for what appeared to be a sure sack on a 3d & 10 at the Houston 25. The Cougar found Chance Allen for a 40 yard gain. Then tossed a 22 yard TD strike, giving Houston the lead back.
The Cards failure to contain Ward during Houston’s final scoring drive, on a 3d & 3, giving up a 36 yard gain. Jermaine Reve getting beat in the endzone for the Houston’s winning TD pass.
Geron Christian’s holding call on Louisville’s last unsuccessful drive, costing 10 critical yards in Cougar territory. Which made weak-legged John Wallace’s 53 yard FG improbable. It was blocked.4
. . . among other gaffes. I have to stop. It’s too painful.
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Of course, there are positives.
Lamar Jackson is only two games into his career. He’s got the physical tools to be a great, if not Bridgewaterian, QB. Despite his two picks, he was almost always on target when throwing 20 yards or less. His TD strike to La’Quay Savage was warp speed.
His two sacks subtracted 37 yards from his 53 rushing.
Kyle Bolin proved again he’s ready when called upon for relief.
The receiving corps is going to be fine. Savage, Micky Crum, Traveon Samuel and Jaylen Smith all looked good yesterday. There are others with promise.
Joshua Appleby averaged 46.5 yards on his four punts.
Jaire Alexander had a scintillating 24 yard punt return. And held his own during his snaps at CB.
DB Zykeisis Cannon made several positive plays.
Keith Kelsey and James Burgess each had 15 tackles. Josh Harvey-Clemons, ten. Sheldon Rankins, despite that one disappointing failure to wrap, had eight and was all over the field.
Chucky Williams 59 yard weaving gallop after his interception, included two ball shifts — right tuck to left tuck and back — plus a fumble at the end, and his recovery of the fumble.
Petrino’s call for a draw play on a 3d & 10 at the Houston 32 on the Cards’ final scoring drive was stellar. Brandon Radcliffe zipped for 13 and the first down.
Petrino’s use of Kyle Bolin instead of Reggie Bonnafon was obviously the correct decision.
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So, the Louisville Cardinals have started 0-2, for the first time since the 90s. You know, last century.
I wouldn’t dare suggest what the answers are. I’m a pundit, not a coach.
I do know that it’s going to be a long season, if the OL doesn’t tighten immediately. The defensive secondary needs to do the same.
— Seedy K