It's simple to overlook shortcomings when the team is lighting up the scoreboard at a 50 points per game pace and on the cusp of the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The shortcomings that being the top-scoring offense in the nation shielded was a team that lost more fumbles than any other FBS program, plus a season-long penalty total that checks in at No. 106 in the country. And, those were the numbers as the Cardinals made the trip to dangerous Houston for a Thursday night nationally-televised game.
The weaknesses were about the only areas of the Louisville game that carried over from the team's first nine games into the Houston match-up.
Three lost fumbles, including one on the game's opening kick return, coupled with 15 penalties - twice the team's per game average - ignited a complete evening of total dominance by the host Cougars. Houston looked like a team that belonged in the playoff discussion, easily dismantling U of L 36-10.
"We got beat by their offense, we got beat by their defense, and we got beat by their special teams," U of L head coach Bobby Petrino said. "That was a bad job of coaching on my part. I didn't do a good job of getting our team ready to play. The out-played us, they out-performed us, and they out-coached us."
Instead of making a statement that it belonged in the current top four, the 5th-ranked Cardinals saw their playoff hopes disappear quickly.
The bad habits led to a 7-0 deficit within seconds of kickoff and a 10-0 first quarter deficit. Two first half turnovers, multiple false start infractions and little protection for quarterback Lamar Jackson kept the U of L offense scoreless for the entire first half. 10 second half points highlighted the best of the Cardinals for the night, but they were never really in this one.
The Louisville offense managed just 312 total yards, more than two football fields less than it has averaged this season. Jackson finished the evening 20 of 43 for 211 yards and a touchdown. His usual elusive running style was kept in check by the Cougars aggressive defense. The Heisman Trophy favorite managed just 33 yards on 25 attempts, including being sacked 11 times.
Up next for Louisville (9-2) is its home finale with in-state rival Kentucky on Sat., Nov. 26 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.