Louisville exploded for 20 first quarter points and then hung on for dear life to hand Texas A&M a 27-21 defeat in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Wednesday night in Nashville.
The Cardinals were keyed by quarterback Lamar Jackson, who accounted for all four of Louisville’s touchdowns on the night. He raced in from six yards out on the Cardinals’ opening drive, then hit Micky Crum on a two-yard toss at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter to stake Louisville to a 13-0 lead.
After Tra Carson juked his way in for a nine-yard score on the ensuing possession, Jackson raced 61 yards to the house on Louisville’s next touch, pushing the Cardinals’ advantage to 20-7 with 1:14 still remaining in the first quarter.
And then the game turned into an ugly, chippy, ugly, grudge-filled and did I say ugly affair over the final three quarters. Jake Hubenak, making his first career start following the transfers of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, found Ricky Seals-Jones for a four-yard scoring toss — capping an eight-play, 97-yard drive — with 1:51 to go in the first half.
Jackson then notched the only score of the third quarter, a 17-yard strike to Keith Towbridge, to give Louisville its third 13-point lead of the night.
Accepting the ball at its own 14 with 6:58 to play in the game, the Aggies raced 86 yards in eight plays, the final one a 29-yard toss from Hubenak to Christian Kirk, to pull within 27-21 with just under five minutes to play. Texas A&M immediately forced a three-and-out, then methodically forced its way down field on a would-be game-winning drive. The march appeared to stall after an incomplete pass on 4th-and-10 at the Lousiville 41, but James Hearns was flagged for hands to the face, providing the Aggies new life. Hubenak appeared to hit Kirk for a complete pass that would have given Texas A&M a first-and-goal, but the completion was overturned on review, instead sentencing Texas A&M to a 3rd-and-8 at the Louisville 24.
Hubenak fired incomplete on the two following plays, and Louisville consumed the final 90 seconds to seal the win.
Jackson, a freshman, completed 12-of-26 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 22 times for 226 yards and two more scores, allowing the Boynton Beach, Fla., native to join Vince Young (2006 Rose Bowl) and Johnny Manziel (2013 Cotton Bowl) as the only players in FBS history to record a 200/200 bowl game.
Hubenak hit 28-of-48 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Carson led the Aggies with 20 carries for 106 yards and one score. Kirk and Josh Reynolds carried the vast majority of the Aggies’ passing game, combining to catch 21 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown.
Louisville out-gained Texas A&M 534-445, and Jackson edged the Aggies by himself, 448-445. The teams combined to post more penalties (19) than third-down conversions (11).
The loss dropped Texas A&M to 8-5 on the year, and handed Kevin Sumlin his first non-conference defeat in 20 tries. The loss, however, meant the Aggies’ win total has decreased or remained the same for the third consecutive year under Sumlin after an 11-2 debut in 2012. This season also marked the second straight year the Aggies finished 8-5 after starting 5-0.
Lousville closes at 8-5 as well, but the end result doesn’t feel nearly as identical as the numbers indicate. The Cardinals started the year 0-3 and rebounded to win eight of their final 10 games.
And there is, of course, the matter of one team’s quarterback position is in shambles while the other just saw its freshman post one of the better bowl games in college football history.
That’s music to Bobby Petrino‘s ears.