In 1955 the first coast to coast telecast of a bowl game occurred today it continued nationally as the 73rd annual TaxSlayer Bowl the sixth oldest college bowl game. It featured two 8-4 teams the Louisville Cardinals of the ACC and the Mississippi State Bulldogs of the SEC. State limped into the game playing without starting QB Nick Fitzgerald who suffered a fractured ankle in their last game. Their former head coach Dan Mullen has moved on to the Florida Gators. Interim coach Greg Knox was asked to coach this one and be done, next week Joe Morehead takes over as the new sheriff in Bulldog Country, not to be confused, this is the one with the cowbells. As the underdogs, they played well scoring on their first two drives, but the Cardinals featured the most prolific dual-threat QB in college football former Heisman Trophy Winner and the current ACC Offensive and Player of the year Lamar Jackson. He is the first player in ACC History to win both awards in back to back years. All of those accolades couldn’t help him out today as the Mississippi State defense came up with four total interceptions and two key sacks on the final drive to preserve the victory 27-31.
Mark McLaurin had a magnet on the ball, and he was the metal that attracted it. He finished the game with three of those interceptions and was the player of the game. When asked what made him so passionate about this game he said, “Back in January we made a commitment, we told them this team was not the same as our last game. We had each other’s backs. Looked each other in the eyes, said, We’re going to do this. Coach Knox is around, we locked on and said we’re going to come out with a win.”
Today was about the new kid on the block Kaytaon Thompson the 6’4 222 Lbs. Freshman Quarterback for Mississippi State who stepped up in the mist of all of the adversity and had an outstanding performance and bit of history by starting and winning his first college football game. He contributed 147 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns as well as 127 yards passing connecting on 11-20 attempts with 1 interception that he survived.
Coach Knox said, “our quarterback, I take my hat off to him. A young freshman stepped in for his first start. He was phenomenal. He was phenomenal. We talked to him about managing the game. I thought he did a great job of that.”
Aeris Williams walked into the end zone untouched to finish off the game’s first scoring drive of 6 plays 56 yards for Mississippi State. In a bit of trickery, State attempted an onside kick that failed miserably great thought but bad results. It gave former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson half the field. He put together a 9 play 51-yard drive and tossed a 5-yard touchdown to Charles Standberry to surpass Deshawn Watson to become second in the ACC, responsible for 112 touchdowns.
Keytaon Thompson came back with an impressive 9 play 78-yard drive. He put State back on top by taking a keeper for 14 yards right up the gut. Louisville defenders should have been given an assist with their sloppy attempts at tackling.
Larmar Jackson continued to break, and establish records throughout the game on his rushing touchdown to tie the game 14-14 in the second quarter he became the third player in NCAA History to rush for fifty and throw for fifty touchdowns.
Mark McLarin delivered the games first turnover by intercepting Jackson to put State in great field position at the Louisville 20 yard line. He simply overthrew the receiver, and the wrong guy came up with the ball. The defense held to prevent the touchdown but they came out with the field goal and the lead 17-14.
Disaster struck again, another interception by Lamar Jackson to Cameron Dantzler. It looked bad until Trumaine Washington did a strip and recovery of a Reggie Todd fumble to give Louisville the ball back deep on their side of the field. Then Lamar Jackson put on his cape and dashed for career-long 75 yards. He was pressured on the next play but improvised with a shuttle pass to Jay Smith for an 11-yard touchdown pass. That made up for the two interceptions giving his team the lead 21-17 at the half.
The second half started favorably to Louisville Gabe Myles muffed the punt, and a hustling Lamarcus Thomas recovered at the Mississippi State twenty yard line. Louisville had the perfect scenario to take a commanding lead, but the Bulldogs defense and their cowbells shut that down and forced an unsuccessful field goal.
Keytaon Thompson was playing error-free until Chucky Taylor intercepted him to set up Louisville’s next score, a successful field goal extending their lead 24-17.
The fourth quarter started with the sound of dangling cowbells and Louisville fighting their backs off the wall from a punt that was downed at their one-yard line. They managed to get some operating room before Jackson threw his third interception. Mark McLaurin came down with the tip that went off the receivers hands. Mississippi State took advantage, Keytaon Thompson scored on a one-yard plunge to tie the score 24-24. It took only 4 plays to go 22 yards.
Jackson picked up a key first down on 4th and 2 from the 27-yard line, all I can say is “that cat is slippery.” He broke the Taxslayer Bowl rushing record by a quarterback 148 yards on the play. They needed a touchdown to complete the 13 play 61-yard drive but could only muster a field goal and three more points. However, they had the lead after taking 5:44 off the clock.
It set the stage for the young freshman quarterback to upset the cagey veteran. And that he did by carrying the ball in for the last yard himself. Mississippi State was up 31-27 with 3:39 remaining in the game.
It was Lamar time, and you know he did all he could to pull out the victory. He dropped back set looked downfield noting was there, so he took off people on the sideline said: “ oh boy there the goes.” The bulldog’s defense responded to the cowbells and shut down every attempt from there to include back to back sacks on the games most prolific player before he threw as a last-second desperate attempt of a Hail Mary. The defender swatted the ball away, and Louisville’s hopes of a miraculous finish to squeak out the victory 31-27.