Did Louisville overlook Houston and not take the Cougars as seriously as they should have as they prepared during the week? Possibly.
"We just didn’t have the same focus or the same energy that we normally have and that we need to have," said Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino following his team's 34-31 loss. "We tried to get it going, we tried to work on it, but I didn’t do a good enough job."
Was the team a little despondent following their season-opening loss to Auburn? Sounds a bit like it.
"We were coming off a loss to Auburn and it didn't sit well with a lot of people, so they were still thinking about it," said quarterback Kyle Bolin. "We tried to turn the focus up late in the week and coach always says to win during practice and we just didn't earn the right to win this week."
The result of either, or more likely, a combination of both, is the first 0-2 start to a season for the Cardinals since 1998. That team, with Bobby Petrino as offensive coordinator and record-setting quarterback Chris Redman behind center, rebounded to earn a bowl bid. Having finished 1-10 a year prior, the 1998 squad, directed by first-year head coach John L. Smith, was motivated by the opportunity to reignite the football program.
Still in search of a solution at quarterback for a second consecutive season, the 2015 team appear to be a group that continues to search for its identity. The loss in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, one that the team believed it would win, knocked the Cardinals off their intended flight pattern. For anyone listening during the preseason, the players and coaches expectations for this season were high. ACC title competing type high. With those type of expectations, a season-opening loss can effect future performance.
"I just think we didn't put the past behind us and you have to do that during football season," added Bolin, who completed 10 of 18 attempts for 157 yards and a touchdown during his first action of the season.
Redshirt freshman Micky Crum was on the receiving end of Bolin's fourth quarter touchdown throw and finished with a team-high 103 receiving yards. Afterward, he described the Cardinals post game locker room as "quiet" and admitted that the team could feel their own lack of preperation prior to the game.
"We kind of sensed we weren't ready for this game," he said.
With Louisville's next game on Thursday, that leaves little time for the team to prepare for it's ACC-opener against preseason league favorite Clemson. The Cardinals will have the task of not only prepping for a Tigers team that has won its first two contests by an average score of 45-10, but also in need finding the desire to return to their initial flight path.
It seems simple enough.
"Just don't think about the past, just look forward," said Crum. "Don't think about the two losses that we just had and focus on Clemson."
Junior linebacker Keith Kelsey, one of the team's leaders, realizes the sting of the losses, but also understands the importance of always looking forward throughout the season.
"No one likes losing, but you can't worry about the last one," said Kelsey, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles and the team's only two sacks. "You have to worry about the future or it'll stop you from getting where you want to go."
Where the Cardinals wanted to go - that original flight path that included competing for an ACC title - is still reachable. While the two losses may keep a team from the national polls for a few more weeks, the competition for the ACC doesn't begin until Thursday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
As John L. Smith often said during the 1998 season, especially following the two ugly losses to start the season, 'it's time to rip off the rearview mirror.'