Louisville CardFile: Houston

CardHelmetEye Test.

That’s what Louisville Cardinal fans have been screaming to the pundits and Final Four Selection Committee.

Forget the strength of schedule and other metrics you take into consideration, the faithful have brayed, watch the Cards on the field and see for yourself.

Which the nation was able to do on Thursday Night Prime Time.

So how’d the Louisville Cardinals do?

I won’t mince words.

The University of Louisville Cardinals choked.

The coaches graded out an F. The players graded out an F.

In the most important game of the season, arguably one of the biggest in the history of U of L football, the program wasn’t ready for Prime Time.

The Cards fumbled the opening kickoff when the receiver ran into one of his blockers. Houston scored on the ensuing play, its first from scrimmage on a swing pass when the receiver was wide open. Louisville drew a false start on its first play of the next drive. Then went three and out.

It got worse. A lot worse.

(Caveat. If you’re looking to read about some silver lining, you might as well move along. You won’t find one here.)

When Louisville got the ball down 24-0, it committed a penalty on the kickoff, then a false start on the first play. The ESPN sideline reporter spoke of fights among the players along the sideline.

When Louisville got the ball for its last futile, failing effort of the opening half, it had more punts than first downs.

(Okay, I lied. There was one positive. Punter Mason King boomed it all night, averaging 51 yards on his punts. I couldn’t help but think of one season during the awful T.W. Alley Era, when punter Wilbur Summers was far and away U of L’s best player.)

Louisville fumbled the ball three times. Louisville receivers dropped passes. Lamar Jackson overthrew and underthrew the ball.

Louisville was penalized 114 yards on 15 infractions, most committed by the Offensive Line, which, as commentator Jesse Palmer said, “played the worst game by an offensive line in memory.”

Louisville defense gave up not one but two trick plays. A fake punt for a critical first down. A halfback pass for a touchdown.

After U of L showed a hint of heart early in the 3d Q, scoring on an LJ to Cole Hikutini pass after holding the Cougars to a 3 & Out, it reverted to form. LJ fumbled the ball in the Red Zone on the next drive.

Louisville — Read: the Offensive Line — surrendered 11 sacks and 12 TFLs. Five of those Houston defensive stops came from freshman phenom Ed Oliver, who also broke up two passes and had a QB Hurry. As a team, Houston had 9 QBHs, and 5 pass break ups, twice as many as the Cardinals.

If Lamar Jackson, the clear Heisman favorite — at least before last night’s debacle — is “the best player in the country,” what’s that make Ed Oliver?

 * * * * *

The coaching staff, from Bobby Petrino and Todd Grantham on down, are equally as responsible for non-performance, probably more so.

Here’s what I don’t understand, with some perspective: I rarely attend practice, but did a few times not this season but last. After each of those OL coach Chris Klenakis did a short Q & A. All the perspective he could give on the OL’s “progress,” was “We’re grinding.” Which he’d say repeatedly.

After the season, I was thinking Petrino might find a new coach for the OL, given how little it had improved in ’15. Instead, Klenakis was named Co-Offensive Coordinator, in addition to his more than full time duties, attempting to get the OL up to speed.

Go figure.

Truth: The Offensive Line has gotten worse, not better, as this season has progressed. Last night’s deplorable performance was, to be honest, hardly a surprise.

 * * * * *

In a position to prove its worth, to prove it belongs among the elite with the entirety of the Pigskin Planet tuned in, the Louisville Cardinals simply didn’t show up.

Next Up: Kentucky. It’s going to be fascinating to see if Bobby Petrino can pull his team together for the big rivalry game? The Wildcats are not a gimme.

— Seedy K


10 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Houston

  1. I sat as I had on election night with great hope and big dreams only to have them smashed increasingly as each hour passed. What a difference a few hours can make! Lamar had no chance against their defensive quickness on either side of the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile Ward’s accuracy was astounding.

  2. Poor Lamar Jackson. If he wins the Heisman, I imagine he’ll come back next year, rather than decide to drop out of school and take a year off before going pro. But, you’ve got to wonder if coming back is worth the risk of serious injury. 11 sacks!
    A dismal game.

    1. That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone speculate that he would sit out a year. Why would he do that? It certainly wouldn’t benefit his pro draft stock.

