BOZICH | Louisville's disappointment at Houston loss shows expec - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville's disappointment at Houston loss shows expectations carry price

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Lamar Jackson ran but was still sacked 11 times at Houston Thursday night. Lamar Jackson ran but was still sacked 11 times at Houston Thursday night.

HOUSTON (WDRB) — There will be a day when it will taste like progress for the University of Louisville football program to be deflated by a 9-2 season, a jumbo-size victory over Florida State and a likely trip to the Orange Bowl.

Only Big Boy programs snarl at having to settle for that.

Every time the Cardinals have been booked for the Fiesta, Orange or Sugar bowl, fans have wanted to plan a parade. I could give you a list of Power Five schools that will go gaga over invitations to the Music City, Pinstripe or Independence bowls in several weeks.

Today is not the day for the wide-angle view, which is still miles ahead of, oh, 118 other FBS programs. 

The performance Louisville delivered in a one-sided 36-10 loss against Houston Thursday night at TDECU Stadium did not taste or smell like progress. It tasted like a 2006 egg salad sandwich because this was the opportunity of a lifetime squandered.

"I mean, it hurts, man,” said DeAngelo Brown, the leader of Louisville’s defensive line.

“Everybody on this team wanted to do great things. Everyone on this team wanted to go to the playoffs and keep winning. It hurts, I can't say nothing else."

This wasn’t a loss. This was a surrender, a 36-10 waving of a white flag.

This wasn’t going toe-to-toe. This was 60 minutes of backpedaling.

This was worse than Miami in 2004, Rutgers in 2006 or Clemson in October. On those nights, Louisville threatened to win. Instead of playing like a team that belonged with Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan, the Cardinals played like an also-run from the American Athletic Conference.

This wasn’t delivering your absolute best when the entire college football world was watching. This was playing as poorly as this program has played in Bobby Petrino’s last three seasons on the job.

This was Game Over in 11 seconds.

This, frankly, was baffling. Alarming also fits. So does deflating. The floor is open for your description.

This was a breakdown on every level of the depth and organizational charts — offense, defense, special teams, X and Os and motivation, players and coaches.

On a night when the Cardinals needed to prove they were actually one of the four best teams in America, they left skeptics wondering if they were actually one of the Top 10.

What happened?

What didn’t happen?

“It was really one of those games where you just get your butt beat,” Petrino said.

The Louisville offensive line was undressed as being closer to ordinary than it is to exceptional. That’s Job One on Petrino’s Fix-It list.

No consistent holes for running backs. No time for quarterback Lamar Jackson to set and examine his downfield progressions. The final total was 11 sacks (reportedly a school record) and merely 312 yards of total offense.

That translates to 3.8 yards per snap for a team that came to town averaging more than double that number (7.8).

“I wouldn’t say running for my life,” Jackson said “Just a lot of miscues.”

The only thing the offensive line excelled at against the Cougars was moving, or occasionally falling down, before the snap.

“You could see (Jackson) was yelling at his offensive linemen,” Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver said. “You couldn't see what he was saying. I'm guessing he was yelling at them for false starting."

That’s been a problem in other games this season. The rest of Petrino’s team covered it up at places like Virginia.

There was no cover-up Thursday. Jackson was inaccurate with his throws. Receivers failed to get open or wrap two hands around passes.

Return guys disregarded orders not to return kicks out of the end zone. 

Players handled the football as recklessly as a freshman point guard. 

Louisville has lost six fumbles in its last two games. The Cardinals have lost 20 this season. That’s not only the worst job of ball security in the nation, that’s six more than than any other team.

No wonder members of the offensive unit had to be separated during a first-half screaming match on the Cardinals’ sideline. The Cardinals huffed and puffed to 10 points against a Houston defense that gave up 31 points to Tulsa and 38 to SMU.

“There was definitely frustration and it grew,” Petrino said.

“We gave them a little taste of what we were coming with this year,” said Houston linebacker Steven Taylor. “If they were shocked, I guess you can say they didn't prepare."

There was a reason the wise guys in Las Vegas listed Louisville as a 17-point favorite.

But check the scoreboard. The offense was not the only unit that flinched when Houston brought the game and the crowd brought the thunder sticks to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals needed 37 points to win because the Cougars scored 36 while ringing up 21 first downs and 362 yards. 

You can’t call yourself a playoff team when you surrender 36 to a wounded team that scored 30 against Tulane, 31 against Central Florida and 16 against SMU in its previous three games.

Yes, the defense was missing important pieces, guys like Josh Harvey-Clemons, James Hearns and Shaq Wiggins. It’s Game 11 of a 13-game grind. Every team is missing important pieces Some have been missing them all season.

But the defense was fooled by two trick plays. Houston converted five third downs. And the defense did not take home a single takeaway.

So with one regular-season and one post-season game to play the Cardinals have considerable work to do before Kentucky arrives next Saturday.

But it’s not the work they thought they faced of trying to impress the College Football Playoff committee. Being perturbed by a 9-2 season is progress -- even if it doesn't feel that way today.

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