Mississippi State shocked Lamar Jackson and Louisville 31-27 in a fun TaxSlayer Bowl. Here are five things that matter.
2017 TaxSlayer Bowl: Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27
5. Lamar Jackson, for good and for bad
Even with the loss, he’s still among the most amazing, electrifying players to ever play college football.
He ran wild on the Mississippi State defense, coming up with 158 yards and a score on 24 carries, becoming the second quarterback ever – Vince Young being the other – to run for more than 150 yards in two bowl games.
He also showed off the elusiveness and the arm to show that he’s far more than just a runner, highlighted by a 4th-and-21 completion. The NFL potential is there once he gets more work to sharpen his passing skills.
And then there were the four interceptions.
He only completed 13-of-30 passes for 171 yards, and his final interception was a decision he couldn’t make on a 2nd-and-1 with the team marching. While the offense had one final shot, it was in desperation mode that ended with a late heave.
And now the differences of opinions will come. Yeah, he’s great, and yeah, he’s dangerous, but can you win a Super Bowl with a guy with his style of play?
If this was his last game, it gave the scouts even more to chew on.
4. Keytaon Thompson – the other guy
Everyone came to see Mr. Jackson do his thin, and the freshman backup quarterback was better.
With star Nick Fitzgerald out after suffering a broken leg in the loss to Ole Miss, it was up to Keytaon Thompson to not only hold his own, but keep the offense moving after a rough performance against the Rebels.
He didn’t throw a touchdown pass and he gave up a pick, but he completed 11-of-20 passes for 127 yards, and ran 27 times for 147 yards and three scores. Considering 75 of Jackson’s rushing yards came on one play, Thompson had a more effective, stronger game when the team needed I’m the most.
3. Mark McLaurin
The Bulldog defense gave up the rushing yards to Jackson and Louisville, but it also held firm time and again, keeping the Cardinals to just 4-of-16 on third down tries and giving up just 358 yards of total offense.
The four interceptions didn’t hurt, led by a career day from McLaurin, the Mississippi State safety who cranked up ten tackles, a broken up pass, a tackle for loss, and three interceptions, including what turned into the game-sealer on UofL’s second-to-last drive.
2. Bobby Petrino
There was no excuse.
Louisville had the superstar quarterback going against a new starting QB. It had the veteran coaching staff going against an interim and a slew of assistants being thrown into the fire. It had the team motivated to rise up after a dud of a bowl performance last year against LSU.
And it had the head coach who’s supposed to be among the best in the ACC.
Now, with this loss, Petrino has lost three of his four bowl games in his second stint with the Cardinals to close out with a disappointing 8-5 season.
No one expected an ACC title, but this was a year of regression after tying for the Atlantic title in a nine-win 2016 season. Louisville was supposed to win because it had the better player and the best coach. But …
1. Mississippi State got the job done
In this weird and wacky bowl season, this might have been among the more interesting upsets.
Teams undergoing a coaching change were falling left and right in ugly fashion, and Mississippi State certainly wasn’t perfect under interim head man Greg Knox.
It’ll be Joe Moorhead’s team now, but Knox managed to get his team to rise up and beat Jackson, Petrino, and Louisville, despite turning it over three times and committing 11 penalties for 100 yards.
The Bulldogs came out hot, finished strong with 14 fourth quarter points, and held Jackson and the high-powered Cardinal offense to just two second half field goals.
It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but whatever. Mississippi State just won a bowl game when it had absolutely every excuse not to.