By Ron Wynn
Things started well for Mississippi State as they took an early 14-point lead, but everything turned sour in the second half as they were defeated 38-28 in the 22nd annual Music City Bowl Monday at Nissan Stadium.
Louisville would score 31 unanswered points. and eventually post their eighth win of the year. It was an impressive turnaround after last season’s 10 losses that resulted in the hiring of a new head coach, Scott Satterfield. He was voted Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year prior to the Music City Bowl.
The Cardinals’ QB Micale Cunningham completed 16 of 23 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 81 yards rushing. Javian Hawkins completed a dynamic freshman season by gaining 105 yards on 23 attempts. Wide Receiver Tutu Atwell had nine receptions for 147 yards, and even threw a touchdown pass. Mississippi State’s lone highlights came via QB Tommy Stevens. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while also gaining 71 yards on the ground and getting a rushing touchdown. But the Bulldoggs were hurt by the loss of running back Kylin Hill. Hill, who led the SEC in rushing, was injured on the first play from scrimmage. He gained only three yards on seven carries before ending his career.
Things turned a bit ugly in the second quarter. Louisville linebacker Dorian Etheridge was ejected for kicking an Mississippi State player early in the second quarter. But after falling behind early, the Bulldogs dominated throughout much of the second quarter and the entire second half. The loss completed a 6-7 season for Mississippi State. But it wasn’t the end of the story. Friday the school announced it had fired head coach Joe Moorhead after only two seasons, and just one season after he tied a school record for most wins by a first-year coach with eight. Mississippi State went 14-12 in his two seasons, but lost both bowl games. They were also 7-9 in the SEC under Moorhead, though they won both Egg Bowl games against Ole Miss.