By managing a balanced, with a run-first mentality, the Cardinals dominated the time of possession and kept the fast-paced Houston offense off the field. Louisville had possession of the ball for an entire quarter longer than the Cougars.
The result was a career high number of carries and yards for runningback Dominique Brown. The junior averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored both of U of L's touchdowns.
It also resulted in the passing game appearing rather conservative. While he connected with seven different receivers, Teddy Bridgewater threw for just 203 yards. It was the first time he didn't throw a touchdown pass since the 2012 season-opener.
While the offense was productive without the flash, the defense was stellar again. Houston entered the game averaging 450 yards and nearly 40 points a game, but managed just 195 yards against the Cardinals defense.
Facing an offense that gains nearly 300 yards through the air, a steady stream of pressure and stingy secondary limited the Cougars to only 121 on Saturday night. Houston quarterback John O'Korn completed a low 48% of his 35 attempts.
Senior middle linebacker led the Cardinals with 9 tackles. Defensive ends Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin, along with defensive tackle Roy Philon, picked up sacks. Smith's 11.5 sacks on the season is the second highest total in the NCAA, while Mauldin's 8.5 ranks 15th.
Philon also led the team with 3 tackles for a loss, with two coming during crucial late game situations. Holding a one touchdown lead, the defense stopped a potential game-tying drive in the fourth quarter when Philon read a screen pass perfectly to make the tackle for a 6 yard loss. His sack of O'Korn set up a 3rd & 38 for the Cougars with 2:00 remaining in the game, which they were unable to overcome.
Shortcomings on special teams continues to be a head-scratcher.
The bad was the muffed punt that led to Houston's go-ahead field goal to end the first half. A 61-yard kickoff return to start the game is never a good thing.
Overall, it wasn't flashy, but it was a win. The team stuck to the game plan and it delivered a victory. However, while the defense continued to back up it's national rankings, the offense crawled to the lowest point total of the season, leaving many craving for more.