Cardinals and Cougars meet for the 17th time on Thursday night

Cardinal Authority provides a preview of Louisville's important game at Houston on Thursday night

No. 3 Louisville makes its final road trip of the regular season for a Thursday night meeting against Houston of the American Athletic Conference. 

LOCATION: TDECU Stadium (40,914), Houston, Tex. 
DATE:  Thursday, Nov. 16
KICKOFF: 8:00 p.m.
RADIO:  Louisville Sports Properties Network
Play-by-Play: Paul Rogers
Analyst: Alex Kupper
Reporter: Jody Demling
TV:  ESPN
Play-by-Play: Dave Fleming
Analyst: Jesse Palmer
Reporter:  Laura Rutledge

NOTEBOOK

The game is the home finale for Houston, which will honor 16 seniors on Thursday night.  This is the 17th meeting between the two former conference rivals, with the all-time series split 8-8.  The Cardinals lost to the Cougars 31-34 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in week two of the 2015 season.  When playing at home, Houston is 4-3 against U of L.

Louisville

  • Louisville is 9-1 to start a season for eighth time in program history.  U of L has enjoyed six 10-win seasons.
  • Under the direction of Bobby Petrino, U of L is 5-0 in away games when played less than a week since the prior game.
  • U of L is tied for third (Boise State, Oklahoma) for most true road game wins since 2011 with 24.  Only Stanford and Northern Illinois have more.
  • The Cardinals enter the game ranked first in the nation in scoring offense (49.6) and total offense (583.2).  The team also ranks the nation's top ten in rushing offense (270.0), total defense (285.2) and rushing defense (102.7). 
  • The Louisville defense also ranks No. 6 nationally in opponents third down conversion rate.

Houston

  • The Cougars senior class is the winningest in Houston program history after claiming its 37th win last week.
  • Houston has won five straight against P5 programs: Oklahoma, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Pittsburgh
  • The Houston defense ranks third in the nation in rushing defense (92.8) while ranking ninth in total defense (303.3).
  • The UH offense is 22nd nationally in scoring (37.6).
  • Houston is one of five programs nationally with three players with at least 550 receiving yards.

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KEY PLAYERS

The spotlight will shine on the quarterbacks for both teams, with Lamar Jackson and Greg Ward, Jr., among the nation's most electrifying players.  Both began the season as Heisman Trophy candidates and the pair are the only players in the country to average over 285 yards passing and over 40 yards rushing.

Louisville

QB Lamar Jackson : Heisman Trophy favorite ranks first in the nation in points responsible for (278), rushing touchdowns (19) and is second in scoring per game (11.4).

WR Jaylen Smith : Tied for the team lead with six receiving touchdowns, Smith has caught at least one pass in 15-straight games.

LB Devonte Fields : Equaled his career-high with three sacks last weekend.

CB Jaire Alexander :  Team leader with five interceptions.  Also already eighth on the school's all-time list for career punt return yards.

Houston

QB Greg Ward, Jr. : He ranks third nationally with 13 games with a passing and rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons, trailing just Lamar Jackson (14) and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes (15).

WR Linell Bonner : Leads the Cougars with 68 receptions.

DT Ed Oliver : True freshman is sixth nationally with 16.5 tackles for a loss.

CB Howard Wilson : Leads Houston with five interceptions and eight pass break-ups.

QUOTABLE

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino on the Houston defense:

"It's a unique scheme. Something that we studied over the summer. Again, that seems like a long time ago, but we have all of our notes and all of our things from it. Last week they came out in a different front, so the question is were they just doing that for us, saying they were going to win the game and are they going to comeback to what they've been doing traditionally, or is that something that they've resolved into this year. They played really good defense, so I'm not really sure which way it is. Where they play in the ropey-dope or were they really transitioning to that defense. We're going to find out quickly, I think."

Houston head coach Tom Herman on U of L QB Lamar Jackson:

"Best player in college football.  That's pretty undisputed right now."


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