The keys to the game were clear coming into Saturday's match-up between the Houston Cougars and the Louisville Cardinals. We knew that both starting quarterbacks would be able to run.
#1 Greg Ward Jr. can really sling it.
23/33 236 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
It might not be too apparent if you just look at the overall numbers, he has a lot of attempts but not a ton of yards, but the junior QB is great at extending plays with his legs and keeping his eyes downfield for his wideouts. Case and point on the first drive of the fourth quarter when Ward found Linell Bonner wide open on the left side, and hit him on the run for the TD. Don't forget the 40-yard pass he completed to Chance Allen to set up that touchdown as well. Every time Louisville would score, Greg Ward found a way to answer.
#2 Louisville shoots themselves in the foot on offense.
I said it in my game preview that the Cougars would have to find a way to get to Lamar Jackson and make him uncomfortable. The Cougars were able to keep the freshman bottled up for much of the game (only 16 yards on 12 carries), and forced him to pass the ball. Jackson did have a touchdown pass, but also had two picks. The key for Houston was capitalizing on those mistakes. Both teams also shot themselves in the foot with penalties, but Louisville had two holding penalties in the worse possible time. The Cardinals got a 10-yard penalty for holding to push a 3rd-and-nine into 19. The ensuing play went for eight, and Louisville was forced to try a 53-yard field goal to tie it. The try to tie it came with :49 seconds remaining and sealed a 34-31 win for Houston.
#3 Houston Rushing (offense and defense)
The difference between winning and losing, many times, comes down to whether or not you can run the ball on offense, and stop the run on defense. On Saturday afternoon, Houston did that as they were able to gain 231 yards on the ground (4.2 YPC). The Coogs held Louisville to just 70 rushing yards on 26 attempts (2.7 YPC). Jackson wasn't able to get going for the Cardinals, and Greg Ward Jr. did just about anything he wanted on the day.
#4 BEAST MODE Kenneth Farrow
The senior had 27 attempts for 109 yards on Saturday. Without Farrow taking the read up the middle, Ward doesn't have near the amount of room to run the ball for his 98 yards. Farrow also took on some big blocks when Ward called passes. If Ward is the player of the game, and I think there's no way he wasn't, Farrow deserves at least a portion of that.
#5 Brandon Wilson Kickoff Return
Louisville didn't wrap up and Brandon Wilson bounced right off of two different Cardinals tackles en route to a 100-yard (caught the ball 2 yards deep) kickoff return touchdown. That play, with 2:35 left in the third quarter, tied the game up and gave Houston a ton of momentum going into the fourth quarter. Houston took the lead on a field goal a couple of minutes later, and Louisville changed quarterbacks.