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The dream dies: Houston stomps Louisville, 36-10

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the more bizarre performances we've ever seen from a Louisville team in any sport, the football Cardinals saw their dreams of a national championship go up in the brightest of flames Thursday night in Houston.

Lamar Jackson was sacked a school-record 11 times and the Cardinals were penalized an unthinkable 16 times as the host Houston Cougars rolled to a 36-10 victory on their senior night.

The tone for the evening was set on the game's opening kickoff, when Malik Williams ran into the back of teammate Jeremy Smith and fumbled the ball. Houston recovered and scored on their first offensive play of the game when Greg Ward Jr. hit Duke Catalon for a 13-yard score.

Things got worse from there, as Louisville fumbled the ball away twice more and failed to get anything going offensively, resulting in a 31-0 halftime advantage for Houston. The Cardinals appeared poised to attempt a comeback after scoring on their opening drive of the third quarter, but a Jackson fumble deep in Cougar territory on the next drive all bust sealed the deal.

I honestly don't know what else to say here. With everything in the world to play for, Louisville looked like the less motivated and the less prepared team Thursday night. It was a total unraveling that I didn't see coming. At all. Sure, a loss had felt like a very realistic possibility, but not like this, not with the sport's ultimate stage on the line.

This one will undoubtedly hurt through the weekend and then again when we reflect on this season years from now, but there's still a rivalry game to win for a sixth straight year and still a (likely) high-profile bowl game to participate in. None of that numbs the pain right now, but hopefully it will after a period of time.

Damn.