Louisville football’s defense had its struggles this season, but turned in one of its best performances in the final game of the year. The Cardinals limited Mississippi State to 366 yards of offense in a 38-28 victory in the Music City Bowl Dec. 30 in Nashville.
After allowing 446.3 yards of offense in the regular season that ended with Kentucky rushing for 517 yards, the Cardinals went to work. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said the defense practiced well, focusing on tackling drills in preparation for the bowl game.
“You’ve got to think the last three weeks all they’ve heard on defense is how bad they were,” Satterfield said. “You keep hearing that crap, you’ve got to go out and do something about it, and that’s what they did.”
Mississippi State had touchdown drives for 99 yards and 80 yards in the first half, but Louisville had one of its best defensive quarters after halftime. The Cardinals held Mississippi State to 12 yards of offense in the third quarter and returned a turnover for a touchdown.
Gary McCrae forced a fumble on a run by Tommy Stevens as he moved toward the sideline. Safety Khane Pass scooped up the loose ball and went 31 yards for a touchdown to give Louisville a 24-14 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Mississippi State had five consecutive drives that ended in either a turnover or punt. Bulldog running back Kylin Hill was the Southeastern Conference’s leading rusher heading into the bowl game, but ran for just three yards on seven carries.
Louisville finished with 10 tackles for a loss and limited Mississippi State to 145 rushing yards. C.J. Avery had a team-high nine tackles while Cornelius Sturghill and Rodjay Burns added seven tackles each.
“Our guys took it personal, so they did a great job,” Satterfield said. “I was so proud of our defense the way they played the final round.”