      1. I’ve heard others speculate as well about Jackson leaving school if he wins the Heisman. You will, too, in the coming weeks. A serious—even devastating—injury behind an incompetent OL is possible next year. And that certainly wouldn’t help his pro draft stock. There’s definite risk in returning next year. As I said, I think he’ll be back.

  3. Rotten Tomatoes rated last nights performance a 1.5 (….didn’t get a 0 thanks to Kings punting.) Our OL, coach, Pee Wee Herman, and his minions, possibly had the worst performance in prime time since NBC aired Waterworld back in 1995. 3 guys blocking one guy seldom works if 4 dudes are running free and 2 of them are being held by our OT’s from behind.

    Too bad Coach Stinkerpuss wasn’t sitting in front of PWH in that Sarasota theather when pee wee fired a shot into the back of the head of the guy watching porn in front of him. Assuredly, as the Supreme Court has said, obsenity is hard to define, but last night’s OL play was XXX if I ever saw it.

    CBP must be studying method acting as he continued to yell at the refs while Ed Oliver made mince-meat out of our OL. Was he chanelling his inner-Brando and saying: “I coulda been a contenda!?”

    As expected, the American Conf refs were less than judicious in their interpretation of the rules. Our innumerable offensive penalties were easily called and our offensive line tackled much better than our defensive line througout–which of course is not legal. At the same time, the Houston offensive front—a poor group in their own right—was consistenly permitted to use the take down maneuver we were rightly flagged for all night long. I guess the difference was that our gaffs were in the open as Lamar ran for his life while our guys were being group hugged as we stayed in our lanes to insure that the Houston QB wouldn’t escape, yet giving him 15 seconds or more to survey his receivers down field.

    Tony Orlando—the Houston DC—had his group of small, but quick, LB’s make more hits last night than he and Dawn crooned back in the 80’s. For the first time since the Memphis game in his original tenure, Bobby P’s troops had zero offensive answers. Coach P. was totally out schemed from the get-go and he either didn’t or couldn’t make any in game offensive adjustments.

    Our former Heisman trophy winner must be in shell shock. He definitely must be suffering from PTSD this morning. His passes were more off mark than 99% of my email responses to your blog. The receivers looked disinterested and unskilled; the running backs, pedistrian and overmatched.

    On defense, we were merely confused and under aggressive Compare our first half scheme to that of the Coogs. They played with their hair on fire, we played like we would have to run laps in a fire pit if Greg Ward broke contain. NO pressure at all until we were down 31 in the 2nd half. Personally, I would have much preferred to see us make Ward beat us with his feet. While I would not wish him harm, I cannot imaging how he could have held up for 60 minutes if we blitzed him all night as UH did Lamar.

    Well, another season with so much promise goes unfulfilled. I don’t feel nearly as bad as after the UCF game in 2013 when we had that game won and started celebrating our win in the 3rd quarter. We were better than the Knights with Teddy and Coach Strong in that game—but we were definitely over matched and beaten by a better team last night.

    ON to Atlantis………

    1. This one didn’t remind me of the CFU loss in 2013, It reminded me of the South Florida loss in 2005 (Brohm’s sophmore year) in which we were outclassed from start to finish and didn’t appear to have any answers

    2. “Our former Heisman trophy winner…” Truth. His NFL stock dropped hard and fast last night. Truth. It was as nightmarish as last Tuesday.

      On to Alantis, indeed, Counselor. Football is over personally (save the NFL) and I like our Cagers. Much po’

  4. I was there Phil and you are correct. Only we weren’t fighting for a Natti Ship in 2005…and are you sure that is the year? I may be thinking of a Krag game vs. USF when Bilal Powell was a freshman…………

    …..these dang Am Conf teams are too tough for us………

  5. well it was a bad game….usually people can throw a game like that out and survive and thrive…that’s what we’ll have to do….they really haven’t played like that all year=I guess they were due…it seems that there was a choke factor in play===their minds were not in it and Houston really played well….guess we go back and get better…ain’t the end of the world…hey one thing-we beat them in the second half 10-5!!…got to take something out of it..haha….hey we lead the nation in fumbles and its the first time it came back to haunt us plus the oline really were overmatched early….got to look for some good things and I look at second half…small things count I guess

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