Sidelines with John Clay

With less to play for, will Louisville football be motivated against Kentucky?

Houston defensive end Cameron Malveaux (94) celebrates his fumble recovery during the first half of the Cougars’ 36-10 win over Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Houston.
Houston defensive end Cameron Malveaux (94) celebrates his fumble recovery during the first half of the Cougars’ 36-10 win over Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Houston. Associated Press

Teams are supposed to play them one at a time, and Kentucky plays its home finale Saturday when Austin Peay comes to Commonwealth Stadium, but let’s jump ahead to Nov. 19.

Given Louisville’s stunning 36-10 loss at Houston on Thursday night, will the Cardinals have anything to play for when the Cats come to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the traditional Governor’s Cup game.

After all, despite its No. 5 ranking, Louisville is undoubtedly out of the College Football Playoff picture.

“We blew it,” U of L coach Bobby Petrino said after Thursday’s debacle.

And a Clemson win at Wake Forest on Saturday officially eliminates Louisville from the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. Both the Tigers and U of L would finish 7-1 in the league, but Louisville’s conference loss came at Clemson 42-36 on Oct. 1. And Cards-Cats would have no effect either way.

Aside from the usual bragging rights motivation for the Nov. 19 game with Kentucky, Louisville does have quarterback Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy hopes in question. Despite the loss, Jackson is probably still the favorite to win the iconic statue but his lead hast to taken something of a hit.

Under constant pressure, the sophomore completed 20 of 43 passes for 211 yards with just one touchdown. Sacked a ridiculous 11 times as Houston destroyed U of L’s offensive line, Jackson finished with 33 yards on 25 carries.

What was shocking Thursday was how totally unprepared the Cardinals were to play the game. From fumbling away the opening kickoff -- Houston scored on the next play, just 13 seconds into the game -- to a slew of pre-snap false stat penalties, the Cardinals never had their heads into the game.

All this despite the fact that Louisville had (a) everything to play for as far as the post-season was concerned, and (b) was playing a good team in a hostile environment.

Never mind Houston’s losses to Navy and SMU. Remember, this was the same Tom Herman team that beat Oklahoma on the season’s opening weekend. Since then, the Cougars had been hurt by injuries, including a shoulder ailment that had nagged star quarterback Greg Ward all season. Thursday was Houston’s chance to show the country it was still a terrific football team. The Cougars proved just that.

As for Louisville, if Clemson makes it to the College Football Playoff, the Cards still have a shot at going 10-2 and playing in the Orange Bowl. That’s something. There’s also the motivation of beating Kentucky for the sixth straight season. As U of L’s coach, Petrino has never lost to Kentucky. He’s 6-1 against the Cats with the one loss coming during Petrino’s time at Arkansas.

So will an angry Louisville be ready to take out its frustrations on its acrh-rivals in the regular season finale? Or with the big prize no longer there for the taking, will the Cards mope their way through the Governor’s Cup?

Louisville football 2016

Date

Opponent

UofL

Opp

Dec

Rec

ACC

9/1

Charlotte

70

14

W

1-0

9/9

@Syracuse

62

28

W

2-0

1-0

9/17

Florida St

63

20

W

3-0

2-0

9/24

@Marshall

59

28

W

4-0

10/1

@Clemson

36

42

L

4-1

2-1

10/14

Duke

24

14

W

5-1

3-1

10/22

NC State

54

13

W

6-1

4-1

10/29

@Virginia

32

25

W

7-1

5-1

11/5

@Boston College

52

7

W

8-1

6-1

11/12

Wake Forest

44

12

W

9-1

7-1

11/17

@Houston

10

36

L

9-2

11/26

Kentucky

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