Louisville-Houston grades: Cougars' defense shuts down Lamar Jackson
Houston Cougars 36, Louisville Cardinals 10
Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from Houston’s blowout Week 12 win over the Louisville Cardinals:
Quarterback grade: Greg Ward Jr., 54.7
Cougars find way to win on Ward’s worst night
Greg Ward had his worst graded game this season on Thursday night. Against a talented Louisville defense he was inaccurate too often and struggled mightily when he was under pressure. He was 2-of-10 for 28 yards on his 12 dropbacks under pressure and had a 39.6 QB rating. The coaches alleviated what could have been much more pressure with rollouts designed for easy reads, but he still missed on too many throws. A silver lining is that he did not have any turnover-worthy throws that could have swung field position for Louisville and given the Cardinals a spark, and Louisville did enough of that on its own to turn the tide early in this game.
Top offensive grades:
WR Linell Bonner, 71.8
OT Braylon Jones, 70.1
WR Chance Allen, 69.0
RB Duke Catalon, 65.4
TE Romello Brooker, 60.1
Houston point total does not reflect offensive performance
This is truly an instance in which the box score will not tell the whole story of how this game went offensively for the Cougars. They struggled to move the ball for much of the game and were aided by an extremely short field after the opening kickoff was fumbled. Another touchdown came on a wide receiver pass with a busted coverage. The biggest fluke of all was when Ward’s dangerous pass was tipped luckily into the arms of running back Duke Catalon. Linell Bonner had a solid night, catching 7 of his 9 targets but only for 61 yards.
Top defensive grades:
DI Ed Oliver, 90.4
ED Tyus Bowser, 83.5
DI Nick Thurman, 79.2
S Garrett Davis, 78.7
CB Howard Wilson, 78.1
Houston front-seven dominates Louisville offense
The Cougars defensive line, led by true freshman Ed Oliver, came to play on Thursday night. The defense sacked Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson 10 times and also forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that resulted in a safety. Despite exiting the game late in the third quarter with an injury, Oliver had the best game of his young collegiate career, as he batted down three passes, recorded two sacks and a quarterback hurry, and also forced a fumble. In addition, linebacker Steven Taylor made a team-high 10 defensive stops and also recorded seven total pressures, including three sacks.
Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 60.9
Jackson struggles under pressure in blowout loss
The Louisville signal-caller and presumptive Heisman favorite had the word game of his season, although he did not receive a lot of help from his teammates. In fact, Jackson was accurate on 24 of his 34 aimed attempts (70.6 adjusted completion percentage), but he was victimized by four drops and was also forced to throw away the ball six times. Nevertheless, Jackson was not his usual self even when he was not under pressure, as he forced some passes into tight coverage and missed a couple of easy throws. In addition, he failed to complete any of his three passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. He rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries, but didn’t score a touchdown and forced just one missed tackle.
Top offensive grades:
WR Seth Dawkins, 67.8
WR Jaylen Smith, 65.7
RB Jeremy Smith, 65.6
WR Traveon Samuel, 53.7
WR Jamari Staples, 53.1
Thursday is a night to forget for the Cardinals offense
Louisville’s struggles started up front, as the Cardinals were unable to slow down Houston’s defensive line. The unit allowed 24 total pressures on 61 passing plays, and all starting offensive linemen allowed at least three pressures, while none of them earned a grade higher than 49.0. In addition, the Cardinals kept making mistakes even when they were able to protect Jackson, as Louisville pass-catchers dropped four of 24 catchable passes.
Top defensive grades:
LB Stacy Thomas, 88.7
CB Zykiesis Cannon, 88.5
DI DeAngelo Brown, 81.5
CB Trumaine Washington, 78.3
DI Drew Bailey, 76.9
Cardinals’ defense left hung out to dry by offense and special teams
By no means was the Cardinals’ defense without blame in this devastating road loss — they did allow a touchdown on a busted coverage by Jaire Alexander — but for the most part they played pretty solid. They were unfortunate to be put in short fields by a couple of fumbles, they allowed another touchdown on a fluke tipped pass, and a drive was extended on a fake punt. LB Stacy Thomas stood out for the Cardinals’ defense with a sack and five other stops (solo tackles resulting in an offensive failure). He was outstanding in coverage, allowing only one catch for 13 yards on three targets. His overall grade of 88.7 was the highest of the game.