On paper, LSU presented yet another tough matchup, with a stellar defensive front capable of giving the beleaguered offensive line and, in turn, Jackson, major fits.
In a complete reversal of his eye-opening bowl performance against Texas A&M a year ago, Jackson had nowhere to run or pass. LSU had eight sacks, including one for a safety. Sophomore sensation Arden Key had two sacks, becoming the LSU single-season leader with 12.
He and his teammates held Jackson to a meager 153 passing yards and a season-low 33 rushing yards, and forced him to fumble for the fifth time this season.
Louisville achieved season lows in virtually every offensive category, from points to total yards (220), and converted just twice on third down (2-of-17) in what felt like a replay of the listless loss to Houston in November that set the Cardinals on a three-game losing streak to end the season.
Except in this game, Louisville failed to score a touchdown for the first time all season.
These are not the types of numbers that give coaches a sense of comfort. Now Louisville's Bobby Petrino must figure out how to get the offensive line fixed this offseason so Jackson can have enough time to do what makes him so special.
Over his final three games, Jackson was sacked a jaw-dropping 22 times. Jackson made tremendous strides this season and became the first Heisman Trophy winner in school history. But without the time to throw or the holes to run, he could not make any plays, and that ultimately hurt the Cards down the stretch.
Jackson becomes the first Heisman Trophy winner since Sam Bradford in 2008 to lose his first bowl game after winning the award.
For LSU, it was a thorough performance, one that showed the Tigers life after Leonard Fournette will be just fine. Derrius Guice, who has run hard all season, had 138 yards -- including a 70-yard touchdown. Receiver Malachi Dupre, who has a decision to make about his future, gained a career-high 139 yards on seven receptions.
Quarterback Danny Etling took advantage of a depleted Louisville secondary with one of his better performances. There appears to be plenty for incoming offensive coordinator Matt Canada to work with once he arrives on campus, especially if Dupre decides to stay in school.
Though LSU loses potentially six starters on defense, a strong core will return with Key leading the way. The Tigers will have momentum and can brag about beating the Heisman Trophy winner, too. LSU has achieved that feat four times, tied for the most in the nation.