After a depressing loss to Kentucky in the Governor’s Cup, the Louisville Cardinals were looking to end their season with their first bowl win in four years against Mississippi State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Louisville overcame a first-half deficit with an offensive clinic and defeated the Bulldogs 38-28.
MSU has proven a consistent postseason foil for the Cards in pretty much every sport. The Bulldogs were Louisville’s last bowl opponent, beating the Cards 31-27 in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl, otherwise known as the Gator. This year’s MSU squad has struggled with numerous injuries and a series of quarterbacks who kept getting hurt and/or punching each other.
This season’s Louisville team has defied all preseason expectations on their way to a 7-5 regular season record and bowl eligibility. The embarrassing loss to the archrival Wildcats left a bad taste in the mouth of fans and the team and beating the odds with a bowl win would be the perfect end for the season.
The game did not start out rather auspiciously for the Cards. They were driving the ball and were within scoring range on their first possession when Dez Fitzpatrick fumbled and it was recovered by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs drove down the field and scored on a three-yard touchdown run.
They would score another touchdown on a another three-yard run early in the second quarter to get up 14-0.
Louisville would score the next 31 points.
The Cards finally got on the board on the next series with a trick double pass play from Micale Cunningham to Tutu Atwell to Marshon Ford for a 33-yard touchdown.
Louisville kicked a 31-yard field goal in the last second of the half to make the halftime score 14-10 Mississippi State.
This was despite the Cards outgaining the Bulldogs by over 100 yards.
Louisville got the lead with five minutes left to go in the third quarter 24-yard pass to Devante Peete.
Not satisfied with merely stopping MSU, the Cardinal defense scored too with Khane Pass returning a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown to make the score 24-14.
Early in the fourth Marshon Ford caught another touchdown pass from Cunningham.
The game wasn’t decided yet, as the Bulldogs scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass with just over 10 minutes left in the game to make the score 31-21 Louisville.
It wasn’t the start of an MSU comeback run, however, as Javian Hawkins scored on a five-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left.
The Bulldogs scored another touchdown in the final minute of the game on a 24-yard touchdown pass but couldn’t recover an onside kick and the Cards ran out the clock to get the victory.
Micale Cunningham completed 16 of his 23 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries. He was named the Music City Bowl MVP.
Javian Hawkins rushed for 105 yards on 23 carries.
That performance put Hawkins over 1,500 rushing yards for the season, the first Louisville running back to do so. Lamar Jackson did it twice from the quarterback position, and totally not at running back.
Hawkins wasn’t the only Cardinal to break a single-season record. Tutu Atwell caught nine passes for 147 yards in the game. This put him at 1,276 receiving yards for the season, a school single-season record.
He also completed one of his two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Louisville finishes their 2019 campaign with an 8-5 record (5-3 ACC) after going 2-10 the previous year. Mississippi State ends the year with a 6-7 record (3-5 SEC).
The Cards will look to improve over the offseason in hopes of winning their 2020 opener against Murray State on September 19.<