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Monday, May 25, 2020

Football

Cougars put the ‘L’ in Louisville, knock off No. 3 Cardinals


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The Cougars improved to 6-0 against ranked opponents in the Tom Herman-era when they defeated the No. 3 ranked Cardinals Thursday night. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The College Football Playoff hopes of the No. 3 ranked University of Louisville Cardinals were foiled by a 36-10 thrashing at the hands of the Cougar football team Thursday night.

Head coach Tom Herman and the Cougars proved, once again, that they shy away from no opponent as the team improved to 6-0 against AP Top 25 ranked opponents since in his time at Houston.

“Unbelievable win,” Head coach Tom Herman said. “I think it’s important to note that we haven’t gone anywhere. We’ve been here all along.”

In front of a record crowd at TDECU Stadium, the game got off to a roaring start from the opening kick. Cardinal return man Malik Williams fumbled the opening kickoff which was quickly recovered by Cougar junior running back Dillon Birden deep in Cardinal territory.

On the ensuing possession, senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. completed a screen pass to junior running back Duke Catalon for a 13-yard first-play score to give the Cougars an easy 7-0 lead following the extra point.

Football dominated the first half and headed to the locker room at halftime leading 31-0. The 31-point margin was good for the largest halftime deficit a top-five team has given up to an unranked opponent in the last decade.

Catalon continued his dominance all night and was a catalyst for the Cougars’ offense. The Houston-native finished with 107 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.

Although hobbled by multiple nagging injuries, Ward gave a Senior Night performance that he will not soon forget. The second-year starter was mistake free Thursday.

Ward led the way in the upset victory by accumulating 233 yards through the air on 25-for-44 passing with two touchdowns.

“Words can’t explain how I feel,” Ward said. “The grind that we went through finally paid off.”

The Cougars’ defense was perfect in the first half, never letting the high-powered Cardinal offense to find a rhythm.

Louisville managed just 138 yards of total offense in the first half that was dominated by Houston. The Cougars chaotic defense forced a careless Cardinal offense into turning the ball over three times all by way of fumbles.

Freshmen defensive lineman Ed Oliver made his presence felt in a multitude of ways as he continued his impressive freshman campaign. The first-year starter finished with six tackles–three for a loss–two sacks and two pass breakups.

“I was worried about us going on the field and executing,” Oliver said. “I remember before every drive, telling the defense it’s a business trip every time we step in between the white lines. We handle business. We are filling out our resumes tonight.”

Houston’s defensive pressure was an issue for Cardinal blockers who surrendered 11 sacks in the loss. Heisman-favorite quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled to find any time in the pocket.

In comparison to each of his other games this season, Jackson was held completely in check, finishing with just 244 total yards and a passing touchdown.

Although the outcome of Houston’s season is hindered by two slip-ups in games earlier in the year, the 9-2 Cougars proved their tenacity by beating two top five opponents in a single season for the first time in school history.

The win also marks the highest ranked team the Cougars have ever defeated at their home stadium.

“We can play with anybody in the country, and we proved that again tonight,” Herman said. “That was a heck of a football team in Louisville, heck of a football player in Lamar Jackson. That is a really really good football team.”

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