HOUSTON -- When the third set of College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday night, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, receiver Jaylen Smith and a handful of other Cardinals tweeted their reactions to it. It was clear they were surprised and certainly not pleased to be outside of the top four.
Perhaps they were too concerned with where they stood, according to at least one player following No. 5 Louisville's stunning 36-10 loss at Houston on Thursday night, which essentially knocked the Cardinals out of the playoff hunt.
"I think we let that get to us too much," Louisville sophomore safety Dee Smith said after the loss. "We shouldn't have paid too much attention to the rankings. Instead of playing our game, we were trying to do too much, in my eyes."
Not everyone necessarily agreed, but almost all the Cardinals who spoke with reporters acknowledged a lack of focus for Thursday's game. It showed: they committed 15 penalties, allowed 11 sacks and turned the ball over three times.
"The ranking is what it is," senior running back Brandon Radcliff said. "I'm sure there were a lot of people waiting on this moment [for us to lose]. Me being a captain, I tried to get our guys to focus on the task at hand and that's Houston. Our focus wasn't there today."
The Cardinals fell behind the Cougars 31-0 at halftime and couldn't recover. They held Houston scoreless in the third quarter, scored a touchdown on their first second-half possession but fumbled in the red zone as they were trying to get a second score, then settled for a field goal on their third possession of the half.
"We blew it," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We had an opportunity sitting there. Can't take anything away from Houston either. They did a good job, they executed well and they played well. It was one of those situations where they were better than us tonight, no question about it."
Coming into the game, Jackson had a sizable lead on the rest of the country in the Heisman Trophy race. Asked if he thought Thursday's loss would affect his chances, Jackson dismissed such a notion.
"No, I'm not really focused on that," Jackson said. "I was focused on winning. I'm not really focused on the Heisman. I just have to go out there, play with my team and help us win games. That's it."
Radcliff had stronger words in defense of his teammate, saying it didn't hurt Jackson's chances.
"Of course not," Radcliff said. "He's the best player in the nation. Nobody can question that man, the effort he goes out there and plays with every week. I don't care what you say, nobody touches him on that field.
"To me, he's the best player out there and I'm not just saying that because he's my teammate. Stack him up against anybody. Nobody's touching what he's doing on that field."