Louisville football ended its first season under head coach Scott Satterfield on a high note in the Music City Bowl. The Cardinals defeated Mississippi State 38-28 in Nashville Dec. 30, rallying from a two-touchdown deficit for their first bowl win since 2015.
Micale Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns while Javian Hawkins rushed for 105 yards and a score for a Louisville offense that finished with 510 yards of offense. Tutu Atwell had nine receptions for 147 yards.
Louisville scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the second half, scoring 31 straight points to take control.
Mississippi State finished with 366 yards of offense, but had two turnovers and Louisville’s defense had 10 tackles for a loss.
Louisville’s had an impressive opening drive, but couldn’t come away with points. After the Cardinal defense forced a three-and-out on Mississippi State’s first possession to begin the game, Louisville had no problem moving the ball downfield.
Javian Hawkins had a 16-yard carry and Micale Cunningham completed a 22-yard throw to Jordan Davis. Cunningham found Dez Fitzpatrick inside the 25-yard-line, the receiver taking the pass to the 7-yard-line before fumbling. Mississippi State’s Tim Washington recovered the ball on the 1-yard-line to end Louisville’s drive.
The Bulldogs went 99 yards in eight plays as quarterback Tommy Stevens did the most damage on the ground. He rushed for gains of 24 and 16 yards for first downs. JaVonta Payton caught a 27-yard throw from Stevens.
Stevens ended the drive with a 3-yard run for a 7-0 Mississippi State lead with 4:48 left in the first quarter.
Mississippi State took 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Cardinal linebacker Dorian Etheridge was ejected during the drive following an unsportsmanlike penalty after the end of a play.
Nick Gibson scored from three yards to extend the Bulldogs advantage to two touchdowns.
After the Mississippi State score, Hassan Hall helped start Louisville’s first scoring drive with a 25-yard kick return. Cunningham had a 13-yard throw to Fitzpatrick on the drive’s opening play. The quarterback later picked up a first down with an 11-yard run.
Louisville used some trickery for a 33-yard touchdown to cut its deficit to 14-7. Atwell caught a lateral from Cunningham, then throwing to an open Marshon Ford down the sideline for a score.
Trenell Troutman forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Louisville recovered, but the Cardinals couldn’t come away with points. Cunningham’s pass fell incomplete on a fourth-and-11 from the Bulldog 34-yard-line.
Louisville’s defense forced a stop late in the second quarter, which led to a field goal. Louisville picked up several first downs, going 50 yards in 10 plays. Ryan Chalifoux made a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to cut Louisville’s deficit to 14-10.
The Cardinals moved the ball inside the 20-yard-line on the opening drive of the second half, but Chalifoux missed a 34-yard field goal.
After another Mississippi State three-and-out, Louisville took its first lead on the ensuing drive. The Cardinals picked up two first downs on third-and-10s, a 20-yard run by Cunningham and 13-yard reception from Atwell to keep the drive alive.
Devante Peete was alone along the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown reception thrown from Cunningham to give Louisville a 17-14 lead with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
Louisville continued to control the momentum on Mississippi State’s next drive. Chandler Jones had a sack for a 12-yard loss on second down.
One play later, Gary McCrae forced a fumble near the sideline and safety Khane Pass recovered the ball. The senior went 31 yards for a touchdown to give Louisville a 24-14 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Mississippi State had just 12 yards of offense in the third quarter.
Louisville scored a touchdown on its third consecutive drive. Cunningham had completions to Atwell for 24 yards and a 29-yard throw to Justin Marshall. Ford had a catch in the flat for an 8-yard touchdown for a 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
After Louisville scored 31 straight points, Mississippi State finally had an answer, going 75 yards in nine plays. Stephen Guidry scored from 18-yards for a receiving touchdown with 10:25 left.
Hawkins scored from five yards with 2:13 left to seal the game for Louisville.