It was far from Lamar Jackson‘s finest performance, and the sour swan song played a significant role in the talented quarterback (likely) finishing his time with the Cardinals on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
In what’s widely expected to be his final season at the collegiate level, Jackson accounted for three touchdowns but that wasn’t enough to overcome his turnovers as the U of L (8-5) dropped a 31-27 decision to No. 23 Mississippi State (9-4) in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will (likely) finish his career 1-2 in bowl games and the same 1-2 versus the SEC, with his lone win coming as a true freshman when he guided the U of L to a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M. They also fell to LSU in last year’s Citrus Bowl.
Jackson came into the game having not thrown an interception since a late-October loss to Wake Forest; he threw a career-high four in this one, including one deep in his own territory that led to a Keytaon Thompson rushing touchdown, the freshman quarterback’s second of the game, that knotted the score at 24-all with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter. A U of L field goal six minutes later gave the Cardinals the lead back at 27-24; Thompson’s third rushing score with 3:39 remaining in the game proved to be the game-winner.
Jackson’s fourth pick of the game, with 2:31 left and the U of L trailing 31-27, helped seal the loss for the Cardinals. MSU’s Mark McLaurin, incidentally, intercepted three of those passes and was named as the Player of the Game.
The U of L had a chance for a Hail Mary just beyond midfield to try to win the game in the last seconds, but Jackson’s pass was batted out of bounds as the clock ran out.
Thompson, in his first collegiate start, proved to be a difference maker for the Bulldogs, rushing for a team-high 148 yards on 27 carries to go along with the three scores. He was quietly efficient in the passing game as well, going 11-of-20 for 126 yards in place of the injured Nick Fitzgerald and with his head coach, Dan Mullen, bolting Starkville for Gainesville.
Jackson finished the game 13-of-30 passing for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with the four picks. He also added a game-high 158 yards rushing.
The success of the dual-threat quarterbacks produced something on the ground not seen very often.
In the first half, Jackson also joined Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to account for at least 50 passing touchdowns and 50 rushing touchdowns in their careers. Jackson now has 69 career passing touchdowns and 50 on the ground.
Mississippi State’s win was the first for the SEC after the conference started the 2017 bowl season 0-3. The SEC had been the only Power Five league without a win in the postseason.
Louisville has now won at least eight games in each of the last six seasons, including four under Bobby Petrino. In fact, In Petrino’s four seasons in his second stint at the school, the Cardinals have won eight, eight, nine and nine games.